Career Advice

The Dreaded Interview Flop

min read
Mikaela Thompson

It happens! Messing up is not unique to you, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, check out these tips on how you can avoid a failed interview.

Yep, it’s unnerving and feels much like a kick in the gut getting that sense your interview is going south. Beads of sweat break out on your brow, your throat constricts, heart flutters all the while you’re desperately scanning the recesses of your mind for ideas on how to save it. This can do the head in of even the most seasoned candidates.

Sometimes, this happens despite your best efforts and belief in your great ‘fit’ for the role. Who knows what went wrong? Maybe, nothing! The employer might’ve wanted to go for ‘a safer bet’, such as, a known person or a late minute insider referral. Never underestimate the power of the ‘invisible’ social and business networks. Sadly, it may also be that the firm never intended to hire anyone but was fishing the waters to see what might get hooked and for how much; or they’re using the hiring process to glean some useful ideas for their company ‘free of charge’; or they want to find ‘you’ in a cheaper form, especially if you spy the same job advert reposted… and the list goes on. No, it’s not fair, so develop a thick skin and nerves of steel! This process is a marathon, don’t expect a sprint. All you need is ONE employer who shows you they believe you’ll be a valuable asset to the company.

Walk away from those who string you along for weeks on the basis of:  budget approvals, needing to interview a certain quota to show due diligence, asking you for endless presentations, shifting the hiring process steps to include additional ones late in the game etc. They don’t deserve you!

On the other hand, candidates may fail a genuine job interview for completely preventable errors or being their own worst enemy due to: nerves, lack of confidence, an absence of sufficient background preparation on the company and role, feeling overqualified or underqualified, dumbstruck by a tricky question or two, wearing inappropriate clothing or arriving late etc.

Signs of a stalling interview.

If the recruiter has become lukewarm and has apparently lost interest, you will probably see some of the following signs: The recruiter will,

- constantly glance at his/her watch so isn’t prioritizing your interview.

- give you a shorter interview than usual. A ‘good’ one is typically about 30 minutes.

- fail to ask you about your specific skills or seems too casual as if s/he is just going through the motions.

- be distracted by calls or other business. A genuine interviewer will turn off his/her phone and block in a period of uninterrupted time for your interview.

- be devoid of a response to your accomplishments, as if it’s of no consequence to him/her. This is likely because the decision has already been made.

- fail to offer you any positive encouragement, such as smiles.

- appear to be interrogating you rather than interviewing. Successful interviews will have an easy interaction and natural flow, with a good rapport established.

- give discouraging comments e.g., ‘We’ve got a lot of others to interview this week’, meaning they’re still shopping for better candidates. A keen interviewer won’t cast you off so easily.

This isn’t a definitive list of indicators, but they may alert you to lower your expectations and steel yourself for a rejection.

So, what can I do to avoid a failed interview?

- research the prospective employer thoroughly. Remember, this is a two-way conversation so you must contribute to it knowledgably. The best sales pitch, which is what you’re aiming to do, scores when it’s highly personalized to the company and yourself. Be sure to give specific details about how your skills etc. can benefit this company.

- plan your interview outfit ahead of time. Don’t be tempted to leave this until the last moment throwing on whatever’s clean. Put some thought and effort into it irrespective of what seems to be the company’s dress code. It’s a matter of professional courtesy to dress deferentially i.e., formally.

- get a hold on your nerves, don’t let them sabotage your interview. Those gut tumbling, antsy feelings that impair your ability to think clearly and undermine your confidence and therefore the interviewer’s belief in you.  Help yourself by avoiding caffeine, having a nutritious brekky, and doing some deep breathing after briskly walking off this nervous energy before the interview.

- smile more. It’s a natural stress reliever and might just prevent that anxiety paralysis overtaking you.

- clarify e.g., tricky questions you’re unsure of what’s meant. Recruiters are typically happy to oblige with a rephrasing or examples. Far better than evading the question, is to answer the part you understand or,

- describe how you’d go about finding the answer. It’ll be much more appealing than a shrug or silence, indicating you’ve given up! Nobody wants a quitter!

- reflect on your performance. Try to pinpoint the issues you’ve had in previous failed interview/s, like, insufficient research, misinterpreting a question, loss of concentration etc., and come up with a plan to solve them in future ones. This is a learning opportunity which can safeguard against future mistakes.

- do an interview follow up. Ask for feedback on your performance. This will help you clear up those awkward moments, prepare better next time and offer some closure for this interview rejection. Take notes so you can recall what needs to be done. If you are still keen to work for this company, reiterate your interest and ask to be considered for future roles.

For more advice on how to make your interview go smoothly, check out our latest article here!

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