When’s the last time you bombed an interview? What did you feel like while it was happening? What did you say or do when it was over? How many jellybeans did it take to stifle your disappointment?
For me, these questions can’t just be summed up by one interview – in fact, my bombing run stuck with me each and every time I interviewed with a specific company. We’ll call them the Laos Group. The LG and I go way back, from my time in college, they were the first company to really court me as a potential hire.
The LG was very focused on hiring me to become a QA programmer, basically – I’d remove bugs from software after testing it. This was not the sort of programming that I wanted to do, but as a Millennial having graduated college with no money and no one rushing to pay the bills for me, I decided to go for the interview anyway.
I was told to prepare a 5 minute presentation on myself.
During the presentation, I managed to alienate just about every hiring manager in the room, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Executive Officer with a joke about ponies and childhood dreams.
They didn’t laugh – I didn’t get the job.
A few months later, I was laid off from a small technology company we’ll call Hewmet Slackard and once again, I found myself on the LG’s doorstep, resume in hand, double-windsor at neck. This time, things would be different – I’d be hired and they’d want me for something other than a QA position.
I was wrong.
A QA position was the only thing they were hiring for – not just that, but a traveling QA agent who would have to solve last-second bugs just before presentations were made to multi-million dollar clients. This was not an ideal position for me – I love pressure, but not when one semi-colon makes the difference between whether the company will make enough money to pay for benefits for another year or not.
This time, I completely locked up on the interview… and it wasn’t just this one time, I bombed it and the follow up, and the one after that, too, just to make sure I didn’t have two bad interviews in a row.
So, the LG group did not want my services, to say the least. But what I did learn is that there are some very simple ways to prepare for an interview and how to judge your success or failure as it is in progress.
First – pay close attention to what your interviewer is asking and how they are asking it. If they’re making eye contact, chances are, you still have a good shot at the job. If their eyes are searching the room or avoiding eye contact with you, you’d better start packing your resume and prepping for your next interview. If your interviewer has a flat tone or seems otherwise uninterested, you might not have a shot anymore. If they seem to have been disinterested from the start, try to mix it up – get your interviewers attention by doing something unexpected or funny.
Second – if you are answering a question, but your interviewer looks perplexed, disappointed, or pissed off, pause and ask, “I might not have understood you correctly, was my answer what you were hoping for or could I do better with a little more information?”
Third – if you feel you’re stumbling all over yourself, stop, take a break, and breathe. It’s better to relax and take your time, speaking slowly, than to over-answer a simple question or to have words flying out of your mouth that don’t relate to the subject matter.
Finally – practice, practice, practice. The more practice you get in answering tough interview questions before you actually have to do it for real, the better. Just like anything, the more you practice your interview skills, the stronger they will be. Sometimes it does take a few colossal failures to help you figure out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, so don’t sweat a bombed interview too much.
Remember that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.