5 Most Frustrating Interview Fails

20 May 2014

I recently wrote about the habits and traits of the most successful candidates at interview – these are the consistent, common behaviours and approaches of top performing candidates. In writing about those who succeed, I found myself reflecting upon the less successful. What are the simple twists of fate and performance that unpick otherwise rational, capable, credible and highly qualified candidates, bumping them ‘out of the running’. 

This isn’t an ‘Interview 101’, but rather some of the manageable and often highly frustrating elements that people can pro-actively manage themselves to avoid. On the principle of knowing your enemy, I hope that this list might help you further prep up for that important interview:

  1. Demeanour –Remember, from the moment you step foot on client soil you are under the spot light. Fit with the whole business is key, so expect that a gruff tone with the front desk will find its way back to the team and undermine your performance, as much as being needlessly argumentative or obtuse in the interview.
  2. Nerves – try approaching the interview as you would an internal business meeting with ‘new’ stakeholders – establish credibility, prove your track record, influence, and win trust. It’s good to ‘want’ the job, but being overtly stressed and nervy erodes confidence and won’t get your hands on the prize.
  3. Answer the Question - Give the best answer you can, not just the answer you want to give. While the answer you give can be fascinating, in not addressing the question you create a dubious picture of yourself as a colleague, team member, or manager.
  4. Be Concise - nobody likes hearing that they ‘droned on a bit’. Cut to the chase.  Cover the critical path. You can add more detail on a second pass if your audience values it. Take the scenic route and you may lose your audience at the first bend in the road.
  5. Listen active listening is a critical part of strong communication skills. It’s powerful and people notice. Listen carefully and ‘hear’ the questions. Spot and take the hints that are being given, and be unafraid of feeding back. ‘I don’t seem to be giving you the answer that you need / want’ is a powerful show of listening skills and EQ. Balance confidence with authority and self-awareness.

We all have it within us to be ‘better’ at all of the above. In preparing for any interview do read up on the role, do your homework, but always make time for some personal prep. Work out the critical messages about yourself, your work style, the role, the challenges, and have them ready at your fingertips. This certainly isn’t about being didactic and trotting out pre-packed answers. It is about being well thought out, well prepared and ensuring the hiring executive and team see an authentic and informed version of you – in all likelihood, the ‘you’ that you show your colleagues every day.

Matt Cockbill is a Partner, and Head of Technology & EMI Practices for Berwick Partners and is constantly seeking to bring lights out from beneath the bushels!


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