Worst Interview Moments
Karen Lloyd interview, Marketing, candidate...
It’s a fact of life; things go wrong. No matter how much we prepare ourselves, there are some things we just can’t manage in advance. Typically, they’ll go wrong just when we need everything to be plain sailing – especially in a job interview.
We take a look at our top 4 “Oh NO!” worst interview moments and how to gracefully manage the situation (along with what your interviewer is really thinking!). Helping you retain not only your dignity but also your chances of landing the role.
1. “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date!”
Possibly the worst interview moment for any of us – it’s the preverbal nightmare.
What’s going through your mind: Thank you traffic / train / bus / tram – now the interviewer is going to think I haven’t left enough time to get here – they’ll never reschedule. I’ve wasted their time and utterly blown it!
How to manage: Call your Recruitment Partner asap! (Safely if driving of course) – they will help manage the situation and explain the circumstances to the interviewer. If you are going to be significantly late, they will help reschedule.
When you do arrive, apologise and don’t be defensive – this can really make or break your interview chances. Take responsibility; one candidate got the job despite being 2 hours late because they were graceful about the situation.
What the interviewer is now thinking: OK, it’s inconvenient but we all know how awful the [insert appropriate transport mode] can be. At least I’m not hanging around and can use the hour productively. I still like the candidate so will find another time.
2. Fashion disaster darling!
A little extreme perhaps, but wardrobe malfunctions are not as uncommon as you might think. You drop a cup of coffee down yourself on the way (let’s face it, we’ve all done it); gents – your tie gets marked, ladies – your tights ladder. It’s all the things we aren’t expecting that create that worst interview moment.
What’s going through your mind: Great! I look completely unkempt. The interviewer will think that I’m clumsy and unprofessional.
How to manage: Make sure you have plenty of time before hand. Ladies – pop a spare pair of tights in your bag, gents a spare tie for example. If the absolute worst happens, if you have the time then you may be able to replace the offending item before you go into the interview. If you don’t and you really can’t hide it, then be upfront and explain (if you can turn it into a funny story all the better, some people have been known to clinch the job this way as it builds rapport); trying to ignore it won’t help.
What the interviewer is now thinking: Nothing, if you’re prepared or can change. If you can’t and you explain the situation you remove the unprofessional stigma, although they may still think you are a little clumsy!
3. You go blank – nothing… nada… zip… zilch
Interviews are stressful; often under stress our minds can pull a fast one on us.
What goes through your mind: Quite literally nothing, other than panic!
How to manage: First things first, take a deep breath and ask the interviewer to repeat the question rather than giving them a “rabbit in the headlights” look. This gives you a chance to kick-start the old grey matter. Don’t be afraid to admit being a little nervous. Interviewers are human after all and will generally give you a shot. Having notes with you can be helpful in this situation. Often, it’s when you are asked specifics, such as statistics on your campaign successes or strategic outcomes that stump us. Having notes on these to prompt you will help enormously in this situation.
What the interviewer is thinking: Unless you are a consummate actor they will be aware you’ve had a moment of panic (although the cause will not necessarily be apparent). This will give them a chance to see how you manage the situation – they want to see how you recover and cope with the stress.
4. Technology lets you down
Telephone interviews have always been a part of the process (more so for some companies than others) but increasingly video interviews are also part of the mix. If things go wrong it can get seriously stressful, so don’t let it turn into a worst interview moment.
What goes through your mind: For a start b____y wifi / laptop / Skype etc! I look like I’m not taking this seriously. I’ve got to get the link back, NOW!
How to manage: Preparation can help to some degree. In advance, get to grips with the software and check your WIFI. On the day, if it goes down and you can’t get it back quickly, ensure you can communicate another way (i.e. phone / email) to advise you are having problems and are working on it.
What the interviewer is now thinking: This depends on how quickly it comes back on line, and whose tech is at fault. We know some connections / software are unreliable, so they are likely to be sympathetic, or even embarrassed if they are at fault. If you are down for a long time and you can communicate through another method, they are far more likely to consider waiting / re-organising.