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Quora Column

Bizarre job interviews, exposed

School children take cover under desks during an earthquake drill. (Getty)

School children take cover under desks during an earthquake drill in San Francisco, California. (Getty)

Tenacious job hunters should be prepared for all eventualities.

In a crowded marketplace, it’s important to stay on your toes if you are one of the chosen few candidates a company brings in to their offices to interview. But some hiring managers and candidates get more than they bargained for on arrival at the interview.

When interviews take a strange turn, how you respond is critical. BBC Capital went to question-and-answer site Quora.com to find out.

No great shakes

Publisher, Lee Ballentine, vividly recalls interviewing for a job as an applications engineer in Silicon Valley during the 1980s. Ballentine wrote that his last interview of the day was in a makeshift office with the CEO of the firm, an impressive, ex-military man from Israel.

Ballentine writes “An earthquake started, and kept going, fairly seriously, and from my chair I could see people running down the corridor toward the exit.” But rather than panic and evacuate the building the CEO did not react and instead kept the conversation going. He wrote: “The quake got more intense, stuff falling off of bookshelves… and more and more people fleeing the building. I decided that if the CEO could take it, so could I. We kept right on talking until we were the only two people left in the building.”

A half-an-hour later, people were “straggling back into the building and we were still talking.”

“Eventually, everyone had returned to work, and we finished our conversation,” Ballentine wrote. “A few days later, they offered me the job and I accepted. I kind of knew it would play out that way, after facing down an earthquake.”

Dog-gone quandary

Meanwhile, Murli Ravi, described a friend’s surreal experience while hiring to fill a mid-level management position at his firm. Following a series of interviews Ravi’s friend, a CEO and founder of the company, was ushering in his next interviewee and “a golden retriever (dog) that had a collar but no leash walked in alongside the candidate,” he wrote.

Ravi wrote: “He was naturally quite bemused but rolled with the punches. Interview begins, dog saunters around, doesn't really bother anyone, lies down under the table for a bit and then leaves the room out the same door it entered.”

But the interview wasn't over yet.

Ravi said his friend liked the candidate and the interview was otherwise normal so his friend said he asked: “‘Why did you think it was normal to bring your dog to an interview?’"

“The candidate's reply was, ‘My dog? I thought it was your dog! I wanted to ask you the same question!’"

It turned out the dog had just been out for a walk and decided “on a whim to traipse into an open door,” Ravi concluded.

Close observation

When Sara Basile had to rapidly adapt to change in her industry after 15 years as a typographer she took matters in to her own hands. She knew her typing skills were key to finding a new job so she retrained as a medical transcriptionist. At her first interview at a doctor's office following graduation, she was asked by the office manager to type a letter.

She wrote: “The test letter was four paragraphs and she gave me five minutes. I finished the letter and began to retype it, and I noticed she disappeared from behind me. She reappeared with another person, and they both watched quietly behind me. As I started to retype for the third time, she disappeared again and came back with a third person and they all stood watching.”

Not easily distracted, Basile wrote that after the time was up, she turned around to see an audience of five people standing behind her.

“Turns out the office manager pulled all of the doctors out of their offices simply to watch me type,” she wrote. “I got the job on the spot.”

 Never mind about the law

While studying as an undergraduate in environmental science, Sam Huleatt, briefly considered becoming a lawyer. He secured an interview at one of the most prestigious law firms in the world but Huleatt wrote: “during the interview the woman I was meeting with glanced up from reviewing my resume and then began ripping it into pieces asking, ‘As someone who clearly cares about the environment, does this bother you? We waste a lot of paper here and don't really care.’

He decided against becoming a lawyer.

Have you endured an unusual interview? How did you respond? Share your thoughts and experiences on BBC Capital's Facebook page or message us on Twitter @BBC_Capital

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.