When Bad Interviews Happen to
by Linda Matias
Going through the motions of a bad interview is like peeling back the layers
of an onion. Sally learned this lesson the hard way, hands-on during an
interview that should have been a piece of cake. Sally applied for a position
that fit her qualifications perfectly. When she received an invitation to
interview, Sally believed she was a shoo-in for the job. Feeling confident, she
approached the interview in a lax manner. She didn’t prepare and prematurely
celebrated an offer she was convinced would be extended.
The day of the interview, Sally was surprised by the level of anxiety she
felt. Her apprehension began to build and she began to prepare for the interview
at the last minute. By the time she arrived at the interview, she was visibly
Lesson learned: The time to collect your
thoughts is prior to an interview, not on your way to one. If you arrive to an
interview bewildered, the recruiter will take notice and you run a high risk
that you will be not get the offer.
The interviewer entered the waiting area and introduced himself. To ease the
tension, he asked a common icebreaker question, “Did you have trouble finding
us?” Sally has never been a smooth small talker and she answered the question
candidly. She confided that she doesn’t have a good sense of direction and
coupled with the fact that she was anxious, she passed the building entrance
quite a few times. The interviewer smiled politely and proceeded to walk towards
the interview room. Realizing she goofed, Sally hesitantly followed the
Lesson learned: Everything you say and do
during an interview is scrutinized; from the instant you walk in, to the moment
you walk out. An innocent question doesn’t exist during an interview and a
careless misstep is seldom forgotten. Choose your responses carefully.
When Sally was escorted to the interview room, she was surprised to see a
panel of interviewers. She was only familiar with the “it’s just you and me,
kid” type of the interview – the one-on-one. At the start of the interview, she
quickly realized that it was going to be a challenge to manage that interview.
Lesson learned: Interviews are unpredictable.
One never knows the broad range of topics that will be covered and the type of
formats that may be presented. Familiarize yourself with all interview settings.
Because she was not ready for the series of questions, Sally tripped over her
answers. She focused on issues that weren’t relevant and provided little
information on what was pertinent. She began to ramble and appeared
under-qualified for the position.
Sensing that she was interviewing poorly, Sally began to lose patience with
the process. She failed to maintain eye contact and began to fidget. The
enthusiasm she felt for the position and the company slowly diminished as she
witnessed the blank looks on the faces of the panelists. She withdrew mentally
from the interview, and as a result, appeared disinterested.
Lesson learned: Most interviewers expect
candidates to be nervous during an interview, and they rarely will forgive you
if you fail to demonstrate a sincere interest in working for them. Most hiring
decisions are based on whether the interviewer feels a connection to you. The
failure to establish a bond immediately is usually beyond repair.
After the interview Sally realized that the questions she had been asked were
not difficult. She had been overwhelmed by nervousness and that had clouded her
ability to communicate clearly and to the point effectively.
Lesson learned: Even if you have the “right
stuff,” nothing is guaranteed. Don’t get caught off guard; prepare for
interviews; do your homework.
Linda Matias is President of CareerStrides and The
National Resume Writers' Association. She has been quoted in The Wall Street
Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. Visit her website
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.