How to survive a bad interview. Lessons learned


My mentor once told me that a job is like a marriage. If all things equal, I would say an interview is like a date. Do you remember your worst dates and still tell stories about them to your friends and family? A bad date is already bad enough and discourages you from agreeing to a second one. Unless, dating is your strong side and nothing can affect your self-esteem as you give it a second chance.

I am about to share with you one of my worst interviewing experiences that has discouraged me from seeking employment in this particular company ever again. In the meantime, I have learned some lessons that I am happy to share with my readers.

As I was looking for a new opportunity, my friend kindly offered to share my profile with her manager and eventually arranged an interview for me. It was a classic setup date, which allowed me easing into the discussion by using the fact that we have a friend in common. If you think about the differences between a date and an interview, to my observation during an interview your potential life partner is changing in a face of various HR representatives, a few managers and even some members of the team.

The interview begins (it is our second date), and I have a new manager onboard. I learn that he was sick at the time of my first interview and during the conversation I try to engage him and bring him up to speed on what he has missed from the first meeting. Why do I do that? My natural ability to facilitate and involve everyone into a discussion, I guess. Anyhow, to my surprise, 15 minutes into an interview I notice him writing emails and checking his phone messages. To relive the tension I kindly ask if there is anything requesting his immediate attention, so I do not take his ignorance to my account. The manager explains that after his sickness he has been back for just 3 days and is about to leave for a 2 week vacation and there is a big project hanging over his head that needs immediate attention. He constantly leaves the room to take his client calls, returning in the middle of my dialogue with the HR representative. I am lost. I am not sure how to handle this situation as the manager has already spent half the interview outside the meeting room. Why am I nervous? I am obviously having an inner dialogue in my head: “This is a bad timing, they are too busy”, “There are more important things, why did I think I will be their first priority”, “They do not really need a new employee, just being kind because of my friend who set up the interview”. As a result, my behavior changes, I get more reserved, I lean back in the chair and cross my arms over my chest. Clearly I show with my entire body language that I do not want to be here. You have probably guessed right, I did not get the job and never looked at any other position in this company ever again.

What have I learned from this experience? As Larry King once said “Be open and honest to your conversational partners as you would like them to be open to you”. One, I cannot hide what my body language is shouting out loud. Two, I do not think it was a good experience for the other interviewer either as she was on the receiving end of my reaction to what the third person was doing. Third, next time I will share my observations, express my discomfort of the situation, and ask to reschedule the interview. Remember, you are only responsible for your own behavior, use it to your advantage. And by the end of the day, if it is not meant to be, there is nothing you can do about it. Good luck on your interview-dates.

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