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Andrew Arkley

Top 10 Interview Nightmares (and What to Do Instead)

Interview nightmares

Job interviews are tough. You need to do your research, make a great first impression and be on top form throughout.

Unfortunately, not everyone manages to pull it off. Whether it’s down to nerves, a lack of preparation or plain old ineptitude, sometimes things go horribly, horribly wrong.

We’ve gathered horror stories from around the web and come up with a list of our top ten interview nightmares.

Get ready to cringe…

It’s shirt AND tie, not one or the other

A suit jacket and tie are usually perfect interview attire. One interviewee got that part right – but decided against combining them with a shirt. 

Yep, you read that right – he wore his tie over a bare chest. He offered no explanation for his unusual outfit.

Lesson: always dress neatly and professionally, and make sure your clothes are clean and ironed. If in doubt, remember that too smart is better than too casual. And ALWAYS wear a top.

Sometimes honesty is NOT the best policy

When asked the notorious ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ question, an interviewee answered ‘waking up on time and coming to work’.

He followed it up with ‘I just really like sleeping in’. 

In a way, we admire his candour. However, if you want to impress a hiring manager we’d advise keeping your fondness for oversleeping under wraps.

Lesson: this is a common question, so prepare an answer to it. Here are some tips for answering it well.

But sometimes it is…

A cocky interviewee confidently told the interviewer she’d read a book he’d mentioned.

This surprised the interviewer, as the book hadn’t been published yet. Or even written.

Lesson: don’t make claims you can’t back up. Chances are the interviewer will probe further, and you’ll end up looking like a fool.

First impressions are everything

One flustered job seeker found she had a voicemail from a hiring manager who’d received her CV and wanted to hear more.

She called back, and got the hiring manager’s voicemail. As she left her name and started to recite her phone number, her mind suddenly went blank. 

She couldn’t remember her phone number. As she scrabbled around for the right digits, she swore involuntarily. She tried to win it back with a heartfelt apology but needless to say, she didn’t hear from the hiring manager again.

Lesson: if you’re feeling nervous before a call to a potential employer, take a moment to breathe deeply and calm yourself down. You never know what might slip out if your nerves get the better of you!

Fidgeting can have dire consequences

A fidgety interview candidate absent-mindedly twirled his pen around in his fingers while asking the interviewer questions.

At the end of the interview he realised he’d got the ends mixed up and drawn a fake beard on himself.

Lesson: try to keep your hands still throughout the interview to appear more confident (and avoid biro facial hair situations). If you find it difficult not to fidget, try folding your hands in your lap.

Better in than out

An interviewee turned up 40 minutes early for his interview, clearly incredibly nervous. 

When the interviewers greeted him half an hour later they could tell the nerves were still there.

But they didn’t realise quite to what extent – he sat down, and before they’d even asked the first question he’d puked all over the table.

Lesson: it can be difficult to control pre-interview nerves, but these strategies should help.

Mum’s the word

A candidate turned up to an interview with his mum.

Not only that, but she proceeded to answer all the questions for him. Eventually the interviewer had to ask her to wait outside.

Lesson: er, don’t bring your mum to your interview. Or your dad, or your aunt, or your brother – or anyone else for that matter. If you want someone to come with you for moral support, leave them at the door and ask them to wait somewhere nearby.

Expecting an important phone call? It can probably wait…

Halfway through an interview, a candidate’s phone rang

Rather than ignoring it and apologising, she picked up. Then, rather than saying she’d call back, she proceeded to have a long-winded conversation.

Unsurprisingly, the interviewer ended things there.

Lesson: always turn your phone OFF before your interview and keep it out of sight. 

An interview is no time for a snack

Ever felt that nervous hunger? 

It all got too much for one candidate, who pulled out a cereal bar and ate it halfway through proceedings.

Lesson: make sure you’ve eaten BEFORE your interview. If you think you’ll find it difficult to resist your nervous hunger pangs, don’t take any food in with you!

Talk about your experience – but only if it’s relevant

A candidate was interviewing for a position in a paint shop.

As soon as the interview began, she launched into telling the interviewer how much she’d enjoyed her previous job as a butcher, and how good she was at carving up carcasses.

She avoided all of the interviewer’s questions, instead regaling them with more tales of butchery.

Lesson: research the company before the interview, and tailor your answers accordingly. Think about how your skills and experience could fit with their values and aims. 

Top 10 interview nightmares

There we have it – our top ten interview horror stories. Most of these are extreme scenarios, but there’s something to be learnt from them nonetheless.

For more tips on how to do an interview right, check out our article ‘10 Ways to Impress an Interviewer: Our Guide’. 

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