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Was Your Last Job Interview a Disaster?

It has happened to every one of us. We go in to a job interview with high hopes, visions of our ‘dream job’ and confidence in our capabilities – and come out crushed, embarrassed, defeated and depressed. If this happens to you, there are five questions you need to immediately ask yourself in order to prevent a single bad interview from snowballing into a series of unproductive encounters. Here are the questions along with a few thoughts about how to keep yourself in a positive and productive frame of mind even after a tough interview.

1. What was the biggest surprise, and how could I have been better prepared?

We are strong advocate for doing advance research before every job interview, and if you were surprised by specific questions, or elements of the job description, this probably means that your advance research was lacking. If you are interviewing at XXX Corporation, you might even want to Google the search term “Interviewing at XXX Corporation” to see if anyone has posted comments on their experience. If you know who the individual interviewer is going to be, you can research that person on LinkedIn or other social media. Get to know the company through their website and other available sources. If it is a retail establishment, be sure to shop there a few days prior to the interview. Think about the advance preparation done by the average applicant for this position, and make sure your your own preparation is deeper and broader.

2. Am I in fact a great fit for this job?

Hey, the reality may be that this was not a good fit, for you or for them. It’s healthy to acknowledge this and recognize that putting a lot of energy into interviews where you are probably not a good fit is likely to be counter-productive. Successful job searches are not accidental. They are not the result of randomly sending out thousands of resumes. Know your strengths and competencies and target your interviews to fit them. And no matter how it happened, if this was not a good fit then recognize that and move on. You haven;t lost anything but a little time and a little pride.

3. Would I really want to work with these people?

If you were treated in any way harshly or rudely, then you have to ask yourself if you really would want to work with these people. If the interview felt like a “cattle call” where they treated everyone like a herd of even-toed ungulates, this may very well be a reflection of the way they treat their actual employees. If a gracious, professional interviewer recognizes that someone is not a good fit for a particular position, he or she will perhaps explore if another available position might be  a good fit, or politely complete the interview without making the applicant feel unworthy in any way. Isn’t that the kind of company you really want to work with? So don;t let the jerks reject you – you reject them.

4. What did I learn from this experience and how will I apply this learning to future interviews?

We learn little or nothing from the things in life that come easy. Often our best, most productive learning comes from tough, hard experiences. So think deeply about what you learned and how you will apply this learning to future interviews.

5. What was the most amusing part of this interview and how will I tell the story to my family and friends?

Your natural inclination will typically not be to share this experience with others. But it is incredibly important that you share it, after you have thought about it enough to tell the story with a light, humorous spirit. Even if you did something totally dumb, you need to get to a place where you can laugh at yourself and share the story with others. This helps to kill off the shame or embarrassment, it takes all the negative power away from the experience. If you hold it all inside, the embarrassment, disappointment and shame will only fester. So find some friends to laugh with and tell them a great story about your worst interview ever.

It could be worse (really)…

Sometimes it help to know that even when times are tough, others have it worse than you do. However poorly a job interview has gone, you can always be reassured by the fact that someone, somewhere, has done much, much worse than you ever have. So below we’ve shared a few examples of REALLY bad job interviews.

  • When asked to give a practical demonstration of his abilities during a job interview, one candidate got out a deck of cards and proceeded to perform a series of magic tricks. Interview tip: You don’t need interview advice to tell you that this is a bad idea. Remain professional at all times! Silly jokes, inappropriate clothes and strange behavior are all guaranteed to put an interviewer off.
  • At the end of a job interview, a candidate was told that she could ask one question and one question only. After thinking intently for a few minutes, she said “Are you going anywhere nice on your holidays this summer?” Interview Tip: You know that you’ll be expected to ask questions at the end of a job interview, and there’s no excuse not to prepare a few. Keep your questions focused on the job and the company, and use it as an opportunity to further express your interest in both.
  • During one job interview, a candidate complained at length about his previous boss. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that the interviewer and his former employer were closely related, and even had the same last name. Interview Tip: This man was particularly unlucky, but it just goes to show that it is never a good idea to badmouth your former employer.
  •  “So tell me, what is your biggest weakness?” When pressed to answer this question, one candidate answered “My dishonesty.” Interview Tip: This is a difficult question to answer. Responses like “I work too hard” are no good, and owning up to a severe character flaw might sink your application. Pick a weakness that is true but that won’t affect the job that you are going for. For example, being erratic at paperwork is a disaster for an admin role, but is only a minor drawback for a sales position.
  • Everyone knows that you have to switch your phone off during a job interview. But one candidate, after the first few questions, got his phone out and called his parents to let them know how well the interview was going. Interview tip: Stay focused during an interview. Don’t get complacent if you think it is going well, and don’t be discouraged if you feel it is going badly.
  • One candidate was asked to draw a picture that best described him. He drew a clown with blood pouring from its eyes, ears and nose. Interview Tip: Interviewers are looking for people who can both fill the role and work well with other people. Worrying personality traits can be just as off putting as a lack of experience or inadequate skills, so be on your best behavior in the interview room.
  • No matter what unfortunate facts from your past happen to surface in a job interview, you can’t cause more alarm than this woman did. Alarmingly, in the middle of the interview she managed to imply that she’d murdered her husband. Interview Tip: Think before you speak. Perhaps you think a strange remark or crude joke will make you memorable. You’d be right, but for precisely the wrong reasons.