How Not to Interview

Beast of a Job Interview, after Walter CraneIf you have ever sat in an interview for anything—university admittance, job, exam—and enjoy some cognitive function above that of a paramecium, then you have some idea of the basic do’s and don’ts of an interview. Sit up straight, make eye contact, give a good, solid hand shake, don’t curse, don’t be late and don’t vomit. Simple, right?

As an interviewer in any capacity, one is apt to go a little insane. Asking the same questions and hearing the same exact answers over and over again makes an interviewer want to finish the sentence, “…you want to learn about a new culture,” and then leap out of the closest window to the sweet release of death. Still, as we call that name and the candidate comes in, we hold a candle of faith that the person sitting across from us understands the basic rules and will make our job as painless as possible.

We assume that most people harbor these tidbits of knowledge, often concealing them under an exterior of a nose-picking abject stupidity so epic that every day these people don’t poke out their eyes while using a fork should be a celebrated national holiday.

And, as always, we are wrong.

Below is a purely hypothetical instructional on the five biggest mistakes an interviewee can make while interviewing for a job, university admittance or, hypothetically, a study abroad program. Again, these are purely and totally hypothetical in every way and resemble reality in no way other than they have all happened to me in the last week.

As ‘interviewer’ and ‘interviewee’ are boring and long-winded references, this post shall even-handedly refer to the interviewer as ‘Poor Victim (PV)’ and the interviewee as ‘Lucifer (L)’.

5. Too Cool for School

OK, we get it. We got it when you walked in to the room at a slow meandering amble wearing sunglasses and chewing gum—you are cool. We are so impressed with your coolness that the entire time you are shrugging off questions and rolling your eyes at us, is yet more time that we can imagine your evisceration by paper cut in front of your mother.

Seriously, playing cool might work with the girls, but leave it at the door when you interview for something.

4. Selective Answering

Poor Victim: “Tell me, what skills do you think might be most useful in this job?”

Lucifer: “I really like sailing, travelling and meeting new people.”

PV: “So you think sailing might be useful? This is a position for a secretary…”

L: “I love to travel and I am a very good cooker.”

OK, so here’s the thing – don’t answer the question you wanted to get, answer the question you actually got. There’s a pretty solid chance that the interviewer will recognize an answer to the question he has asked. And answering questions, if I’m correct, is one of the two pillars on which an interview is based. See Chart below:

3. I Have a Speech!

L: “Well, like most people, I love coffee. And you know what goes great with coffee? Bagels. I want to open my own business making bagels. I like bagels. Do you like bagels? Everyone likes bagels and you know why? I’ll tell you why, there are so many different flavors of bagels and you can do so much with the bagel as it is a bread like substance that one can use as a vehicle for other foods. These foods include meat, cheese, butter, margarine if that’s what you prefer. How do people choose between margarine and butter? Always been an interesting point for me, as I love bagels. Margarine is not nearly as healthy for you as they think, butter is better and you know what it tastes great on: bagels!

PV: “OK, so you would indeed like a cup of coffee?”

L: “Yeah.”

Please just answer the question. Add a little extra info as needed and don’t waste my valuable time that can be much better spent thinking about your sister in a bikini making me waffles.

2. Don’t Answer Your Phone

Lucifer: “So, I think I’d fit in here because…” ring ring ring, “Oh, I need to get that, do you mind?”

Victim: (Once able to shake the utter astonishment at the situation unfolding) “Listen very closely to me, Lucifer. If that is not the president of a developed nation asking you to save his daughter from a gang of Pygmies, I am going to stick that phone in your asshole sideways. Do you understand?”

L: “But…” Lucifer then does one of two things. A. He notices the stunned look on faces of those across the table, remembers a film about social skills they saw in high school and begrudgingly hits the mute button. Or B. He was absent the day they showed the social skills film, therefore disregarding the stunned looks and asks, “Can I just send off a quick text?”

In either case Lucifer has as much chance of being successful in this interview as Stephen Hawking does of winning a slam dunk contest. We understand, Lucifers, that your lives revolve around your phones, but please turn it off when you are in an interview. These days, most interviewers have a hired psychologist waiting to counsel you on being without your phone for twenty four minutes.

1. Don’t Tell the Whole Truth

Victim: “So, why do you want to study in Greece?”

Lucifer: “It’s warm there and I want to lie on a beach.”

V: “Right, could you tell me about the university you want to study at?”

L: “No, not really.”

V: “What would you like to study there?”

L: “I don’t know. I guess art. I really just want to lie on the beach, it’s cold here in Prague.”

OK, so the thing is that we, the victims, are the direct gate keeper to what you want to obtain by coming to this interview. And if you tell us that you want to go to Greece to lie on a beach or that you want this job because the building is close to where your girlfriend lives, we are not going to be thrilled with you or your existence. So, please read the advice below and thank me later for it.

DO. A. Little. Research. Have. Good. Answers. To. Questions.

Please, fellow victims, tell me of your victim woes! Your worst Lucifer experience?      

  1. #1 by Handsome Chris on January 24, 2013 - 2:04 pm

    Good topic….
    I’ve had a couple doozies… One guy talked to me about his obsessions with both dragons and swords.. This included pictures and tattoos..
    Another guy told me, in too much detail, how is currently trying to wean off some ‘pretty heavy drugs’. – You’re not hired sir. Go do herion.
    A common one are interviewees not bringing resumes… I make the first 10 minutes of questions and comments about the importance of resumes.
    Lastly.. Late people.. Doesn’t matter their credentials or how well he/she interviewed… The job is not happening but I do like to make their interview as uncomfortable as possible because I had to wait for them. I asked them about the importance of being on time and maintaining schedules in the business world as they writhe and sweat in the chair.
    Love interview failures.

  2. #2 by Adam Sweet on January 24, 2013 - 5:26 pm

    My favorite:

    “If you work here, you will have to work late into the night, work on weekends, and sometimes work shifts that will be longer than eight hours, will that be alright?”

    “Yes, that is fine. I have a dog, and I can’t leave him alone for more than 6 hours because I have to take him outside for walk. But I live only 20 minutes away, so that is no problem, right?”

    On an unrelated note, the captcha to enter this comment is “rational sycho” Seems to fit the theme of this post.

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