Interview nightmares: what not to do

In 1859, Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” detailing his theories on natural selection: survival of the fittest. In his name, the Darwin Awards ( today honour those who improve our species by accidentally removing themselves from it. When it comes to the recruitment process, it seems that a similar streak of “vocational Darwinism” sometimes occurs.

So, learn from others’ mistakes and enjoy other people’s toe-curling experiences in our list of top interview nightmares…

interview•    Do not turn up to an interview, as one notable entrant did, if you are suffering from a serious stomach complaint – whilst interviewers appreciate you battling through minor ailments you’re never going to win anyone over while suffering from a bad bout of diarrhoea. Interviews take place in small rooms, often without windows…

•    An acquaintance once finished what he thought was a very good interview, got up shook hands and flashed a charming smile as he said his goodbyes. Marched confidently towards the door, opened it and ended up in a cupboard. Needless to say, this will not end up in the “career highlights” section of his CV.

•    A young lady had a group interview at a very well known UK retailer. As part of the assessment, candidates were asked to tell the group what their wish would be, if they could have just one. Our girl was asked to go first. Probably thinking far too much, she decided that it would be too clichéd to say “world peace”, so instead for reasons best known to herself she said: “An endless personal supply of quiche”. Everyone else proceeded to say “world peace” and she didn’t get the job. There is a fine line between originality and the just plain weird.
Don’t cross it.

•    Very sweet HR lady comes down to reception to collect a candidate. The candidate looks very nervous, pale and barely says a word. HR lady sits opposite candidate. Candidate leans forward and throws up in HR lady’s lap. This is a very simple one to learn from. Don’t do it. If you are ill, you are ill.

•    Of all the interviews that have damaged a person’s career, this one has to be high up the list. TV show The Apprentice claims to be the toughest of tough interviews and Katie Hopkins is the infamous contender who turned down Sir Alan Sugar. Although she got through to the final, by boasting about her affairs with married men and after too many bitchy comments to list here she effectively made herself entirely unemployable. After appearing on the show, she was subsequently fired by her employer and dumped by her partner. Lessons to be learned? Never bitch in an interview, even if you’re encouraged to say why you’re leaving your current job. It just doesn’t do you any favours in the end.

•    One candidate burst into the interview room and proceeded to rock back and forth nervously. The rocking and swinging on the chair was not only distracting but he eventually managed to fall off it. Bless him, though, once he had picked himself up he tried to carry on the interview as if nothing had happened. Apparently, the interviewer didn’t feel able to ask him how he reacted under pressure.

•    This is a quote from one interviewer: “The candidate was unsuccessful, with the given reason being noted blandly as ‘not enough experience’. However, the client also noted with some embarrassment that the candidate kept ‘itching’ and ‘scratching’ themselves in ‘inappropriate places’ throughout the interview. As the interview took place in a coffee shop while sitting on high-legged chairs, all of the target scratching area was on view and thus made it all much more traumatic for the poor interviewer.”

•    And another quote: “The candidate had sailed through the early stages of the interview, answering questions fully and with confidence. Towards the end though he was talking about his passion for the job and seemed to be getting a bit emotional. The client was a bit unnerved but battled on to the conclusion, asking him if he had any questions. The man sat there silently staring at the interviewer ‘like he was trying to use Jedi mind control’. This apparently went on for almost a minute before he said ‘You will give me the job, won’t you? You will. Thank you.’ He then shook the interviewer’s hand and left without another word. Suffice to say his application wasn’t progressed.”

•    Coming across as arrogant or rinterview image2ude is another great way to write yourself out of the process. One candidate was asked to complete a psychometric test.  Whilst the consultant gave him the instructions he was texting or e-mailing on his phone. He blatantly ignored the instructions and a few minutes later when the HR Advisor re-entered the room, he was still on his Blackberry.

•    Some of you may remember the story from back in 2007, when a certain Mr Guy Goma turned up at the BBC for a job interview, was whisked up to a studio, and found himself being interviewed on live TV about a copyright battle he knew nothing about, with everyone around him convinced that he was a technology expert called Guy Kewney. Whether through sheer panic or thinking that this was part of the job interview, Mr Goma gamely soldiered on, answering questions as best he could and the mistake only came to light after the interview, when the real Mr Kewney was discovered still waiting in reception. The motto of the story is: If you’re unsure about anything in the interview for heaven’s sake ask someone!

But even when the bottom has fallen out of your world, or the other way around, the important thing is not to panic. If the interview process mirrors Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” then the jobs will never go to the bewildered, panic-stricken “rabbits in the headlights” of this world. Can’t remember the name of the person you’re meeting? Running late? The interviewer seems to hate you? Look on the bright side. At least you haven’t wished for a personal supply of quiche, walked into a cupboard or thrown up on your interviewer…yet.

Feel better?


Upload your CV & Get Jobs by E-Mail

Let us do the hard work for you and take the hassle out of job hunting.

Job Search

Job Title (e.g. Manager)

Location (e.g. W1T London)