My alarm went off at 7 a.m., an hour before I normally woke up. I sprang out of bed and jetted over to my desk to do some last minute prep. I had a phone interview with a company on the East Coast scheduled for 7:30 a.m., and I wanted to be alert for this important and early interview.
I eagerly watched the clock as each minute passed, 7:28, 7:29, 7:30! I took a few deep breaths and waited. Moments later, my phone began to vibrate as an unknown number flashed on the screen. I collected myself and flipped the phone open with a serious expression and answered. Only what came out of my mouth was something totally unexpected.
‘Hello, this is Lindsay,’ I croaked with a groggy-sounding voice, a result of not speaking a word that morning until then.
“Hello?” the voice questioned. ‘Did I wake you?’
I was mortified. Here I was trying to sound professional and the interviewer thought she had woken me up, as if I had forgotten about the interview! I wanted to scream, ‘No, I’ve been up for 30 minutes, I’ve been stressing about this interview all week, I didn’t forget!’
Instead, I calmly cleared my throat to reveal my normal speaking voice and said, ‘I’m sorry about that, how are you?’ The interview progressed from there and went very well, so well that I got the job. But after that incident, I have always made sure to clear my throat before any phone interview, in the morning or otherwise.
Just because things don’t always go smoothly in an interview, doesn’t mean it has to be a negative experience. A lot of interviews have taught me valuable lessons, like the importance of research.
During an interview with a high-tech PR agency, I was asked, ‘So what’s some major news in technology right now.’ I sat silently for a second, my mind racing to remember just one thing I had heard or read about, but nothing came to mind. I finally responded, ‘To be honest, I’m not sure.’ Terribly embarrassed, I finished the call feeling defeated. As soon as we hung up, I pulled up CNN technology news and on the front page with a big, colorful picture, as if to mock me, what did I find?
I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten all about the launch of the iPad earlier that week. It felt like getting the easiest question on a test wrong. After I got over the initial feeling of utter stupidity, I could only laugh at myself. Now, I keep up on current events related to any industry I’m interviewing for.
I also had another research slip up prior to this, but instead of industry news, it was the company’s background. When asked about what the company did and its organizational goals, I simply responded, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know exactly.’ After making that rookie mistake, I have always made sure to do thorough research of any company I plan to work for.
I was also tripped up in another interview when I was asked to describe a ‘demographic,’ a common marketing term. Although I knew exactly what it was, I couldn’t find the words to describe it. So there I sat, fumbling over my words, watching the interviewer’s face droop with disdain. He eventually stopped me, and recited the correct definition back to me. Now, I always brush up on industry terms before I step into any interview.
I don’t have to tell you that interviews are nerve-wracking, and screwing up during one only makes it worse. Sometimes you say all the right things and other times you just keep messing up. But whether you get the job or not, it’s important to work on what you did wrong so you don’t keep embarrassing yourself, and rather be viewed as prepared and articulate.
From all of these uncomfortable interview experiences, I now know how I need to prepare for an interview. Even if I still don’t get the job, at least I know that I did everything I could, based on the lessons I’ve learned in the past.
Whatever your weak point is, learn how to make it stronger for the next interview, so you don’t croak, I mean choke.