How to fail an interview

Aug 5, 2015


by Alannah Gauld

Interviews can be incredibly nerve-racking, even for the most experienced candidates. Nerves can affect people in funny ways, but most interviewers are sympathetic to a certain degree. Though some issues arise from nerves, it would seem many of the catastrophic errors come from the other end of the spectrum. By all means be confident, but know where to draw the line.

Top 6 candidate errors:

  • Lateness: It is universally expected that you are on time for your interview, yet it is an issue that arises far too much. Have the address, google map it, add 20 minutes or so on to the required travel time. If you are going to be late, ring in advance to let them know. If you just turn up late, it will be deemed as hugely disrespectful, and you will have to conduct some interview wizardry to bring it back.
  • Scruffy dress: Again, it seems such a simple requirement, yet most hiring managers / HR have encountered a candidate who looks like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. You wouldn’t turn up to a date without making an effort (if you do, you may want to question, whether you want to be there) – the same applies with job interviews.
  • Unprepared: When you go to an interview you expect a high standard of professionalism, structure and preparation from their side, as you should; afford them the same respect. If the interview is very last minute, they will take this into account. If you have had plenty of time to prepare, and haven’t, they will assume you are not very committed. Read the job spec and do your homework on the company.
  • Bad attitude: It most incidences it not it merely sufficient to be able to do the job, they also want to see if they would want to work with you. You could be hugely qualified for a role, however, if you display a bad attitude and a propensity to clash with people, it will count against you.
  • Lying: You will be amazed how well people are connected. That company that you got fired from, and lied about the dates. Guess what, your interviewer is their brother. We have encountered many instances where people have been caught out, never assume you will get away with it, and act with integrity.
  • Bad mouthing colleagues: As above, never under-estimate how well connected people are. You could be inadvertently bad mouthing the interviewers’ friend, relative or ex-colleague. This point aside, it is completely unprofessional, and it will only generate negative feedback.

A select few stories from the internet:

  • Due to time difference you’re required to do a skype interview in the early hours. You’re not a morning person, wake up late, and can’t find the shirt you’d ironed. You have two choices: find the shirt and be late on to the call, or be on time without your top with the lights strategically dimmed. You chose the latter. The interviewer is somewhat taken by surprise to be faced by a seemingly naked man in a darkened room. Needless to say, the call was cut short.
  • Usually thinking outside of the box is commended, but as will everything, there is always someone who can take this too far. One candidate posted the below on a forum, after his brother had supposedly successfully tried and tested the idea:
    Is it a good idea to drink a bit before a job interview to help with nervousness?: –
    This will be my first interview. I’m just about to complete my final year graduation (BSc. Computer Science), and soon I will be attending interviews for placements. I don’t have any experience with interviews, so I was wondering if it’s OK to have a couple of shots of vodka before going into my interviews? It gives me a bit more confidence, and kind of openness. So, is it a good idea? Or could something happen that I am not expecting?
  • One candidate was frustrated to receive a rejection letter, having conducted a confident and quizzical interview. He was surprised to learn that strolling into the interview, putting their feet on the desk, and declaring “we can talk about my CV, after I have asked you about the job”, was a poor plan.
  • The politicians strategy of answering a question with a question, can get you out of a difficult situation. Sometimes. Most of the time it is likely to compound the difficult situation further. A candidate found this out the hard way, after asking the salary of members of the company (Including all those present in the room) as a response to “what are your salary expectations”
  • On a similar note, another response to “what are your salary expectations” was quite spectacularly “what are you, my accountant?”
  • It is very frustrating leaving the interview and feeling that you haven’t really found anything out about the role or company. I would imagine the hiring manager faced by a candidate who answered a 5 minute phone call to their friend, was equally frustrated, that they knew more about how drunk they were on Friday night, rather than if they could do the job.
  • At least, if you do get a rejection, you can take revenge and send an invoice to the company, billing them for your time.

Keep it simple:

  • Turn up on time.
  • Make yourself presentable.
  • Do your homework on the role and company.
  • Be honest, be respectful, be personable.
  • Exercise diplomacy when discussing negative experiences in previous roles.

It is just much an opportunity for you to find out about them as it is them about you. Use this as an opportunity to dig deeper into the role and workings of the company.

We’d love to hear some of your thoughts / stories.