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Career

Real-life nightmare job interviews

Two readers share their experiences of a job interview gone awry and what they learnt from the experience.

JOB interviews are high-pressure situations and it's common to suffer a bout of nerves, say the wrong thing or go off track when answering questions. But did you realise that over-confidence can also stand between you and your dream job? This happened to 29-year-old Michele Baker* when she interviewed for a senior position at a global marketing company.
'I was too casual'
"My first two workplaces were very casual and social so I had not yet been exposed to a truly corporate environment, despite being in the industry for a while," Michele says.
Michele found herself in a formal three-panel interview for which she was unprepared. She immediately recognised one of the interviewers from a recent industry networking event and began recounting the night's antics.
"My past interviews were also informal so I had always relied on my personality in those situations to keep the conversation flowing," Michele says.
"At the time I thought I was 'breaking the ice', but I look back now and cringe about it!"
A week later, Michele was not surprised to receive an email saying she did not get the role.
"I completely misread the tone of the interview. After that I made sure to keep my banter to a minimum – this helped me land a marketing role a month down the track."
Expert tip – research the role
Elizabeth Kingston, Executive Director at Kingston Human Capital, says job seekers who may have sailed effortlessly through past interviews often rely on their people and rapport-building skills to nail an interview.
"This confidence can result in the job seeker not undertaking enough research about the role, the organisation and the people they will be interviewing with," Kingston says.
Interviewees should always do their research – making sure they have a clear understanding of the role and its context plus the organisation's direction, challenges and competitors," Kingston says.
'I was too nervous to get words out'
Administrator Kathryn Young*, 36, says her nerves have always held her back when going for new roles. This was the case when she recently interviewed for a student support and administration position at a university.
"The question was one of those: 'Tell me about a time when ..' types and I just froze. I had a few ideas in my head but I got overwhelmed and had to 'pass' and move on to the next question," Kathryn says.
Despite not getting the role, Kathryn welcomed the feedback, which helped for future interviews.
"The HR representative told me the panel was really impressed with my CV and industry experience, but they wanted me to give more examples of that in the interview," Kathryn says.
"I made sure in my next interview for a EA/ administration officer position I was fully prepared – I had examples ready to bring out which took away a lot of my nerves. I am happy to say I was offered the job!"
Expert tip – acknowledge your nerves
Kingston says nerves create "internal chatter" which causes people to not properly listen to questions.
"One of the best ways to handle nerves and how they impact your interview performance is to acknowledge it," Kingston says.
"When your interviewer asks you 'How are you today?', you can say, 'I'm well thank you – a little nervous if anything'.
"That way they are not likely to judge you too harshly if you stumble on your words or take a few moments to get into the full swing of things."
Above all, Kingston says thorough research into the company and preparing answers to common questions helps quell interview jitters.
For more tips on the perfect interview technique, see SEEK's interview skills.
*names have been changed.

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