I’m a recruiter, going on 4 years of experience. I teach my candidates the best ways to answer tough interview questions, the best questions to ask the interviewer, and how to close the deal. I role play interviews every day, so you’d think I would be awesome and confident in giving the perfect interview myself, right? Nope. Not at all.
Recently, all my practice has been on the other side of the table. If I were to go to an interview tomorrow, I would be pretty rusty talking about myself. Speaking about yourself confidently and eloquently is a skill that is built with practice. I was getting pretty good right when I graduated college with all the interview prepping I did, but 1 year later when I started job searching again I really sucked. That’s where these 3 stories come from- I delivered my worst interviews ever at 1 and 2 years out of college because I didn’t have any practice in. It was sad and shocking for me at the time because I thought I was great based on my success right after graduation.
So here they are: My 3 Worst Interview Mistakes
Not accepting blame: I was in an interview for a financial admin type of position so I wanted to really explain my high attention to detail and organizational skills. It was going wonderfully until this question popped up- Tell me about a time when something at work didn’t go the way you wanted it to. In other words, “tell me about how you screwed up without sounding like a total screwball…” I must have gotten nervous because words came pouring out of mouth like a faucet. Every detail I shared about the “missing files” in my example was all wrong and poorly worded. I thought I was ok when I said, “…but I spoke with the client, explained the situation and assured them that we would get the issue resolved by the next day.” The nail in the coffin came when the interviewer probed further- “So, who was at fault for the missing files?” My answer- “It was nobody’s fault.” Nailed. Who is this Nobody? The correct answer was “Mine.” It was my client, my files, so if something was missing it was my fault. I should have fessed up and then turned quickly to the positive and how I resolved my mistake without missing a beat, but no, I couldn’t bring my stupid self to say: it. was. my. Fault. With a capital F.
Asking anything that sounds like, “What’s in this for me?” Such a rookie mistake. I’m extra embarrassed that I did this 2 years out of college. It was at the end of the interview and it was my turn to ask thoughtful questions about the job and company. I’d asked a couple of boring questions like “what’s a typical day like here?” My brain must’ve been drained of all its juice because I blurted out- “What are the benefits like here?” Idiot. Don’t ever ask about benefits!!! That’s a discussion saved for IF and AFTER the company chooses to offer you the job. That one still makes me cringe. To make it worse, I was being interviewed by 2 employees at once and they awkwardly looked at each other like they were debating on asking me if I wanted to take that question back and try a new one. Another nail in the coffin.
Not bragging enough: How was I so flawlessly braggy coming out of college when I hadn’t done anything that cool? Maybe it was failing at a couple interviews that had my confidence down, but whatever the funk I was in was from, it caused me to miss out on great opportunities to talk about my achievements. Instead of talking about my successes in interviews I realized I was explaining my job description, what I did day to day. I was boring and general. I didn’t realize how bland I had become until I did a role play interview with a recruiter. She got me back on track by asking me things like: “What really makes you tick, what drives you?” “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” “What will your last manager say made you an asset to the team?” “Give me a specific example.” If you can give an interesting answer to a hiring manager when they say, “Tell me about yourself,” you are in good shape. I recommend speaking with a recruiter or finding someone in your network who conducts lots of interviews to practice with.
Ok, that’s it. There are more blunders of course, but I’m not sharing anymore. J I think those 3 were the worst, unless I unconsciously blocked the worst out.
What are some of your interview slips and misses? Have you been asked an interview question that you’re still wondering how to answer? Let us know! If I get some responses I will ask my recruiter friends to share their interview bloopers!