Interview Horror Stories

Nothing kills the excitement of a potentially great new role, then an interview that goes horribly wrong. And whilst (thankfully) most interviews go well, on occasion there are some shocking stories that leave either the candidate or client horrified or truly very embarrassed! Since its Halloween, we would like to share 4 tips to ensure you never have an Interview Horror Story of your own.

1. Prepare for the unexpected

Anything can be thrown your way during an interview. The key to success in these situations is to try and remain as calm as possible and show you can handle the pressure. See our video clip below for how Heineken tested candidates by throwing a terrifying situation at them!

To keep your cool on the big day, ensure you know your CV like the back of your hand and don’t get put off by difficult questions. There’s no way you can prepare for every question they throw at you, but try and prepare a list of accomplishments and successes that can be answers to a variety of questions. By doing this, it will prevent you from being tongue-tied during your interview and the awkward silence whilst you wrack your brains for a great answer.

One humorous story I have to share (where a candidate really displayed how he can handle the pressure), comes from personal experience. Back in 2008, I was walking down Baggot Street (due to lack of meeting room availability) with a fantastic online marketing candidate to grab a coffee and discuss a role. At this stage, I was 7 months pregnant and suffering from low blood pressure. Whilst the candidate was making small talk and telling me about his great Search Marketing skills, he realised he was walking on his own, and when he turned around, I passed out on the street behind him. The poor guy got a huge fright (I think he thought I’d dropped dead!) and he attempted to revive me – he ended up calling an ambulance and was my knight in shining armour as I was quickly whipped off to the Maternity hospital. The following week, I ensured I conveyed his non-technical skills to the client – quick reaction, calm under pressure and problem-solving skills. And pleased to say he got the job at a major holiday booking engine. I suspect that to this day, he is terrified to be around pregnant women!

2. Plan the appropriate costume for your interview

If you are attending a corporate office, you are more than likely expected to wear a suit. However, don’t land up suited and booted if the CEO is wearing T-shirt and jeans. What you wear is very important as it gives the interviewee that first impression of whether you will fit into their work culture or not.

To find that perfect costume, do your homework and check LinkedIn to see if you have any mutual connections within the company. More than likely, people will be more than happy to help because at one point, they were in the same situation. And remember, if in doubt the usual basic shirt and black pants will more than likely do the trick.

One horror story we have that involves a clothing situation gone wrong comes from our colleague David Pepper or apparently his ‘friend’ (hmmmm). This ‘friend’ had an interview that he naturally couldn’t do from his desk at work, so he dashed back to his apartment at lunchtime to conduct the skype.

As he worked in a casual dress dotcom, but the interview was with a smart corporate, he needed to quickly get changed but hear his PC beeping as the (very senior) hiring manager was calling via Skype. Pushed for time and not wanting to start the interview with a missed call, he abandoned his total change of close and sat at the desk with his shirt and tie, but only underpants on the bottom. The 40 minute skype went exceptionally well and David’s ‘friend’ was feeling great as he and potential employer wrapped up and agreed to next stages. And then, before the skype was totally disconnected, he stood up to switch off the laptop and his future boss saw him from the waist down…..old underpants in full glory!

3. Dress up your confidence, not just your outfit!

There is a great phrase that says ‘Fake it until you make it’ – even if you are early in your career and feel subservient to the interview panel, tell yourself you are their equal for the duration of the interview (whilst obviously showing respect to their greater knowledge and experience!) Psyche yourself up to get rid of nerves and remember they were on the other side of the interview once, so they’ll likely be nice to you.

Monstor advises candidates to use their body language to display confidence. You can do this by offering a strong handshake, looking your interviewer in the eye and sitting up straight in your chair. Even if you feel terribly nervous, convey a relaxed confidence that will give you instant credibility –if you believe in yourself, so will your audience.

Don’t forget to smile! Whilst you are being interviewed for your skills and experience, the panel are also ascertaining whether you are a fit culturally and essentially wondering will you get on well with the team. So a cheerful and smiley attitude whilst answering even the toughest questions will go a long way.

4. Research and validate any ‘tips’ you get! Even from your trusted friends…

Our final Interview Horror Story is a well-known gem from our London days – possibly urban legend in recruitment circles but worth sharing anyway! A candidate had been tipped off pre-interview (by a friend) that the hiring manager looked very like the Dutch actor Rutger Hauer (for you youngsters, he is a fair skinned and ghostly-white-hair actor from the 1970s up to the 1990’s). Her friend reckoned that he loved hearing how he looked like this celebrity and whilst the candidate wasn’t familiar with Mr Hauer’s movies personally, she thought she’d mention the similarity as an ice-breaker. Cue weird silence, as the dark-skinned man (of African descent and with a head of dreadlocks that Bob Marley would be proud of!), informed her that that was the strangest comment he’d ever had in his life. Turns out the friend had mixed up her Dutch celebrities and was supposed to say the footballer Ruud Gullet…. Point to this story – if someone gives you what seems like a great tip…make sure you check out they’ve got their facts right!

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ellie_doyleAuthor: Ellie Doyle

Ellie brings a pragmatic approach to clients hiring challenges, and believes in the power of asking the right questions. She has a phenomenal network of industry contacts – if anyone knows the person for the job, its Ellie. She is famous for her ability to retain even the smallest detail.


Tel: +35316344880

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