What I Learned from My Painfully Bad Interview

Should you hire this woman?

One fake motto, several awkward silences, and numerous failed attempts at jokes later, I have finished my first phone interview of this job-hunting season. Note: the professional shirt I was wearing did not prevent me from sounding like an ass.

The greeting was great. We both introduced ourselves and had friendly words. I was flying high when he asked me, “So what do you know about our company?” I was prepared for this question. I had spent the last twenty four hours digging into the recesses of their website and stalking individual members of their team. Unfortunately, the company is one of those weird hi-tech startups that uses phrases like “infrastructure API” and “Cloud IVR.”

In short, I struggled to explain to the man what his own company did. Instead, I said I liked it because I felt like “their company searches for a tree even though it doesn’t know what a tree looks like, but it finds something to fill the tree-shaped hole, if that makes any sense?” It didn’t. I was trying to say that their company was innovative but ended up swallowing most of the toes on my left foot. The awkward silence after this mangled corpse of a metaphor said it all.

Things looked up when he asked me about myself. This is one of my favorite subjects. I talked about International Relations, Egypt, blogging and meeting people and talking to them, and it all sounded really good until he asked if I read any blogs daily.

I threw out a few and joked that I read my own blog. No laughs. Note: do not mention that you daily read your own blog. You will sound like an ass. I also said that I read Mashable occasionally to catch up on “the stuff.” It was supposed to be a joke, but I’m sure I came off like “an idiot.” It’s also not true, unless you count looking at tweets as reading Mashable’s articles.

He inquired if I was familiar with the start up industry in San Francisco or using technological terms. The short answer is no but the long answer is “my motto is that if I don’t know it today, I can learn it by tomorrow,” a motto I made up on the spot and also one that sucks.

When he asked if I was involved in any weekly meet ups, I said that I spend a lot of time with my family right now because I don’t have a big community in Oklahoma. What he heard: I live under a rock and my best friends are my own leg hairs.

Finally it was time for me to ask questions, and I gave him all I had. I wanted to know everything and prolong the conversation as long as possible, which is why I asked if his company was “more of a get in and get out kind of operation or if people are in for the long haul.” Note: asking this question will make you look like an ass. People are always in for the long haul. I should have asked what the turnover rate was, or better yet, just let the conversation end.

It was a start to a wonderful interviewing career and in the end, a great piece of blog fodder.

Here are my takeaway points:

1. Don’t use complicated metaphors that involve trees and make zero sense.

2. No fake mottos.

3. Have a 2 minute or shorter summary of the company and why you like them.

4. Save jokes for the break room.

Now get out there and good luck!

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30 thoughts on “What I Learned from My Painfully Bad Interview

  1. Matthew Taylor says:

    “he asked if I was involved in any weekly meet ups”
    That’s a bizarre question. I don’t think it’s any of his business what you do outside of work.

  2. Carissa says:

    that was hilarious, i’m sorry it didn’t work out but that truly brightened up my day!

  3. artzent says:

    Way too funny!!!!!!!!!LOL God I am glad I don’t have to go to interviews. My artwork does the talking!

  4. londongigger says:

    Hilarious Post, Struck a chord with me. I went for an interview the other day and the first thing they asked me were questions about the Job Description. The problem was, I hadn’t fully read it so had to wing the 10 minutes.
    Also – a tip. Never ever discuss salary increases before you’ve been awarded the job. That surely guaranteed not to impress.

    • edrevets says:

      Noted—luckily I’ve been interviewing a ton recently for jobs I don’t really want that bad and it’s great practice, so hopefully next time I’ll be able to nail it.

  5. kitchenmudge says:

    Don’t think about landing a job, just think about interviewing as what you want to do. It’s fun asking people about their businesses and how you might or might not fit into them. You’re just going around gathering info about them.

    • edrevets says:

      I love that idea and recently thought something very similar myself. I do love talking to people, and this way I’ll find people who love their jobs and industries, people I could either replace or model my life on.

  6. Ape No. 1 says:

    Another way of looking at it is that this organization failed your interview. Managers often do poorly with interviews especially ones for technical roles and quite often are asking, unbeknownst to themselves, “do you like and do everything I like and do?”, rather than “do you have the right skills base and will you fit into the team?”. Questions such as “do you read blogs daily” could be an indication of this. It is a natural human tendency to accept individuals that are similar to oneself but an experienced manager/recruiter needs to have a self awareness of this tendency to ensure an objective selection process is followed.

    Sorry for the long and boring comment. Ape will push his everyday working self back into the ventriloquist dummy trunk where it belongs on weekends…

    • edrevets says:

      Haha long and boring comments are necessary, just like potatoes. I prefer that analysis anyways…..it certainly wasn’t my fault for not getting the job.

  7. Reblogged this on Tranquil Space and commented:
    This is like a companion piece to my earlier post on how to avoid tetchifying an interviewer. Only if one of mine had given the tree answer, they’d probably have got job there and then. Ah well.

  8. sillyliss says:

    Seriously? You have to make jokes in the interview. This guy shouldn’t be conducting interviews at all. What kind of person doesn’t like jokes?

    I wish my leg hair was more friendly to me. That is what I took away from this post. Le sigh.

  9. grenobloise says:

    You may have won him over in person — over the phone it’s hard to get a feel for someone. I would have found you charming and hilarious, but unfortunately I am not a CEO at the moment…

    Bonne chance ! Failing interviews will only help you excel in the end! I’ve been there! Thanks for the blog fodder. 😉

  10. No one was born knowing how to score high in an interview, anymore than we are born knowing how to walk and talk. This was a learning experience, so take what you learned, and use it to go out and nail your next interview.

    The only thing I’ll add, is that the more you can anticipate in advance what it is that the interviewer wants to hear, and then parrot it back to him/her as if it’s your own personal insight and revelation, the better you’ll do. Yes, I know that this is not the way it should be, but I also absolutely know that it’s the way that it is, a majority of the time with interviews.

  11. Aww hell fire girl,you probably wouldn’t like the joint anyway.Sounds cubicle.

  12. Well, despite how badly you THINK it might have gone, sometimes it turns out to be the total opposite to the other person. If you really want it, I surely hope you get it. And hey, you’ve learned from it regardless.

  13. Sarah says:

    Oh god, this is giving my flashbacks to every awkward interview I’ve ever had. I hope the next is better!

  14. tomwisk says:

    Hell, the tree metaphor made sense to me. You’ve got the tools, now go out and dazzle them.

  15. Blog fodder is a bene. Busy people can be oh so humorless. Especially him, perhaps. Don’t overlook the likelihood that phone interviews may throw one off, given the high context nature of any important interview or other human interaction. (What was the job you wanted there now?) Go face to face when possible? Cheers, back on da horsey.

    • edrevets says:

      Already back on the horse…been galloping full speed for a while and am wondering where my next stop is. Actually moving out to San Francisco will definitely help. In person connections are much more powerful.

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