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What I Learned from a Failed Interview

July 14, 2020

The word Failed in red with a line through it.
I have been out of work since April 1, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (I was prepared to laugh and say, “April Fool’s”, but it wasn’t a joke.)

The two months following were filled by fruitless job searching. I received multiple rejections, or no response at all. In early June, I digressed into writing a business plan and let go of the idea of having a “real job”.

Then it happened: I answered a call from an unfamiliar phone number. Following a few brief questions, I was invited for an initial interview via Zoom. The company I’d applied to had values which mirrored my own, the position would engage my curiosity and skills, and getting the call was a boost to my self-esteem.

The first interview featured fun and engaging questions. The three interviewers liked that I am a passionate motorcyclist, and I felt that I’d “succeeded” in this interview. Sure enough, the following week I was invited to come for an in-person (physically-distanced) skills interview.

When the day and time arrived, I met with two of the team members. I felt at ease during this interview because I am confident in my skill sets and knowledge base. Plus, I knew I had a “Plan B”, which erased my usual nervousness.

Following the interview, I spent the weekend celebrating with my kid who had just graduated college. I went home and continued writing my business plan. Late in the week, I got a call that I was invited to come and meet the team. “Wow, neat! They really do like me. Okay, I can work for this awesome company and still run my new business part time.”

A few days later, I was on the road again to the third interview. The team’s lead had said the interview “wasn’t a big deal, we just want the team to get to know you”. Very democratic.

I had the interview: two remote team members on Zoom, four more in the room.

After an hour, I was thanked for my time, and I walked out feeling that I had blown the interview. Sure enough, the following week I got a phone call that the team liked me but that they’d “decided to go in a different direction.”

Between Interviews 2 and 3, what happened?

I had four long hours on my drive home to reflect. I was halfway home when I had an “aha” moment; even though I did not yet know I’d lost the job, I knew I’d failed the interview.

I had been too comfortable, and I had not practiced or been prepared. Essentially, I failed because I forgot my professional pitch and rambled on as if these folks were already my friends, instead of continuing to view this as a test that I needed to pass. It’s okay to be likeable, but we also need to maintain professionalism.

Here are my top takeaways after reflecting on this experience:

1) Prepare Your Pitch. Read through your professional pitch, tweak the verbiage if needed, then practice out loud to a friend over Zoom or by phone, or to yourself in the mirror. Then practice again. And again.

2) Stay Focused. If you get nervous and stumble over your words, try to substitute quickly and move along. Remember that each 10-second pause may seem like 30-seconds to your interviewers.

3) Remember to Breathe. Given the above, it is okay to occasionally pause, take a deep breath, and continue. Pacing and timing are all part of how you respond in an interview. Sometimes nervousness creeps in, and it’s okay to take a moment to center yourself.

4) Be Uncomfortable. Do not be lulled into false comfort. The people interviewing you may be friendly, but they are not yet your friends. Even if you are told, “This is low-key, don’t worry”, let those words put you on high alert: boost your game, do not sink into laxness.

And finally:

5) Common Behavioral Questions. While this step does not apply to the above experience, the majority of interviews include common behavioral questions. Prepare in advance by writing out your answers then practice reciting them. Be prepared for alternate wordings of the questions so you’re not tripped up.

There are many resources on this topic; my next blog post will detail some of the best advice I’ve read during this process. Stay tuned!

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This blog post is part of a 7-Day Content Sprint I am participating in through ProBlogger.com.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. susanmreid1@yahoo.com permalink
    July 14, 2020 12:04 pm

    WOW, excellent! XO

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. July 14, 2020 6:58 pm

    Very good interview suggestions. To some degree, the type of position determines the preparation needed. Especially for something within the tech industry. Finding someone with excellent tech skills as well as interpersonal skills is a real challenge. Good luck with your continuing search…

    • July 14, 2020 9:12 pm

      Hi Richard! I’m so glad you are still reading my blog! I always appreciate your insightful comments. Thank you for the good wishes, and I hope you are staying well. Cheers!

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