3 Things I Learned from Failed Job Interviews

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Job interviews are like a box of chocolates. Usually you get mostly mediocre ones, the occasional dark chocolate sea salt truffle, and a handful of ones that threaten to crack your teeth. Before I landed my first full-time job, those teeth-cracking interviews happened on an almost weekly basis. I am still dumbfounded at how one woman could attract so many duds.

Bad chocolate puns aside, I hope that my failed job interviews can act as a valuable lesson, or at least fuel for a sharp exhale of air out of your nostrils during class. Hopefully, these past experiences can save one person from cringing so hard in their seat that they swallow their eyeballs.

1. Do as Much Research as You Can Before the Interview

My first ever job interview involved sitting in a room entirely painted purple (walls, floors, even the pipes sticking out of the walls) facing a giant poster detailing how much of a bonus you would earn each week if you sold X amount of cable boxes. The job posting online was for a “fast-paced media company,” but that was not what I had in mind.

I naively sat through the entire interview and tried to seem as eager as possible about the position. To be clear, I didn’t want the position, I was just too horrified and inexperienced to know any better. That purple coated room ate up an entire TWO HOURS of my life. I filled out several intelligence tests, personality tests, answered fake phones, and used one word to describe myself 7 different ways. After those few hours were up, I still had no idea what the job was or what the company did. If no one there can give your a direct answer, politely explain how you have to put more quarters in the meter and don’t go back.

The takeaway here is to do as much research as you can about the company before accepting an interview.

2. Just Because its a Job Interview, Doesn’t Mean You Have to Put Up with Disrespect

Is the interviewer professional? On time? Interruptive? Totally annoyed that they have to be there?

I was invited to a second round job interview towards the end of senior year. This round would entail meeting with two supervisors I would be working under. Sounds typical? Except the supervisors worked in towns about 55 minutes apart and they expected me to hustle from one office to the other in an afternoon to meet with them. Applicants are basically at the mercy of the interviewer’s schedule, therefore I eagerly agreed without hesitation.

I arrived at the first interview a respectful 7 minutes early, and was asked to wait in the lobby. Nothing out of the ordinary there. However, I sat in the lobby grasping at small talk with the receptionist for 30 minutes before the man emerged from his office. It turns out that concert tickets that he wanted to buy for his wife went on sale at noon  -the same time our interview was scheduled for. If that wasn’t harsh enough, he asked me one question before speaking for the rest of the time about all of the musicians he had seen live.

After he ran out of bands to talk about, I raced across the state to my second interview. Although this woman was punctual, she did (unbeknownst to me) set a timer on her phone for 15 minutes. An electronic chorus of croaking frogs startled me mid-sentence. As I tried to piece my answer back together, the interviewer thrust her open hand in my direction and said “well it was nice to meet you.”

Needless to say, I drove back to my dorm in a confused haze and refused to send the obligatory Thank You Email.

3. Be Mindful of Red Flags During Job Interviews

Remember that job interviews go both ways: you are checking out the company as much as they are checking you out. Use this time to your advantage. Ask them questions about the company culture, their goals for the future, and what happened to the last few employees in that role. It would be way worse to get a few weeks into a job and realize that you’ve made a huge mistake than to turn down the offer because you have a weird feeling.

How hiring managers treat candidates and their company in an interview is indicative of your future life.

  • If you ask a hiring manager about why she likes working at the company and her answer is “uhhh…I get to be away from my kids?” then you should politely decline the offer.
  • If the office manager says that they’ve had a hard time keeping someone in the position, resulting in 5 different employees in 3 years, then politely decline the offer.
  • If the supervisor casually slips in the fact that you will be drawing blood from patients with HIV without certification or instruction, please politely decline the offer.

When something seems off during the interview, then it most likely will lead to a less than stellar job experience. Although it sounds exhausting, pay as much attention to what the interviewer says as you do you your answers. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

What is your experience with job interviews like?