Written by Bryce Hammons, published on 2013-05-13

There you sit in the waiting room with the rest of the job candidates spending their last moments frantically reciting names, numbers, and reasons for their undeniable greatness. Your cell phone lies dormant in your pocket (you hope!); your hair is as close to perfect as you could make it without looking as if you fumigated it with enough hairspray to poison a small nation; and your choice of clothes would make even the most hardened E! fashion critic swoon. Your confidence level is at an all-time high.

It’s time: your name is called and you stand, ready to exude confidence, knowledge, and your effervescent winning charm. Unfortunately, this will be the high point of your interview: you, standing. Why? Because you bomb the actual interview pretty hard! “What’s my name again? What position am I applying for? Which company is this? Is that my cell phone ringing? Uh, I think I should probably stop sweating.” Whether it’s the stress of the moment, the pressure to impress against all odds, or a simple case of forgetfulness, even the best of us have failed utterly and completely during the all-important interview.

Before you decide to move to the north woods, though, you need to know how truly terrible it could have been. Let’s take a look at a handful of real interview horror stories. After reading through these five tales, you’ll realize it could’ve been much worse; you’ll learn a thing or two about what not to do (ever!); and you’ll have a good laugh as you prepare to ace your next job interview which it just so happens you’re going to knock out of the park!

#1. Not the Bathroom! Anything but the Bathroom!

Lora Shinn, writing for Bankrate.com and Yahoo Finance, offers insights into phone interview etiquette, such as don’t forget, neglect, or put too little time/effort into the overall phone interview process. Seeing as it’s the first step for recruiters looking to narrow down the applicant field, a phone interview should be taken just as seriously as the actual in-person variation, according to Shinn.

And while this seems like conventional wisdom to most, there have been cases where a poor (read: extremely poor) first impression – even over the phone – was enough to persuade even the most forgiving of recruiters that there was probably a better choice waiting in the remaining resume pool. Case in point: a job hopeful, finding himself stuck in a noisy hotel – and needing to take a last-minute phone interview for a much-coveted position – sought solitude in the best and only place he could think of. And where was this perfect place, you ask? Why, a restroom, of course. And was it a peaceful getaway in some tranquil, secluded hotel room? No: it was the public restroom! So the only private spot he could come up with turned into a memorable phone interview experience for the recruiter on the other end of the line, according to Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook.” As the sounds of flushing and other, harder-to-name, noises filled the airwaves, the potential applicant – soon to be known as the formerly potential applicant – tried to make his case for why he was the best choice for the position. Needless to say, he wasn’t scheduled for an in-person interview. He may still be wondering why.

#2. Are You Being a Little Too Forward?

The Washingtonian offers a few stories of candidates who have firmly placed foot in mouth before and during the interview. One candidate let his recruiter know that by crossing state lines from Maryland, he was in violation of his probation. Even so, he said, he felt that the interview would actually be worth the potential jail time upon his return home.

Another applicant – after having a monetary disagreement with his taxi driver – went inside, started his interview, and was doing quite well until about midway through, when company security officers arrived to escort him down to the lobby in order to pay the cab driver the proper fare.

And Rick Sherman, from Mitretek Systems, relates one of the best lines ever uttered during an interview. When asked his greatest accomplishment, one candidate replied that it was writing a short novel. The interviewer rephrased the question, emphasizing that he was looking for something the interviewee had accomplished at work. And his reply: “But I did write it while at work!” Wonder if he completed the sequel from home?

#3. The Ever Helpful Post-Interview Face Plant

Have you ever wondered how your potentially badly botched job interview compares with others of its ilk? Well, according to CBS News, probably pretty favorably when set against this next story. One female applicant spent so much time with her legs crossed during the interview that when she stood up she – quite literally – fell flat on her face. Her legs had gone numb. The recruiter helped her up and she was on her way, embarrassed to say the least.

The funniest part of this particular episode is that she was hired, face plant and all, and is still with the company today. When asked why she was hired after the unfortunate incident, the recruiter said that she’d made the biggest (and best) impression upon him of all the candidates. Who knew all it took was a face plant post-interview to get the job?

#4. Is That a Snake, Sir?

And you thought wearing white socks with black slacks was a faux pas? How about bringing a pet snake named Herbie to the proceedings? Recruiters assumed that Herbie was a yellow scarf, slightly faded from wear and tear. But no: Herbie was a living, breathing, cold-blooded pet whom the applicant had brought in order to “set himself apart” from the rest. Much like the applicant who took the phone interview in the public restroom, Herbie and his handler were not called back for a – wait, wait, wait: what? You’re kidding? He got the job?! According to Kristine Barr-Ouedraogo, at GHT Limited, due to the applicant’s honesty (and impressive creativity), he was hired on! It just goes to show.

#5. “Sorry, I Just Came From An Interview With Your Competitor.”

One job candidate showed up a half-hour late and promptly attributed the late arrival to having just been across the street – at a rival companies’ office – waiting for an interview there. Now, that’s really not the right thing to say, is it?

It’s interesting to note that, despite some of the worst mistakes an applicant could make, a few still got the job, after seemingly trying hard not to. So there’s still hope for the rest of us. According to CNN’s Christine Romans, there are close to five people putting in resumes for each open job, whereas there’s just one of you.

When it comes down to it, we’ve all erred in interview situations. Whether it’s the stress of the moment, the uncertainty of the job market, or the fact that fifteen other candidates are just waiting in the hallway to pounce on our moments of weakness in selling our qualifications, it’s happened to the best of us. How do we respond? And how do we learn from not only our mistakes but the mistakes of others (no matter how outlandish they may seem initially)? It’s all about how we take that rejection, turn it into something positive, and come back to the next interview better than ever. That’s what defines us and eventually allows for a successful transition from a nerve-wracking interview to a potentially life-changing job opportunity.