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Hell Week Horror Stories

Many people responded to our request for interview horror stories, and we suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The really good ones will probably seep out, liberated by alcohol over the next weeks and months. Some of these have been lifted straight from emails, and others have been disguised to protect the identities. (I charge $10 per name, if you’re interested.)
Not for you, buddy
After a particularly gruelling interview at an investment bank, our hero meekly asked for a business card, only to be told by the interviewer that he only had a few left, and wanted to save them for other people.
Good sign
“I walked into the interview room, and the resume of the guy who went before me was on the desk. Written diagonally across the entire page in large black marker was the word ‘DING.'”
Down at heel
A woman rushed into the Charles Hotel two minutes before the interview was due to start, and broke her heel in the doorway. Seeing the piece stuck in the crack, she carried on as if nothing has happened. Despite hopping to her interview, she swears they didn’t notice.
I’ll do that one more time
“I enthusiastically thanked Mary Jane for her time, then looked down at the business card I had just received, and read the chilling words ‘Mary Eileen.'”
Sleeping with the enemy
In the business world there are a few great rivalries&-Coke vs. Pepsi, Ford vs. GM, etc. If you are about to interview with Coke, you had better not be wearing a white T-shirt with a Pepsi logo showing through. That would be a bad thing. Having noticed exactly this predicament in the mirror as he was walking into the interview room, our protagonist spent the entire interview with his jacket buttoned tightly, feeling most uncomfortable, and sweating profusely.
Close Shave
One normally precise woman was reviewing her resume with the employer, and noticed a not too innocent typo. Her undergraduate distinctions, she realized with horror, were listed as “econometrics, macroeconomics, and pubic finance.” If you’re quick, you might still be able to see it on the resume finder.
‘I don’t care how you get there, just get there…’
One of the most resolute and decisive future Investment Bankers suffered a bout of indecision about attending a final round interview. High up on the ski-slopes, he decided that he would return to Boston for his second round after all, and jumped in a taxi. Half way through the $300 cab-ride, the car broke down, and he had to find a local limo. He attended the final round unshaven, wearing jeans and tennis shoes. They loved him. Immediately afterwards he went straight back to the slopes.
Meet the Bored
Many reports received that a well known bank’s interviewers were bored and unprepared (unlike candidates, certainly). Interviews were cancelled or delayed at the last minute, events outside the window seemed more interesting than those inside, and they even got the interviewees name wrong at the end.
A unique specimen
“The interviewer told me, ‘You have qualities I have not yet seen in any candidates.’ These were obviously not the right qualities, as the company dinged me that night.”
Top shelf trauma
“I noticed that everybody that was interviewing with this really low-tier consulting firm was looking down and unusually nervous in the welcome area. It was like we were embarrassed to be there as Harvard MBAs. Like being in an adult book store and seeing people you know.”
Miss Communication
“What I thought I said: ‘I’ve already done the work you do and I think strategy is important, and I also know how to value companies.’
“What they thought I said: ‘I do not value strategy because I do not think that it’s analytical.’
“What I thought I said: ‘I have learned not only how to manage people in difficult situations, but also how analysis will help you out of hard situations.’
“What they thought I said: ‘I am an emotionless bitc*.'”
Case in point
One woman was getting on famously with her interviewer in her final round. Given their rapport, which was the result of conversations and fake-interested-questions at numerous cocktail parties and meetings, he lobbed her a really, very (and I mean very) soft case question, expecting her to nail it, slap the desk in triumph, and share high-fives. Unfortunately, our candidate unravelled in front of him, failing to master even the most basic arithmetic. The interviewer got increasingly annoyed that his perfect candidate was missing the open goal. Eventually, as he furrowed his brow, and she scribbled messy calculations on her page, he yelled, “No! Of course you can’t do it!” He finished the interview and ushered her out without shaking her hand.

February 12, 2001
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