It might be that watching too many episodes of The Apprentice has left you with some misconceptions of the interview process. Surprisingly, reality TV shows aren’t actually accurate representations of the real world. (Who would have thought?)
That is not to say that things don’t occasionally go wrong. The trick is to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and to not let it affect your performance. Here’s a list of the most likely nightmare scenarios, alongside instructions on how to control the damage.
Nightmare interview scenario one: running late
You’ve planned your journey in advance, taken the early bus and made sure that you would arrive at least half an hour early. But luck is not on your side. There’s traffic and you’re now going to be at least fifteen minutes late.
What to do: While not ideal, recruiters won’t write you off. Call up the organisation and let them know your estimated time of arrival. Explain your reason for being late, sounding apologetic as you do so. It’s better for employers to know in advance that you will be a few minutes late to stop them from sitting around, wondering whether you’re even going to show up. They’re human too and understand that sometimes circumstances are beyond our control.
Nightmare interview scenario two: feeling ill
You might have had too much to drink the night before, eaten a dodgy Nando’s or just caught a bad flu.
What to do: If you begin to feel sick mid-answer, politely excuse yourself and explain that you are not feeling well. It would be smart to have some paracetamol on hand that you could take quickly before the interview. This should help with everything from nausea to headaches and get you through the next couple of hours. If you are seriously sick, try to rearrange the interview. Employers don't want you to vomit on them or infect them. It’s much safer, both for them and yourself, to wait a few days until you are feeling better.
Nightmare interview scenario three: dealing with a rude interviewer
Some people just love power trips. Although these cases are rare, you might be unlucky enough to have an interviewer whose sole purpose is to intimidate you. Some people recall being given five seconds to answer impossible maths questions, while it seems that others were asked to interview simply to be criticised for 20 minutes.
What to do: If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t panic. Keep your cool and answer all questions in as polite a manner as possible. Afterwards, there might be an opportunity to give feedback on your interview experience and you could mention that you felt uncomfortable with the interviewer’s approach.
In the past, people have boycotted companies after terrible interview experiences, forcing interviewers to change their tactics. The interview is not only an opportunity for the employer to assess you, but a chance to evaluate whether they are the right fit for you. A rude interviewer is indicative of a hostile working environment. As it’s likely that you would be working closely with your interviewer if you were to get the job, you might be better off saying thanks, but no thanks.
Nightmare interview scenario four: having your parents interfere with the interview
It is not unheard of for people to bring their parents to the interview for emotional support. What is strange is that there have been instances where parents have somehow ended up in the board room, answering questions for their child and even interrupting the interviewer!
What to do: If your parents insist on coming with you to the interview for emotional support, have them sit in a nearby cafe rather than in the building. Even if they don’t come into the interview with you, having your mum wait in the reception for you might give off the impression that you’re still a child, hardly the independent, self-sufficient candidate that companies are looking for. Explain this to your parents and make it clear that you appreciate their support, but just need a little space for the duration of the interview.
Nightmare interview scenario five: phone ringing in the middle of the interview
We live in an age where mobile phones are pretty much a fifth limb. For some reason, asking someone to switch off their phone for a couple of hours, be it in a cinema or office, is a shocking request. What is more shocking however is your phone ringing mid-interview, with Britney’s ‘Womanizer’ blaring from the speakers.
What to do: Don’t let your mobile jeopardise your employment chances – switch it off!
Nightmare interview scenario six: having a mind blank
We’ve all had this nightmare before – the one where you open your mouth and nothing comes out. During your interview, there might be a moment where you don’t know how to respond. Your mind is blank and, no matter how hard you think, you have no idea what to say.
What to do: Take a sip of water to give you time to think, breathe and respond calmly. Sometimes two seconds feel like two hours, but the interviewer will hardly notice the pause. If you still have no idea, there’s no shame in admitting that. You could ask them to rephrase the question or ask for additional details. Most importantly, don’t let one difficult question knock your confidence and ruin the earlier interview.
Nightmare interview scenario seven: getting caught lying
Hopefully, you have read our interview tips and know better than to lie on your CV. However, if you’ve had a moment of madness and decided to boast of your fluency in five languages when you can barely speak one, this is the tip for you.
What to do: The best thing you can do in this situation is just own up to the lie, cut your losses and move on. Attempting to convince the interviewer of something you both know is a lie will only be digging yourself into a deeper hole. Apologise, admit your mistake and focus on the aspects of your application that are true. Honestly, this is a difficult one to worm yourself out of. Just don’t lie!
Nobody’s perfect, and things do occasionally go wrong. If they do, breathe, focus on how to recover and move on. Reacting with a cool head to stressful circumstances is something a lot of companies need in their employees. Turn the nightmare into a dream.