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Survey Results > Talent Acquisition

Employers Reveal Candidates’ Most Unusual Job Interview Behavior

Bigfoot waiting for a job interviewAs a society, we are willing to quickly forgive (or at least forget) some mistakes, yet when it comes to others (cough Tiger Woods cough), we’re still unsure where we stand. In the world of candidate interviews, the balance between what is acceptable and what is not can often be shaky — particularly in our current economy, with competition and pressure for jobs is at a high. With that in mind, we’re a bit sympathetic to the “most unusual” and interview blunders listed below. Everyone makes mistakes, and by examining our weaknesses in interviews, maybe we can all learn something — and become more polished  (candidates) and more prepared to handle tricky situations (employers).

The candidate interview anecdotes listed below are some of the results from a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,700 hiring managers.

Candidates’ most unusual interview blunders:

  • Candidate wore a business suit with flip flops
  • Candidate asked if the interviewer wanted to meet for a drink after
  • Candidate had applied for an accounting job, yet said he was “bad at managing money”
  • Candidate ate food in the employee break room after the interview
  • Candidate recited poetry
  • Candidate applying for a customer service job said, “I don’t really like working with people”
  • Candidate had to go immediately to get his dog that had gotten loose in the parking lot
  • Candidate looked at the ceiling during the entire interview
  • Candidate used Dungeons & Dragons as an example of teamwork
  • Candidate clipped fingernails

On another note, while some of the behaviors listed below wouldn’t fly in any interview (like, clipping fingernails — unless you’re applying for a nail technician job!), some of the behaviors below, when examined more closely, actually may make sense for some types of jobs — or should at least be given the benefit of the doubt by an employee.

What can employers learn from these examples?

1. When possible, give candidates the benefit of the doubt.

Candidates applying to your jobs are human, and like anyone else, they may do things you deem “weird” or “unusual” but that they see as normal. If you’re interviewing a really strong candidate, and they suddenly break out into poetry or impromptu beat-boxing, think about the implications on your business. Could this be a really creative candidate who just needs the right role and mentoring to thrive and help take your business to the next level?

Or if a candidate’s looking at the ceiling, might he or she be thinking hard or simply very nervous during interviews? Again, depending on the role at hand, these behaviors may simply not be acceptable (outside sales, for example), but if the candidate seems like a great candidate otherwise, what about getting him or her in a different setting or on the company floor and observing the interactions or ideas that come about? The candidate may surprise you

2. Consider that a candidate may in fact know something you don’t.

Using Dungeons & Dragons as an example of teamwork, although mentioned by an employer in the survey results as an “unusual response,” is actually not that far-fetched. It’s been reported that playing video games may lead to a lucrative tech job, for example, and that playing games like World of Warcraft can be great breeding grounds for real-world leadership skills. Whether it’s an affinity for video games or something else, a candidate’s ability to relate subjects he or she is passionate about to their job role may be worth a listen. Don’t be so quick to write the candidate off — he or she could be your next star employee.

3. Candidates have personal lives, just like you — and sometimes situations happen that are out of a candidate’s control.

A candidate’s dog got loose from its leash while waiting in the parking lot, and Concerned Candidate #1 must attend to his or her pet. Hey, it happens. We all have families, pets, and other personal things to attend to, and sometimes those things unintentionally cross over into our personal lives. A situation like this is more about how the candidate handles it. Does he or she handle it with grace and humor, apologize, and try to make up for the blunder? If so, you may consider letting Concerned Candidate #1 — if not Fido — into your office on a more permanent basis.

4. Sometimes candidates are hungry.
That, however, does not excuse swiping food from the break room, as one candidate did, according to the survey. But candy at the reception desk may do the trick.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
7 comments
Josh
Josh

Joe, I think that Amy was indeed trying to provide some entertainment and maybe a laugh or two. I personally learn best when I find the lesson entertaining, and there were some really good "nuggets" in here as Amy mentioned in her response. I found points 1, 2, and 3 to all be helpful; I interview quite a few people regularly and these are good common sense points to keep me in the straight and narrow path.

Clare
Clare

I like this article! Being a recruiting company, we've definitely had our share of crazy answers during interviews. While some of them are sometimes red flags, it's definitely worth it to probe a little further before completely dismissing the candidate.

Clare
Clare

I like this article! Being a recruiting company, we've definitely had our share of crazy answers during interviews. While some of them are sometimes red flags, it's definitely worth it to probe a little further before completely dismissing the candidate.

Joe
Joe

This was a dumb article with no value other than a little humor. Is everyone at CB bored or out of real ideas to talk about?

Joe
Joe

This was a dumb article with no value other than a little humor. Is everyone at CB bored or out of real ideas to talk about?

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your comment. This article does contain some humor elements, but I was really more interested in sparking conversation about things employers can learn from the survey results. Most of the "What Can Employers Learn From These Examples?" items are not meant to be humorous, but informational, and hopefully some will get value out of it. But if some people get nothing more than a laugh? Hey, that's okay, too.

We're open to new ideas, so if you have some great things you'd like us to write about, please share!

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your comment. This article does contain some humor elements, but I was really more interested in sparking conversation about things employers can learn from the survey results. Most of the "What Can Employers Learn From These Examples?" items are not meant to be humorous, but informational, and hopefully some will get value out of it. But if some people get nothing more than a laugh? Hey, that's okay, too.

We're open to new ideas, so if you have some great things you'd like us to write about, please share!

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