May 142008

Published in the Evening Echo on 12/05/2007

We’ve all made mistakes in interviews. We’re only human after all, and no matter how careful or diligently we prepare, a stray question slipped in here or there can throw us.

We know all about researching our prospective employers; we know about preparing for key questions ahead of time; we know about projecting a cool, calm, professional exterior, regardless of the turmoil we feel inside; we know about having clever questions prepared in advance. We know all of these things, and yet occasionally we stumble. No matter, we pick ourselves up, metaphorically dust ourselves down, and we carry on. Nine times out of ten we get away with it.

But not always. Sometimes gaffes are so dramatic that they defy any attempt at recovery.

Surveys are ten a penny in the careers and recruitment world. Dig a little and you’ll unearth umpteen surveys a week, revealing this or that nugget of largely pointless insight into the latest trends in this or that industry. Many are worthless, a few are valuable, and then there are the ones that warrant a look for their pure entertainment value.

Careers website released one earlier this year. They surveyed more than 3,000 HR professionals across the US, and compiled a list of the ten most outrageous job interview blunders; if you want to sabotage your chances of landing a job, why not try one of these?

  • The candidate answered their mobile during the interview and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because the call was a “private”.
  • The candidate told the interviewer that, if offered the job, he may not be in a position to stay for very long, because he was expecting an inheritance when his uncle died – and his uncle wasn’t “looking too good”.
  • The candidate asked the interviewer for a lift home after the interview.
  • The candidate sniffed his armpits on the way into the interview room.
  • The candidate refused to provide a sample of her writing because all of her writing had been for the CIA, and was therefore “classified”.
  • The candidate told the interviewer he was fired from his last job for beating up the boss.
  • When offered food before his interview, the candidate declined, stating that he “didn’t want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking”.
  • A candidate for an accounting position said she was a “people person” not a “numbers person”.
  • One candidate flushed the toilet in the middle of a telephone interview.
  • The Candidate took out a hair brush and started to brush her hair mid-interview.

Of course, these are extremes… most interview mistakes aren’t nearly as bad. The most common ones cited in this survey were dressing inappropriately (51%), badmouthing a former employer (49%), appearing disinterested (48%), arrogance (44%), insufficient answers (30% percent) and not asking good questions (29%).

So, if you have an interview lined up, and feel compelled to attend, but have already decided that really don’t want the job, you know what to do. Simply take a leaf out of your American colleagues’ book. Study the list above for a inspiration, apply a little imagination of your own, and you should be able to come up with some spectacular ways to fail at interview. Good… or should I say bad luck!

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