Amazing Things I’ve Heard in Interviews I’ve Failed

Jasper McChesney
3 min readJan 20, 2022

I actually haven’t interviewed that many times. I feel like half the time I get the job, and the other half of the time it’s a horrendous situation I’ve been lucky to dodge. Well, this post is about that second half.

The things interviewers say…

1. Loyal employees never leave.

I drove to the nearest city, and got interviewed by the CEO. After a short interview, he spent a good ten minutes ranting about the employee I’d be replacing —a “disloyal” employee who’d had the gall to leave after they invested in him (for a junior-level position which he had no training for).

In other words: a junior employee with minimal experience, with reasons to be loyal still left. Ergo, everything else about the place must be pretty bad.

(Are you surprised that this guy also asked how old I was, and whether I had a family? Yeah, illegal by state law.)

2. We love you! Please take a 40% pay cut to work for us.

I completed a phone and in-person interview with the director of the marketing division. She loved my abilities and experience, and wanted to talk salary then and there. Her best offer: way less than I’d ever made in the field. Could she be negotiated up? Nope.

When I pointed out what I was making, she said she could just hire someone right out of college instead. So… she liked experience in theory, but not enough to pay for it. (Also, our area has no colleges offering degree programs in that field anyway.)

3. Let’s role-play that you’re applying for a different job.

I was in the second stage interview, and asked to role-play something out. Fine: the job involved teaching technical materials. The role-play (which she left entirely to me) was to help a junior colleague through a difficult personal problem at work. In fact, none of the questions related to any of the skills or experience listed on the job ad — and instead were entirely about the hiring manager’s own job function. Did the company know this?

4. We don’t like the truth.

I was asked to estimate how likely something the company did was to succeed. I gave my answer based on my judgment, experience — and the company’s own stats published on their web site, which I’d read earlier in the day. Unfortunately, the recruiter did not like my answer: it wasn’t optimistic enough. I was supposed to say that we’d win 100% of the time. She explained this and asked if I’d like to change my answer to agree with her. Wow.

5. You will never leave this place.

After a lengthy on-site interview where I met almost every person in a small company,we sat down at a conference table for my final questions.

I asked what skills I’d develop by taking the position. They all stared at me. For a long time. Obviously that was the wrong question. The answer, finally delivered, was this: Nothing. You’ll learn nothing that will be transferable anywhere else. That’s how niche this business was. That answer was enough for m e— but it also explained why all the employees had been there 35 years —it wasn’t amazing job satisfaction, but that they were trapped there! Good thing I asked.

Got some good ones yourself? Lay ’em on us in the comments.