It’s bound to happen eventually, you finally get an invitation to come in for an interview and it just doesn’t go your way. Whether you froze up, said the wrong things, or were entirely unprepared, not every single interview is going to be a good one, but when it happens, keep your head up and try to learn from your mistakes.
I’ve personally had one that just didn’t go as I’d planned, to be honest it was downright terrible. But from this job-hunting mishap I’ve taken away some pretty helpful life lessons and today, I’m going to try and translate them into interview tips.
Let me set the stage: it was during my junior year of college in late November. I had been trying my very hardest to find a spring internship to fulfill a degree requirement and had sent out dozens of resumes and cover letters all across Boston to any job that seemed even remotely interesting. (That was mistake number one. Don’t waste your time, or a company’s time, by applying to something you’re not actually interested in.) So, when I got invited in for an interview at a local event planning company, I jumped on the opportunity. Sure, it seemed kind of boring, but hey, I wasn’t going to pass up a chance at a resume builder and a checking another program requirement off the list.
Well, come the day of the interview, which for some reason they’d scheduled at 6 pm, it was down pouring, freezing and dark out. This turned out to be an absolutely terrible combination and made for a less than thrilling commute to the office. Being a college student, I thought I’d take the train and save a few bucks rather than just call a cab to get there. (Mistake number two: If it’s gross out, and you have no clue where you’re going, it’s almost always worth the 5 or 6 extra dollars to just call a cab and drive to your interview). Essentially, I showed up to the building soaked, freezing and totally overwhelmed. I had gotten lost, stepped in puddles and although I was on time, I was in no mood to sit through an hour-long interview, being grilled on why I wanted to work for this company (a question I realized I couldn’t answer gracefully).
Long story short, the rest of the interview went about as well as my commute there and I left still overwhelmed, soggy and discouraged. I hadn’t read enough about the company, couldn’t fully explain why I wanted the job and was altogether unprepared. Although I had gone in knowing in the back of my head that I most likely didn’t want the job, bombing any interview isn’t a fun experience. As you can probably guess, I didn’t get the job, and looking back on it, I’m glad it turned out that way. So, here are my 5 tips on what to do when it all goes wrong, and how to prevent something like this from happening to you.
- To start off, don’t bother applying for a job you truly don’t want. Maybe you really need the money, or a job, or whatever, but in the end, if you get offered the position, you won’t be happy once you start. Also, it makes for a difficult interview if you’re pretending you’re interested in a job or company that you don’t really care about.
- Prepare for the unexpected. In my case it was raining and I wasn’t dressed for it. This ended up with me showing up just barely on time, soaked and stressed out. Always expect the unexpected and be sure to check the weather, search directions online
- If for some reason you do show up like I did, step out for a few minutes and get yourself together. Calm yourself down, take some deep breaths, fix your hair and makeup, etc. Do what you can to set yourself up to walk in the room being confident, calm and collected.
- Always, always prepare for the interview. Be able to talk about what the company does, and explain why you want to work there and have the job specifically. You look disinterested and sloppy if you show up not knowing the answers to these very basic questions.
- Even if the interview is going down hill, keep your head up. Whatever you do, don’t abandon ship when things don’t go as planned. You can salvage an interview even if it takes a wrong turn. Be thoughtful with questions and try to really show your interest in the company and the person interviewing you. By demonstrating that you truly do care, you’ll make a much better impression, regardless of if something doesn’t go well. Follow up afterwards and always send an email thanking the interviewer for their time.
So, there they are, my 5 tips I now always remember when going through interviews- whether they’re good ones or bad ones. Always try to be gracious, interested and engaged at an interview and do you best to recover should something go wrong. Not every interview is going to be a golden one, but there’s always something to learn from our mistakes and hopefully you can keep the same thing from happening again.