The Most Unprofessional Job Interview I Ever Had

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Job seekers should know that walking into an interview half an hour late or wearing shorts and sandals could ruin their chances of landing the position, but what happens when it’s the interviewer who does this?

After publishing an article this week about the most unprofessional behavior job candidates have displayed during the course of an interview, we decided to flip the tables and ask readers for their stories of hiring managers and human resources professionals acting unprofessionally. The responses ranged from tardiness to odd personal ticks.

“I once had an interview for the position of secretary. This was back in the day of people taking shorthand, so stenography was required. The ‘boss’ doing the interview dictated a very detailed ‘dear john’ letter,” Geralyn Mott wrote on our Facebook page. ”I was offered the job but did not accept it.”

Another reader, Stephanie Steiger, says she went in for an interview only to have the interviewer show up 20 minutes late. If that wasn’t bad enough, the interviewer decided to put his feet up on his desk while they were talking.

And then there’s Mery Khatchatrian, who had an interview with a bank branch manager who practically slept through their entire meeting. Then things got really weird.

“He sat there for 30 minutes with his glasses on & had his eyes shut the whole time as he asked me questions. Then he in a sense bushes up on his shoulder in a odd manner & states that he is sorry he can only afford the cheap suit,” Khatchatrian wrote. “Yes completely out of no where. Lets just say I was shocked & stunned.”

In each of these situations, it’s obvious the interviewer is behaving unprofessionally, but many candidates may be apprehensive about confronting the person for fear of sacrificing their chance of being offered a job. Pretending it didn’t happen may end up being worse in the long run, though.

“It’s important for job seekers to remember that the interview is a two-way street. Ignoring the red flags can lead to something bad later,” says Miriam Salpeter, founder of Keppie Careers, a career coaching firm. Indeed, as we have reported, the interview is usually your clearest window into the company culture, so if you feel uncomfortable with the interviewer’s behavior, there’s a good chance that company isn’t right for you.

For that reason, Salpeter says candidates should feel comfortable addressing the interviewer’s behavior, though not in every situation. If the interviewer appears to be falling asleep, she says it could be a good opportunity to raise the issue of whether employees at the company feel overworked. On the other hand, if the interviewer is just running late, it’s probably best just to let it slide and hope they apologize.

No matter how unprofessional the interviewer may be – unless they are actually putting your safety at risk – Salpeter says candidates should be careful not to respond in kind.

“The best thing is just to maintain your own professional demeanor,” she says. “If the person is chewing gum, that doesn’t mean you should whip out your own piece of gum and start chewing louder.”

What is the worst experience you’ve ever had while interviewing for a job? Let us know in the comments section!

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at seth.fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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