I don't have a terrible interview story, but I have a potentially controversial interview suggestion. I have gone into my interviews with questions about the faculty interviewing me sufficient to occupy _all_ of the relevant time. That is, I have been prepared to hijack the interviews and turn them around. My prepared questions have been about anything I can find out about the faculty: about their bios (as apparent on their faculty websites, no deep searching), about specific things they've written, specific classes they've taught. They aren't questions about the department; they are questions about individual faculty members. I've then worked to include those questions in my answers to their questions early on, flipping who is doing the interviewing.
This does a couple of things: 1) it disrupts the awful interrogation feeling, changing interviews into conversations, 2) it shows that I am really interested in the department, 3) it actually makes me more interested in the department (skimming an article or two really helped), and 4) it leads the faculty to talk about themselves and, in my experience, people enjoy talking about themselves.
When I've discussed this strategy with people, especially when I've mentioned interviews I completely hijacked, where I was 'on the offensive' the whole time, some people have thought either a) that I'm doing something inappropriate or b) that people will reject me because they won't learn enough about me. I'm not an expert on a, but my experience is that b is false.
When another anonymous commenter and I expressed some skepticism about these tactics, the initial commenter responded that the people they know who actually used the tactics seemed to have done so very successfully:
For what it is worth, of the people I know who have tried this strategy, only one interview--either first-round or on-campus--did not turn out successfully. I only know of one first-round interview that did not result in an on-campus interview, and I don't know of any on-campus interviews that did not turn into offers. Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and the sample size is not n>30 interviewees.
On the other, hand, most people I talk to about this strategy express skepticism or rejection. However, as any good linguist will tell you, people are really bad reporters of what counts as a successful move in their language...
I found this very interesting. First, as I have explained on this blog many times before, the science of job interviews and employee selection shows pretty definitively that (A) people vastly overrate the usefulness of interviews, in part because (B) perceptions of candidates in interviews are influenced by a vast array of job-irrelevant factors that interviewers themselves wouldn't say are relevant to the job (attractiveness, weight, height, gender, race, speech style, etc.). Second, as the anonymous commenter implies themselves, modern psychology shows that human beings are excellent confabulators--judging that they care about X, when their behavior shows they actually lend weight to ~X. So, perhaps unconventional interview tactics--even ones that people intuitively don't think would work--actually do work.
Which brings me to my question: what interview tactics have you used, and how have they worked? Although the title and content of this post focuses on unconventional interview tactics, it might be helpful to hear from everyone: both those who have tried unconventional tactics, but also those who go about things more conventionally. If you could not only describe your tactics in some detail, but also perhaps your interview batting average/success rate (in terms of getting fly-outs or offers), it might be very informative!