Job Interviews So Horrible That the Applicants Walked Out
They didn't get work, just some astonishing stories.George Rudy / Shutterstock
Job hunting is a tense, nerve-wracking experience, especially if you're desperately in need of income.
When you finally land that interview, it can feel like you're on top of the world, but nothing sucks the life out of a good job applicant quite like realizing your prospective boss is a total tyrant. Or maniac. Or sleazeball. (Or all three.)
People on Reddit were asked, "What was the worst job interview experience you've ever had?"
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Here are 30 of the most horrifying things bosses have done to send job candidates running for the door.
Comments have been edited for grammar and clarity.
1. Minimum wage, maximum work
I was told multiple times the starting wage was $16 per hour plus medical/dental. Basic warehouse work pretty much. Loading freight, very physical and not a problem for me.
So, I'm in an interview with the manager and a couple supervisors. Everything went really well until they asked me how much I make, which at the time was $14 an hour.
"Why are you willing to take a step down in pay to work for us?".
What? I said, "The offer was $16 an hour, that's why I'm here."
They actually laughed and said, "Oh no, you can get up to $16 an hour maximum pending performance reviews." They wanted to pay me minimum wage.
I said, "Sorry to waste your time, but this is wasting mine." I got up and left.
2. Sell out your parents
This was a life insurance company. I applied to be a financial analyst intern after I graduated college. The first thing they said after I introduced myself was:
“Your compensation will be entirely commission based. We’ve found in the past that employees who target their family and friends have the highest sales.”
I stood up, said I didn’t think I would be a good fit for the company, shook hands with the interviewer, and walked straight to my car.
The whole thing lasted a total of 10 minutes, including the time I parked to the time I left. Shortest interview of my life.
3. The love doctor
I went to interview for an executive assistant position for a doctor who did a lot of work from his house.
He seemed impressed with my resume, and eventually the interview grew more casual. He offered me a glass of some decent whiskey.
Being young and somewhat naive and also desperate for a job, I accepted. When he offered the second round, I politely declined and left soon after.
Later that night, I got a text saying he wanted to hire me and was hoping for a friends-with-benefits situation with him and his wife.
That was definitely not the job I thought I was applying for.
4. That’s just the biz, you know?
I work as a software engineer. I always ask how often the team works overtime. One interview they responded with, "Well, you'd be salary, so that doesn't matter."
I followed up with, "How often do the people on your team work more than 40 hours in a week?" This felt like rephrasing the question, but I really wanted an answer.
"Oh, I don't think anyone has ever worked less than 50 hours as long as I have been here. Sometimes it is closer to 80, but that is just the biz, you know?"
Yes. I do know. I doubled my asking salary and they didn't seem interested. Go figure.
5. Work your way up to receptionist
Went in for an "Office Manager" position. When I arrived, there were 20 other people waiting for interviews with me. That raised a major red flag, but I thought I'd roll with it and see what was going on.
One-by-one I started seeing people emerging from the interviewer's office looking confused and dejected.
They pulled me in for my appointment and said the position was cold-calling insurance sales.
I confronted them about it immediately, and even pulled up the job description on my phone. They said, "Well, if you sell really good, you can get a promotion to office manager." Get a promotion to be a glorified receptionist? No way.
I flat-out told them they were unethical for lying to desperate people during a bad economy and walked out.
6. Antisocial media
Interviewed for a job at a firm when I had just moved to the country.
They proceeded to bring up my Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on the screen in front of me.
They laughed at me over photos of me in a dress at a Christmas party. They also said I didn't have any endorsements on LinkedIn, which was really important to them for some reason. And I only had 20 Twitter followers which they felt they needed to bring up.
I had all the required experience for the position, they were just so ridiculously caught up in social media profiles that they felt like they needed to belittle me from the get go.
They told me to send through some references, but I was so embarrassed and disheartened by the interview, it drained any interest of working for them at all.
7. A face for TV, a personality for scamming
I once got an interview for what I thought was a home security company. I had a great first interview. I was told that they were very interested in hiring me for a position that hadn't been advertised.
He said, "You have the perfect personality for what we want. You'd be helping us advertise through TV and radio!" Of course I was beyond excited. I set up a day for my second interview and left.
The day I showed up for the next interview, I'm dressed in office clothes and heels, fully expecting to be in the office. Nope! I'm sent out "into the field."
Turns out, we were going door-to-door scamming low-income families into giving us their credit card information. I left.
8. He suckered the suckers
Answered an ad for a receptionist. End up at a table with 10 other people. Then the guy starts pitching a multi-level marketing scheme. I'm angry, but it's summer and their air-conditioning is top notch, so I decide to chill there for the duration.
Eventually the guy calls me on my nonparticipation. "What's the matter? You look like someone ran over your dog."
"Well, guy, the matter is that you've pulled a bait-and-switch, I've driven an hour for nothing and now you're talking to me when all I want is to chill under this winter wonderland AC vent." Then I walked out.
9. Class act
I applied for a position with a company that usually gets students right out of college, only I was 30 at the time.
They had me bring in my high school transcripts (nothing about college, mind you) and started going through them asking about my grades in particular classes in depth.
I joked of course that it was not quite as relevant as my experience since then that made me a very strong candidate for the position, but they kept going, even after I asked them, "You realize this was almost 15 years ago, right?"
I soon told them they were looking for someone else and just left. Smart move on my part.
10. Another kind of working from home
Twenty years ago I interviewed for a telemarketer position. Fundraising for a "disabled sports" event. It was a brand-new charity, very generic name, nobody had heard of it and this was the inaugural event.
Arrived at the interview.
It's a family home in a residential neighborhood. Their call center was literally four phones on a table in their living room. The call list was pages photocopied straight from the Whitepages directory. And the sales pitch was an entire sheet of single-space text.
They couldn't understand why it was nearly impossible to read out that much text in the two seconds before a person would hang up. I pruned the text and got in trouble for it. Walked out after four hours "for a break" and just kept on walking straight to the nearest bus stop.
11. You think you’re better than Tom Brady?
After filling out paperwork for the pre-interview, the employer comes in and brings me back to his office. He asks how I'm doing.
Now, it was pouring down raining that day, so I say I’m doing great, but wish the weather was a little better. He stops and goes, “Well, what’s wrong with the rain?” I reply that there is nothing wrong, I just wished it was nicer out.
He then asks if I like sports. After saying I do, he asks if I think Tom Brady is paid a million dollars a year to not play in the rain. I’m not sure how I responded to that, but weird question, right?
So then, he looks at my resume and goes, “so I see you’ve worked at Burger King the last three years.” I replied that, no, I actually worked at a full service restaurant as a waiter during college. His reply: “Same thing.”
At this point, he tells me it’s not going to be a good fit. I told him I agreed and that he needed to work on his interviewing skills. Then I called him a jerk and walked out.
12. That’s a mic-drop moment
I went in for an interview and after a few minutes of waiting the receptionist told me I could go into the office to meet the manager.
As I walked in, he was on the phone so he motioned for me to have a seat.
He then proceeded to talk on the phone for 10 minutes. It was clearly a personal call and not business related. He just let me sit there while he talked. When the call was done he didn't say anything, he just opened up a folder and started filling out some papers.
After about 5 minutes of him doing paperwork, I asked if there was anything I could help with. I was just looking to break the awkward silence. He said, "Nope, be with you shortly." And he went back to work.
Another several minutes went by and he finally finished. He then looked at me and said, "Why do you want to work here?" I said, "I don't think I do."
He then asked what I meant and I told him, "If you are going to act like a jerk towards me before we have even spoken, I can't imagine what it must be like to actually work for you." With that, I got up and left.
13. Employer or prison warden?
I was 18 years old and applying for a sales job at a large retail store that was just about to open.
The very first sentence this woman said to me during the interview was, "We work on a demerit points system here, this should keep you in line, and if it doesn't, you're out after your fourth demerit. No excuses."
Literally no introducing herself, shaking my hand, nothing. She just looked at me and immediately said that.
I thanked her for her time and walked out of the building. No thanks. I was looking for employment, not a detention center.
14. Rubbed the wrong way
I interviewed for a receptionist position. The owner of the business was interviewing me.
Everything was going great. He told me about how he started his own business, his work history, normal interview stuff.
He proceeds to ask me if I'm willing to work hard. I said yes.
"Even if that means giving your boss a massage sometimes?"
Confused, I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get far in life. I told him I'm not comfortable with that and he said, "Well, I don't think this will work then" and I left.
15. 3 jobs, 1 salary
"We're actually looking for someone that can write and knows all the rules of SEO, that can shoot and edit videos quickly, and who is a master with Photoshop."
Not only I don't have the skills for the last two (at least not professionally), but also in my line of work it's a clear indicator that they expect the person to do the work of three persons for the salary of one, with very short deadlines.
Meaning: You'll be overworked, underpaid and absolutely miserable.
I didn't walk out of the interview, I don't have enough courage for that, I just sabotaged the interview by giving evasive answers.
16. One of us, one of us
Was interviewing for some kind of a marketing company that did something for big clients. Never really understood what it was they did.
During the interview, the manager kept dropping all these buzzwords like "synergy" and whatnot. I tried asking some clarifying questions about the specifics of the job, and she just kept giving me generic answers.
I then interviewed with a few more employees there and got the impression like I was being inducted into a cult. They were all weird, some had a manic glint in their eyes when they talked about the "awesome opportunities" at the workplace.
I politely declined any further information and left. To this day I still don't know what that company does.
17. Interview that didn’t have a 'happily ever after'
Guy asked me which of the seven dwarves I most closely identified with.
That should have been a red flag, but I answered "Doc" and we moved on.
After telling him I wanted a part-time job for a little extra spending cash, he asked me if it was because I was pregnant.
I got pretty testy with him about that, because I was not pregnant. Ended up making an excuse to leave mid interview.
They called me a day or so later to tell me I got the job. Took the job despite knowing better. Horrible things happened. I quit two weeks later.
18. Just a rat in a cage
There was a promotions company that needed a graphic designer to add to their team of four.
We were walking and interviewing, so they could show me the office, and they got to where I would be working.
It was a closet.
There were four people in there, desks pushed along every wall. The back of their chairs touched, they were so crammed close together. Their MacBook screens were edge to edge all the way around. There were no lights. I repeat: literally no lights.
They looked up at us as we opened the door with giant computer screen glowing eyeballs. It was the creepiest and most bizarre workspace I'd ever seen. When we started walking back to the interviewer's office, I basically said I had to go.
19. But how did she really feel?
I interviewed for a position at a company and it went great: The job seemed similar to what I was already doing but for much more money. The interviewer told me she wanted to bring me back for a second interview with my direct supervisor.
I show up. The lady spent an entire 10-15 minutes looking down at her hands, speaking very quietly, constantly looking over her shoulder.
She basically told me that no sane person would want this position, and that the people she worked under were awful, horrible bosses: unorganized, never in the office, relied on her for everything, expected her to work overtime with no notice and so on.
I thanked her for her time, called my recruiter and asked them to take my name out of consideration for the position.
20. Those cushy government jobs
"We'd like to bring you on as a full time District Attorney. Due to budget constraints we will not be able to provide relocation compensation or compensation the first year. Budget permitting, we will consider compensation and benefits after the first year."
"So, you want me to relocate across the country, work for free for a year without promise of paid employment after that year?"
"We understand if this isn't for everyone."
"I appreciate the opportunity to interview. Please let me know if your search expands to include paid employment for a District Attorney."
And with that I hung up. Shortest interview ever.
21. When no really means no
I was doing a phone interview with a company in Florida. My interviewer tells me that I would be expected to fly out to Florida on my own dime for an in-person interview.
Then he asked, "Can you fly out Wednesday?" It was Friday, so I was like, "Five days from now?" When he said yes, I started laughing and said, "Are you kidding me?" He snapped at me, "Yes, I'm serious! We are trying to get this position filled as fast as possible! If you're not serious, maybe you're not right for the position!"
To which I replied, "You're right, I don't think I'm right for this position."
He immediately softened and started saying stuff like, "Well, wait a minute, let's talk about this." And when I kept saying, "Look, I am clearly not a good choice for your company —" he kept cutting me off and insisting that we continue the interview.
A few days later, I got a call from the company again, informing me that I was one of the top three candidates. So when should they expect me for my interview?
Cue another five minutes of insisting that I didn't want the job, before finally cutting them off and hanging up.
22. Juggling a lot of duties
When I was 20 this woman tried to hire me for "juggling lessons" for her 17-year-old autistic son. I perform at a music therapy event every year and do a group lesson for all the kids, most of which suffer from some disability.
So I drive 45 minutes to her house and she starts talking about how, "This is a full-time job, we need to to be on call all the time, you are going to have to stop taking college classes, your duties include helping him wipe and giving him a bath every night and the pay is $8 an hour."
Yeah, no thanks, lady.
23. The candidate just wasn't sold
I was brought into an interview with the information that the company was looking to hire administrative assistants.
I sat through about five minutes of my interview when the interviewer says to me, "Before we get started, how quickly can you purchase a vehicle?"
Confused, I explain, "I am currently unemployed, so purchasing a vehicle is out of the question. Does the administrative position require errands as part of the duties?"
Interviewer says, "Oh, we hired the administrative positions already, but we felt you would be perfect for sales." I let them know they had completely wasted my time and it was incredibly unprofessional and left.
24. Entry level, executive exit
I found a job looking to hire someone for a "management" position at a sales company. Before I applied, I called them up and asked if this was actually for an entry level job. They assured me it was not.
When I got there for the "interview" I was led into a room with about 20 other "interviewees." We then watched a product demo video about whatever junk they were selling.
After the video they started to tell us about how much of the product we were expected to sell. I politely interrupted the speaker and asked if this position was a sales job or a management job. The speaker gave me a subtle, "Oops, you got me" look and confirmed that it actually was a sales job.
I stood up and walked out of the conference room without looking back.
25. A really old profession
I was 18 when I interviewed for a receptionist position at a law firm. I thought it was strange that they'd even interview me, and even stranger that it paid so well.
I also thought it was strange when I showed up and there were half a dozen other young, pretty girls in the lobby waiting to be seen, and the woman who took me to the back mentioned they were looking to fill "several" positions. How many receptionists does one law firm need?
The interview lasted several hours and consisted of questions surrounding how comfortable I was among strangers, how social I considered myself and if I'd ever waited tables before.
Eventually it was relayed to me that I wouldn't be the firm receptionist so much as I'd be the managing partner's hostess for private events at his home. I would need to be willing to devote my weekends to "interacting" with his "colleagues in the industry" and providing "entertainment."
I thanked him for his time and basically ran to the elevator.
26. Talk about a loser
[I] interviewed to be a journalist for a small newspaper in my hometown. The editor was just a complete condescending jerk.
He said he didn't believe my resume. I was pretty young and had done a lot of work, as I had been supporting my family since I was 14 years old.
He told me to write 28 samples right in front of him (the interview had gone over for about an hour already) and that he would read them and decide if I was good enough.
I reluctantly started to write and he said, "Just because you have experience doesn't mean you're not a loser without a degree."
27. Must be willing to act as personal therapist
I once had an interview with the owner of a small company. I thought it was going well, we were wrapping up and eventually getting to innocuous chit chat. But it didn't stop. She just kept going.
Eventually she starts telling me about how disappointing her employees all are, how hard she works and no one appreciates her.
Then it starts getting personal, she starts telling me about her ex-husband, her current dating situation and how she resents her father. She starts crying. She finally excuses herself for a minute.
She returns, sees me out and calls me back two hours later. I didn't answer. She left a voicemail offering me the job, and she was crying again. I never called back.
28. Filtering out candidates
I was out of university for a few months and was looking for any kind of job since staying home was horrendously boring. I surf the web and find a job where I'd get paid $15 an hour for selling water filters.
I apply and get the interview. The interviewer confirms what the job post said regarding the payment, and then gets the applicants into a room to watch a lengthy presentation about the company.
Afterwards, we all got sheets to finalize everything and insert our desired working times. That is where I notice it. The sheet says something along the lines of, "Employees will only be paid AFTER a filtering unit has been successfully sold" and that we'd only get paid AFTER a month of working.
80% of the interviewees just walked out, including myself.
29. Math majors need not apply
It was a sales position at an air filter company. He liked me enough to start talking salary, but that's when it took a bad turn.
Basically, I could make UP TO a certain amount, but really realistically I'd be making less than minimum wage.
He kind of got red-faced when I kept saying, "But wait, this means I'll be making like $5 and hour. I must not be understanding this right because you advertised this position as $40,000 year. Can you explain?"
The employer would rope people in with bad math and false promises and got people to agree to work under false pretenses. They'd quit and the cycle began again.
Once this became clear, I politely declined and left.
30. Shady shysters being shady
It was actually after the interview. It was an insurance broker/sales team and I had some reservations because insurance sales people are THE WORST.
At the interview they said all the sales came from good leads, that people had filled out a questionnaire online and wanted to hear from us. I was assured that we provided a great service to people that were actively seeking us out.
First day on the job, I went on a ride along with a current employee. When I saw the demographics they were targeting and how they purposefully tried to scare poor people into thinking they needed insurance (when they could barely afford rent), it just made me ill.