My worst interview - as a candidate

Posted on 09 September 2015

​Over the coming weeks I will be blogging some advice and tips to both employers and candidates.

Firstly though, I wanted to tell you about my worst interview as a candidate.

Cast your mind back (those who can) to 1997, when mobile phones had aerials and flip down covers, U2 still looked like young men and Titanic has just re launched, sadly with a very expected wet ending!  I was a fresh faced Manager for House of Fraser at the time and had aspirations for greater things.

Excited by an opportunity to join a regional airport as Commercial Manager advertised in Retail Week, I applied and was successfully selected for interview. All good news… For anyone who knows me I’ve never worked at a regional airport, so clearly not such good news.

On the day of the interview, I arrived at the airport in my new suit and ugliest of ties excited by the prospect of a new job in the busy hustle and bustle of an international airport. I walked into the room and was greeted by a panel of six, yes six, interviewers. They ranged from Airport MD, Finance and HR Managers, to the local clergy and Councillors, all who for very complicated reasons had an interest in this role.  To be honest, it felt as though I was being hauled up in front of a government investigation, rather than attending an interview.  I had failed to ask what the interview process would be.

For what seemed like four hours I handled the quizzing pretty well and was quite happy with my performance.  Until one of the panel asked be what seemed like an odd question. “Tell me about your childhood, did you have a happy childhood”.I am very pleased to say that with the exception of never been bought an Atari (retro games console…) I was pretty well looked after and I was happy. However the question completely threw me and I went in a blind panic. Why am I being asked this, what am I supposed to say, what if I hadn’t had a good childhood.  All I could say was “It was OK”. I might as well had left the interview right then.

What did I learn from this experience? Firstly, prepare for those silly questions in an interview that are designed to put you on the spot. You will have experienced them, "what type of jungle animal would you be?" "How you would climb out of 17 foot deep hole with nothing but a licorice all sort and a toothpick?" I made that one up but you know the sort of thing… I also learnt to think before I speak. These questions are there to see how you react to difficult questions.  Offer any answer, as long as its reasoned, that is fine. How will I answer the question about my childhood? It was great thank you, tell me about yours…. That will buy me some time for the next one.

My last lesson learnt was never to apply for a job where you will spend 240 working days per year dealing with people who are going on holiday. A surer route to misery I cannot imagine.

I will post some more hints and tips for the coming weeks both for employers and candidates.

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