Lessons From the 3 Worst Job Interviews I’ve Ever Had

If I only knew then what I know now

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The Late Show

I was interviewing for a marketing internship in San Francisco. This was before turn-by-turn directions and I was unfamiliar with the city, so I printed out MapQuest and left over an hour of extra time to find parking and still arrive 15 minutes early.

Lessons learned

Even back then, I didn’t fault that person for not seeing someone who was a half hour late for an interview. And especially now as a busy professional who often has back-to-back meetings, I understand how tight schedules can get.

The Open-Ended Question

I applied for an internship at a public relations firm, and immediately after I emailed my resume, I received a response from the president asking to schedule an interview. I was excited since the application process usually involved a lot of waiting, so I scheduled right away.

Lessons learned

Always ask for clarification if a question isn’t clear. I thought she was asking me what PR meant to me specifically, but maybe what she really wanted was the textbook definition. That’s an important distinction. Understanding what’s being asked of you is critical — in a job interview and beyond.

The Interrogation

A dear friend needed help at her company, and they were hiring another person for the same position. I applied and was called in for an interview, for which I prepared like I normally did, though this time I didn’t spend too much time researching the company itself.

Lessons learned

This interview felt more like getting interrogated as the suspect of a crime rather than a prospect for a job. If you ever feel like that, it’s not ok. You are entitled to respect. If they’re browbeating you or being rude, they’ve likely already decided not to hire you. And if they’re treating you this way as an interviewee, will their behavior be any better as an employee? Not likely.

Closing thoughts

Being interviewed for a job can be vulnerable, and the entire process is stressful and exhausting. Even if you’re not an inexperienced kid just trying to get a foot in the door, you’re still putting yourself out there. You get excited for this job, you’re hopeful that this is the one. Maybe this is your first interview or maybe you have interview fatigue after doing so many. Whatever the case, you spend a lot of time preparing, then you get dressed up, worry about every detail, and analyze every interaction. And interviewers get to judge you by tiny details or random things you may not expect. They might ask you to take a quiz, give you an impossible riddle, or even ask what kind of animal you’d be if you could choose. I remember wondering after an interview if the piece of paper on the floor by the front door was a test to see if I would pick it up.

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