Sometimes Tinseltown, for all its fictitious kitch, can end up capturing the essential, existential truth behind the dreaded life event that is the job interview.
Job interviews make for good narrative tension, tapping our collective anxiety, our cloying self-doubt barely veneered by any semblance of professionalism. All too often the whole sordid enterprise results in some serious cringe-core for both interviewer and interviewee. As a counterpoint to advice on conducting effective interviews, the following serves as a textbook list of how not to act during an interview—regardless of what side of the table you’re sitting.
9. Monty Python
Ask any recruiter and chances are they have at least one horror story, but it’s less common we hear about recruiters fumbling through questions. Monty Python takes aim at this very scenario with their witty skit “Silly Job Interview”. In this bit from from the first season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, interviewer John Cleese takes detailed notes about candidate Graham Chapman’s responses and reactions to the interviewer’s absurd behavior. While it’s hard to imagine any candidate passing such an outrageous interview, Chapman manages to impress the interviewer with a well-timed retort—but will he get the job?
8. The Wedding Singer
Shifting careers can be daunting, and for Adam Sandler’s character Robbie—a washed-up wedding singer—most of his skills as an entertainer don’t translate into other industries, especially finance. That doesn’t stop Robbie from interviewing at his local bank, where his response when asked about his lack of relevant experience is amusingly on-point (even if it doesn’t impress the bank’s hiring manager).
In “The Opposite”, the always impulsive and neurotic George Costanza decides to do the opposite of what his gut tells him in every situation. This behavior sends George on a winning streak, and eventually lands him a job interview with the New York Yankees. Determined to act against his better instincts, George unleashes a fury of honesty at the Yankee executives over his disappointment with the team’s management. Once again, George’s contrapuntal instincts pay off, and the Yankees offer him a job on the spot. While this strategy may have worked for George, most recruiters and hiring managers respond better to enthusiasm than insults.
6. Step Brothers
Actors John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell perfectly embody the antics of two middle-aged manboys who never grew up in Step Brothers. As such, they see nothing wrong with wearing full tuxedos to their first (team) interview. Their attempts are doomed from the start, and if their inappropriate attire weren’t enough to make interviewers a bit suspicious, the second they open their mouths things fall apart. Quickly.
5. The Internship
Brain-puzzling interview questions are a hallmark of tech juggernauts like Google (though many report that this questioning has since fallen out of practice), and in The Internship Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn must answer a classic brain-teaser. Their response is a tangential rant that leaves both of the interviewers puzzled with disbelief. By and large, answering common interview questions with succinct and relevant responses that showcase your critical thinking and understanding will do much more to impress interviewers than imaginative ramblings.
4. The Company Men
Ben Affleck’s character, struggles to reenter the workforce after losing his six-figure salary job and begins interviewing at new companies. He shows little compassion for the overworked recruiter when she informs him that he isn’t being interviewed for the VP of Sales position he applied for but a more junior role. Unable to contain himself after this disappointing realization, he lobs a stinging insult right onto the recruiter’s desk that effectively ends the interview and burns all bridges with the company.
3. The Devil Wears Prada
Hollywood often depicts the fashion industry as cutthroat, where image and attitude reign supreme, and for Andy (Anne Hathaway), her first encounter with Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada is a candidate’s worst nightmare come true. Streep verbally dismantles Hathaway’s character for not having the requisite passion or haute-couture attire, and dismisses her without more than a glance at her resume. Feeling insulted, Alex snaps back with an equally sharp remark that eventually wins over Streep, proving that while she lacks experience, she has comparable skills that make her a candidate worth considering.
2. The Big Bang Theory
Fans of The Big Bang Theory admire Penny for being the plucky waitress who frequently delivers well-timed comedic jabs. Unfortunately, Penny’s experience in the service industry didn’t teach her the finer points of professionalism during an interview, which soon gets her into hot water with the hiring manager at a pharmaceutical sales company. Luckily for her, both Penny and the interviewer bond over their shared fear of their mutual acquaintance, Bernadette, and her bullish attitude. Saving face, even during an interview gone wrong, demonstrates a level of professionalism most recruiters and hiring managers will recognize and appreciate.
1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Charlie (Charlie Day) of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are a rather dim duo, with their bloated egos and lack of formal education making them less-than-ideal candidates for most entry-level jobs. Undeterred, Mac and Charlie use their negotiation skills to convince the interviewer to split the position (and the salary) between them. Unwittingly, Mac and Charlie seal the deal by negotiating their salary down even further to minimum wage, earning them both a job offer at a fraction of the cost to the company. As a candidate, the art of the salary negotiation can be daunting, but it certainly doesn’t have to be—and you shouldn’t sell yourself short.