How to Ruin an Interview in Three Easy Steps!

Continuing on the thread of the myriad mistakes I’ve made in the search for employment, both during and after my post secondary degree, this post is a guide on how to sabotage an interview in three easy steps!

The first and easiest step: Don’t have anything prepared!

I recently read somewhere that having scripted talking points plotted out before an interview is a bad idea. The author claimed that unless you were a solid actor, your points would seem wooden and lifeless. Moreover, you might seem inflexible and not actually answer the questions being asked. I don’t remember much else from the article or even if this was the main point. While there is most certainly a difference between having stock answers prepared and being prepared in general, I think having a stock answer works brilliantly if you’re able to pick them apart in the interview to use key phrases, like Dr. Frankenstein but without the mess.

I suppose there are benefits to walking into an interview without talking points scripted out. For example, you can sit awkwardly thinking of how to answer a question with a chorus of “umm” and “ah” to serenade your interviewer’s ear drum. This could lull them into a sense of calm security, which they then associate with you and result in your imminent hiring!

This situation is highly unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought myself ready to be interviewed when an obvious question like “What’s your five year plan?” comes unexpected and makes me aware of how maybe I didn’t spend enough time preparing for the interview. In these instances, my mind flashes to a scene from a television show where a boss explains how to handle such situations.

“Repeat the question they just asked you,” he says, “it makes them think you’re listening and gives you time to formulate a response!”

This works well. Really well. And it saves the chorus of “umm” that can arrive so readily. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing inherently bad about “umm” I just feel it makes me sound inarticulate and short on things to say. “Ummm” is great for making me feel like I’ve poorly represented myself and haven’t adequately prepared, making it a fantastic first step in failing an interview!

The second mistake: Don’t talk about yourself

In my first interviews I had the (mistaken) impression in the past that interviewers only want to know about your credentials and skill sets as they apply to the job. As such, there have been interviews where I’ve been thoroughly surprised to have to talk about myself at some length. This situation is very similar to the one above and can result in the same refrain of “umm” and “ahhhh” noises.

From what I’ve been able to gather, people looking to hire are not only looking at what you’ve done and what you’re able to do but who you are as a person. The only way to find this out is by you telling them. This may not be the best time to tell them about the fiasco of the office Christmas party and how long it took to clean up the mess.

The third mistake: Don’t do any research

While this could have been lumped in with “Don’t Have Anything Prepared” I felt it warranted its own section since this can affect the interview before it starts. If you really want to bungle an interview, not being prepared and not doing research go together like beer and nachos. A delicious beverage and food combination aside, neglecting basic research is a wonderful way to flub an interview. Here are a few examples I’ve experienced:

An HR department called me and scheduled an interview for the next day. The kind person on the phone gave me the address and some information and said she would e-mail me the rest. For whatever reason, I never did receive that e-mail. I didn’t realize until I arrived at the location that I had no idea what the business name was (I assumed they would be the only occupant at the address- I was wrong), or what they did. I knocked on a few doors and was directed to the right location by some very friendly staff at a completely different company. The situation worked out better than I could have hoped, but walking into that interview I felt about as confident as a grade niner on the first day of high school.

There was another interview I had a few years ago for a day camp. The person who phoned me gave me some relevant information, and was very helpful, so the most research I did was to find out the busses I needed to take to get to the place. When asked what I knew about the area (and there was a lot to know) my mind reeled. The best answer I came up with was

“I think I saw a swimming pool on my way here…?”

The day camp was in community housing where many of the occupants were New Canadians in an area that had high levels of gang activity in the past, and I ensured my perspective employer knew that there was a swimming pool up the street. This wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for me. Especially when I had listed “Research Skills” on my resume.

These are merely two examples of how to give a terrible first impression in an interview. When you’ve got the Internet at your disposal, there’s no excuse for not looking up things like the history of your potential employer. Thus, avoiding research is also an easy way to look like the worst candidate for the job and a sure fire way to botch an interview!

What was the worst interview you’ve ever had? Why? What’s the best interview tip anyone ever gave you? What’s the worst interview tip you’ve been given? Do you think it’s a shame Jpod was cancelled?

6 Responses to “How to Ruin an Interview in Three Easy Steps!”

  1. LindaBolton

    I do agree it is too bad about Jpod is gone, but where do you think they were going in the next season?

    Anyhow, I think one of the better job interviews I had was when I claimed to be PROACTIVE. Employers like that. And also it is nice when you respond to the interviewer. I once had an interview where I just listened to the woman tell me about her trip to the states. I made a comment here or there, but by then it wasn’t about me, it was about how well I could listen to her. I got the job.

    Reply
  2. ddolgoy

    I counsel high school students in many areas involving the transition to post-secondary, including interview preparation. This article is so funny, but it says what needs to be said. I will definitely be directing my students to this site.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  3. Sopinka

    In professional careers, it definitely pays to be assertive. Show interest in the job. This takes a bit of research, and the hubris to think that you have something to offer, such that they will talk about it. Be forward and direct about what you can offer to the company/firm, and why you think you are the best person for them.

    Reply
  4. knormand

    The worst interview I ever had was at Citizenship and Immigration. I’d been referred to another interview by a human resources representative who couldn’t hire me but thought I’d be a good addition to another department. As soon as I walked in the door the interview went downhill. There were five people sitting around a table in an office decorated with art from cultures around the world. They all had my resume and were looking at it in confusion. “Do you have any experience with other languages?” French. “How about Mandarin or Arabic?” No. “How long have you worked as a personal assistant and how proficient are you with the Linux OS operating system?” I’ve never been a secretary and even Microsoft is difficult for me. “What education have you recieved?” I’m finishing my undergraduate degree in history. “Oh. No minor in public affairs or policy management?” No. There was a deathly silence. Then I said: “I don’t think I’d be a good fit here.” READ: You’re not going to hire me are you? They shook their heads in agreement. And I left, unable ever to look anyone emerging from the building in the eye ever again.

    Best interview tips:
    1) Always dress professionally. Ladies wear skirts and blouses and heels, hair and makeup done. Think any lady from CSI. Men wear dress pants and button up shirts with no sneakers. Think Tony Stark.
    2) Smile. Smile. Smile.
    3) Be enthusiastic. Like so enthusiastic you’ve been doing speed all day. “Couches?! I love couches! I love to get people excited about couches!”
    4) Firm handshake. Offer your hand as soon as you see them, don’t wait for them to offer theirs. No limp fish handshakes. Shake their hand like the Terminator would.
    5) Be early. But not awkwardly early, enough time so you can grab a coffee and relax.
    6) Be polite. “It’s great to meet you!”
    “Thanks for your time.”
    7) Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. Repeat: I am awesome and attractive and capable and experienced and you want to hire me. All hail the Hypnotoad!

    Jpod is a great book and I like me some Douglas Coupland but like most things CBC produces these days, the show was pretty bad.

    Reply
  5. mrodgers

    I definitely agree with your point about research. I once applied for a job in a coffee shop and when the interviewer asked me which of their drinks was my favorite, I realized I wouldn’t name a single signature drink. Not a good move. Looking for things like the company’s vision or mission statement on their website can be very helpful, particularly if you can explain how your skills would contribute to the company’s overall aims.
    Also, obvious but sometimes overlooked, dress at least as well for the interview as you would expect to dress daily if you get the job. At the same time, be comfortable. Wearing those killer stilettos to an interview in the middle of a January snowstorm will unnecessarily up your stress levels. (seriously).
    …And yes, it is a shame Jpod was cancelled.

    Reply
  6. businesscasual

    Checking out the website of wherever you’re applying is great advice – but make sure you remember some of the basic details you’ve learned or it’ll just feel like time-wasted. Nothing like sitting down to an interview and feeling completely flatfooted when the interviewer asks you about the program you vaguely remember reading about online.

    Interviewer: So, what do you know about our VistaItalia program?

    Me: UHH. I remember it has something to do with children and….Italy?

    Also, try REALLY hard to remember the interviewers name so you can thank them personally at the end (that one’s from the roomie, fortunately I have not experienced that one myself).

    (P.S. Oh, man, my parents were crushed that Jpod was cancelled. CRUSHED. Maybe I should have watched it.)

    Reply

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