The Results Are In: The Most Shocking Interview Behaviors

In a recent Refresh Leadership poll, we asked our readers about the most shocking interview behaviors they’ve witnessed, and a few of them may surprise you.

“I was interviewing a registered nurse who ate through the entire interview,” wrote one respondent. “First, a banana … then, a jar of peanuts … then, an apple! All while I was asking her questions. At the conclusion of the interview, she handed me her banana peel, apple core, and empty peanut jar to throw away.”

Along with adding their own shocking stories, respondents were also able to choose multiple answers to the question “Which of these behaviors have you witnessed from a job candidate during an interview?” The results are as follows:

  • Showing up late – 85%
  • Inappropriate clothing – 83%
  • Inappropriate language – 49%
  • Eating or chewing gum – 48%
  • Responding to text messages – 39%
  • Answering a phone call – 37%
  • Bringing a child into the interview – 31%
  • Bringing a friend into the interview – 31%
  • Bringing a parent into the interview – 26%
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol – 24%

Certainly, such behavior is the exception, not the rule. But there are plenty of unprofessional behaviors that interviewers witness regularly. Here are a few more shocking stories that our readers shared:

“On the way, without asking, he grabbed a donut, brought it into my office and proceeded to eat it during the interview.”

“A person wanted to show me they could do the splits and a back handspring.”

“A lady showed up wearing bunny slippers.”

Express Interview Experiences

Express Employment Professionals experts have witnessed many of these behaviors in their careers, as well.

Jan Riggins, general manager for two Fort Worth, TX, Express office locations, says she’s seen applicants “answering personal calls in the interview, bringing beverages and food, wearing clothes that appear to be sleepwear and bringing friends or family members to the interview.”

“The most common mistake I see during job interviews,” she added, “is immediately asking about vacations and pay and how long it takes to be promoted.”

Janis Petrini, an Express franchise owner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said, “Aggressive pushback is usually the most shocking.” In response to a question about job history, one job candidate said it was “none of your business.”

She also said her office had a candidate “use his phone from the moment he sat at the desk until the moment he walked out of the door. He took several phone calls, a video chat and posted to his social media-and then proceeded to rush through the rest of the interview process.”

Mike Brady, franchise owner of the Jacksonville West office in Florida, said not only did an applicant take a phone call, the applicant “even held up a finger telling me to wait.”

Brady believes that the unprofessional behavior is because applicants “have never been taught or coached, and no one is willing to give feedback.”

Job applicants-and interviewers-must remember that in an interview, everything will be scrutinized. Express provides Job Genius, a free video-based program for students, to help the future workforce with everything from interviewing etiquette to soft skills for career success.

Interviewers and Interviewees

Comedians Tripp and Tyler parody how to improve interviewing for jobs on behalf of Express, but these tips aren’t just applicable for job seekers. Shocking interview behavior is a two-way street. Job Journey, the Express blog for job seekers, also surveyed job applicants, and they reported some surprising behaviors from interviewers as well. Respondents also were able to choose multiple answers.

  • 63% report an interviewer “showing up late”
  • 58% report having an interviewer with a “lack of preparation”
  • 51% report an interviewer “answering a phone call”
  • 39% report an interviewer “oversharing”
  • 30% report an interviewer “asking discriminatory questions”
  • 28% report an interviewer “wearing inappropriate clothing”

“An interview is an opportunity to show your future employer your full potential,” said Bill Stoller, CEO of Express. “If you don’t show you care about the interview or respect the time and influence of the person who will hire you, no one will believe you’ll care about doing a good job. If you answer a phone call during an interview, you might as well tell the caller you didn’t get the job-because it’s a pretty safe bet you won’t. Interviewers need to be self-aware, too. In this tight labor market, the smallest thing could turn off a qualified candidate, and that’s not something you can afford.”

What do you do to ensure successful interviews? How have you handled shocking interview behaviors? Let us know in the comments section below!

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3 Responses to The Results Are In: The Most Shocking Interview Behaviors

  1. Kathy Beard July 16, 2019 at 9:57 am #

    I ask people to come to the office to fill out an application because I want to see the behavior/dress etc from someone else. We just went through the hiring process and had someone demand to speak to the office manager the first time she walked through the door. This was for a receptionist. Yikes. What they did not know is the office manager was around the corner. It was like WOW

  2. Jeanne July 16, 2019 at 11:22 am #

    We have seen every one of these – best one yet. We had a young lady, applying for a CNA position, come in with a “baby” all wrapped in a blanket. While talking to her she patted, rubbed, checked the baby. Much to my surprise, when she asked me if I wanted to see the baby it was a stuffed monkey that actually looked real!

  3. Tonya Green July 16, 2019 at 1:02 pm #

    This looks some interesting information to share at a Job Club I attend every week.

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