Ever walked out of an interview and wanted to kick yourself? Sat there in an almost out-of-body experience as you wonder why on earth you’re saying this rubbish? I’ll let you in on a secret – almost everyone you meet will have had a truly awful interview experience. A ‘change your name, delete your LinkedIn, don’t even tell me the feedback it was so awful’ interview. Something so cringeworthy it stays with you as a reminder of What Not To Do.
The trick is to learn from this, laugh at yourself and move on. Whether it’s dramatically spilling water over yourself, forgetting the interviewer’s name or missing a bloody obvious question about Brexit, there’s sometimes a moment when you just know you haven’t got the job. Think your experience is bad? Here’s an insight into a recent car-crash interview I had, along with a selection of amusing experiences from my nearest and dearest. Anonymised, of course, because half of these lovely people are still on the job hunt.
“I finished the interview and then basically asked what it was for”
Ok, before you mock me incessantly – I was nervous. And a lot got lost in translation. I had been on the world’s worst interview prep session (attendance compulsory) and ended up working in a group who basically disregarded my whole degree. The boy asked me what use my art degree was, the girl told me I sounded like a walking cliché, they both decided I might struggle in the upcoming interview. It was like a bad scene from a sitcom; everything I said, they stomped all over. When talking about making first impressions, the boy said “obviously a suit”. I suggested doing your research – some companies state proudly that they’re not corporate, it’s not a strict office environment, they want creativity… In my (humble) opinion, turning up to a job interview, for a company that states this on their website, in a full suit = bad first impression. The boy’s response? “I guess that’s the sort of interviews you go to for an art job. I’m talking about proper ones”. Cue vomit noises.
The actual interview wasn’t much better. Infuriatingly, my past few interviews have gone well so I strolled in relatively confidently. I ended up too focused on trying to remember the interview prep and the STARR technique and what came out was a huge jumbled mess. In a question about leadership, I conveniently forgot the times I’ve led a team and instead mumbled about group projects. At the end, when asked if I had any questions, I panicked. This interview wasn’t for an actual job, it was for a University award, so I didn’t have anything specific to ask – because it was questions on my competency rather than for a real role.
However, the prep session had stated that it was absolutely necessary to ask questions to show your engagement. So, my panicked brain decided to ask how one might describe this award to a future employer who didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was the slight stammer, maybe it was the ‘caught in headlights’ look on my face – all I know is that the woman decided I was asking what the award was. So, having interviewed for 20 minutes about why I was suitable for the award, she proceeded to explain, in a painstakingly slow voice, what it was. Fair to say, it didn’t go well.
“I ended up arguing with the woman, ironically about why I wasn’t confrontational”
W had a Skype interview for a teaching job. W quickly discovered that she didn’t get on particularly well with the interviewer. Her problem? “I felt like she was pushing me towards an answer I didn’t want to give – because it wasn’t the truth. I ended up arguing with the woman, it all became very heated, and because it wasn’t face to face there was little way to diffuse it. Basically, a disaster. Oh, and I told her I hated the curriculum she wanted me to teach”.
Any positives for W? “Actually, the job description was very brief so the interview revealed some key information. Turns out I definitely didn’t want the job after all!” Every cloud and all…
“Asked for my inspiration to go into science? I panicked and said The Hulk“
Yes, that’s right. For a very serious medical degree interview (you know, checking you’re sane enough to work with vulnerable people), X revealed that her science inspiration is a fictional character, whose lumbering and vivid green image isn’t the vibe she wanted to communicate. “I didn’t want to give a boring answer or anything cliché and this is what my mind came up with”. At least this would have been a memorable answer. Unfortunately, X informs me that the interviewers didn’t look too convinced.
“They completely didn’t get it. Not even as a joke. I then tried to clarify – I like comics, Bruce Banner is a brilliant example of someone ‘giving their all’ to science… lesson learned, fictional characters aren’t the best role models”. At least X gave us all something to laugh at. And, she’s now totally prepared if that question ever comes up again.
“He ended up revealing he’d dodged tax whilst self-employed”
Doing my diligent blog research (AKA avoiding my dissertation), I asked Y for his worst experience interviewing someone. Yes, apparently interviewing someone can be a tricky task too. Alongside asking random questions in moments of slight panic and hiring someone because she was hilarious (who later turned out to just be weird), one candidate sticks in mind for Y…
“He was a good candidate on paper and the first half of the interview went really well. Until we got to a question about his self-employed period of work. He made a joke, we asked him to clarify and the candidate ended up revealing he’d dodged tax the whole time – literally!” Not the best thing to reveal in an interview, especially if you’re looking for a job with lots of responsibility…
“We had to postpone the interview as the candidate was bleeding onto the floor”
Perhaps it was the candidate’s pre-interview nerves or maybe she was just eternally clumsy? Z’s recount of the worst interview ever is in fact one she led – and promptly had to stop, in order to drive her candidate to the local A&E.
“She had tripped on the path outside and although a little shaken, reassured us she wanted to go ahead. She was wearing trousers so we had no idea she had actually split open her knee”. What a way to make an entrance! Maybe it was the shock or adrenaline keeping the girl from speaking up – or maybe she was just too terrified to announce she was bleeding profusely. “The interview took a turn when she began bleeding onto the floor. Safe to say we stopped and drove her to A&E as soon as possible”.
There is a happy ending for this candidate. “Her resilience impressed us so much we actually offered her the job!” I guess needing medical attention isn’t the best way to end an interview but your reaction in a difficult situation might be the very reason you’re hired.
You’re not alone!
So, there you go! A brief account of something I found humiliating and then a couple of my favourite confessions. Interviews might be your worst nightmare but I think it’s important to remember everyone gets nervous, everyone walks out wishing they could have added something extra and everyone has that one terrible time, burning away in their memories forever.
If you’re reading this and immediately blushing remembering your own car-crash experience, I’m all ears! Sharing is caring and revealing your interview nightmares can help someone else be a little more prepared in case a similar situation comes up. The important thing to remember is that a bad experience can be a learning one. Plus, learning to laugh at yourself is a life-long skill!
Final Year update? I am so, so bored of finals. I’ve started having nightmares about my essays. I’ve forgotten how to spell in both English and French. If I read my dissertation one more time, I may cry. Mum says it’s totally too late to drop out now… T-minus 43 days until freedom.