Nerves, Near Misses and Other Interview Nightmares

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 a few of these cringe-worthy interview experiences in our list of top interview nightmares…

  • Feeling a little fragile? Don't turn up to an interview, as one candidate did, suffering from a serious stomach complaint. Whilst interviewers might respect your 'battling through it' approach, 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…
  • A candidate once finished what he thought was a pretty successful interview, stood up, shook hands and marched confidently towards the door. Which was actually a cupboard. He stayed in there for a few moments too long wondering if anyone had noticed. They did.

  • A young woman had a group interview at a very well known UK retailer. As part of the assessment, candidates were asked if they had just one wish, what that would be. 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, she went with; “An endless personal supply of quiche”. Everyone else decided to go with “world peace”. There is a fine line between originality and just plain weird. Don’t cross it.
  • 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 several bitchy comments, 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 spent the entire interview rocking back and forth nervously in his chair. The rocking and swinging on the chair was not only distracting but he eventually managed to fall off it. Once he had picked himself up, he tried to carry on the interview as if nothing had happened. Apparently, the interviewer didn’t feel comfortable asking him how he reacted under pressure.
  • An interviewer once fed back that a candidate had spent the majority of the interview ‘itching’ and ‘scratching’. Not only was it hard for him to focus on the questions asked, but it was also pretty disturbing for the interviewer, and needless to say, spoiled the taste of his morning coffee.
  • One candidate at the end of his interview was asked if he had any questions. He sat for a moment to consider it, then launched into closing mode, saying; ‘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 rude 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 phone.
  • 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. Everyone around him was 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 found still waiting in reception. The morale of the story is: If you’re unsure about anything in the interview... for God's sake ask someone!

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 enjoyed some inappropriate itching in public…yet.

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