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How to Fail a Job Interview

By Edited Oct 7, 2015 8 19

Credit: Deposit photo

Few people set out to fail at job interviews, but sometimes everything goes wrong so it seems like you are intentionally trying to fail. This morning I was prepared to go for an interview what happened was something else altogether.

1. Stay up late

I expected to be in bed by nine-thirty, so I would be fresh and clear minded. I crawled into bed and turned on an extra alarm clock, so I would wake up with plenty of time to shower, dress, and have breakfast. I closed my eyes, and my mind started playing scenarios of what could happen during the interview tomorrow. I rolled to my side and hugged my pillow tighter and hummed a lullaby. Sleep was simply harder to catch than a greased pig. I tossed and turned until midnight and then sleep caught me.

Tea cup

2. Drink some tea

I was startled from my slumber by two shrill alarms, and I stumbled my way into the shower. I calculated how many cups of tea I could drink before the meeting and not feel the urge to use the restroom. I settled on two and hurried through rest of my morning routine. The time arrived for me to leave, so I grabbed all my necessary documents and walked out the door.

3. Know where you are going

Over the phone, the interviewer had instructed me to go to the hospital lobby where he would meet me and take me to the pharmacy where our interview would be conducted. I looked online and found out where the pharmacy was located and thought I would save the guy a walk and meet him there. I called his cell phone to let him know of the new arrangement, and he agreed, but mentioned he was in the middle of a project and would be with me soon. I turned off my phone so it would not ring during the interview process and waited.

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4. Put your phone mute

Waiting is a game I am used to, so I entertained myself by reading anything that was posted on the wall. To my surprise, I read on the incoming doors that the pharmacy is a safe place to leave unwanted babies. I wondered how many babies had been left to warrant a sign welcoming them. My interview was scheduled at nine, so I pulled out my phone to check the time. I had two missed calls from the interviewer. I called him and explained that I was in front of the pharmacy. He replied, “The hospital has TWO pharmacies.” I apologized for the confusion while he continued to berate me for changing the plan for the meeting place.

5. Ignore the elephant in the room

I waited until I saw a man walking angrily in my direction and cut him off with a handshake and apology. He was not to be deterred from being upset, and I let him ramble without further apology. I feel apologies are like sneezes, I will say sorry twice, but after that you are on your own. We sat in the lobby, and he explained he was not sure how many hours were being offered for the position, and he was not confident I would be a good candidate for the position because I had never worked in a hospital before. I sat and probably looked bewildered at his attempt to inspire me to want the job. He looked at my resume with distaste and waved off my combined nine years in the field.

6. Take a tour

New growth

After the sit down chat my interviewer wanted me to see the inpatient pharmacy. He had to scan a card to let himself through a series of doors, and I remembered our phone conversation when I said I was outside the pharmacy, if he had been listening, then he would have understood that I was at the wrong one. I let out an irritated sigh and looked with disinterest at the lab which had no windows, no music, and no signs of happiness. The workers I encountered either completely ignored me or scattered like mice. With the tour finished he led me back to where we began. I knew by his flippant attitude that I was not being seriously considered for the job, so I asked one question, “Do you like working here?” The question startled him so much he almost tripped on his own feet. He recovered and said, “Yes I like it, I’ve been here twenty-one years.” I felt bad for him because I could hear the hollowness in his words. We paused at a side door, and he said, “I’ll let you know by the end of this week.” We shook hands and parted ways.

7. Drive home

I sat in my car for a moment and wondered if I was part of an elaborate hidden camera show. I tried to see where I went wrong and how I could have prevented the poor footing I started off with. I concluded I should have met where we had specified, but I learned quickly how my potential boss handles challenges, how he presents himself in what is supposed to be a professional interview, and how he expects his employees to respond to his complaints. If I had not challenged the status quo, I may have missed all the red flags and simply accepted a position I would have to vacate. So in all honesty, thanks Mr. Interviewer we saved each other a lot of pain and time.

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I am not sure if there is a lesson to be learned, but I clearly do not want to work for a boss who wants me to feel bad, thinks I am not qualified, and is just working towards retirement. I will keep searching for the job which suits me and my skills. And I promise to keep the same meeting place.



Mar 27, 2014 5:21pm
@Chris -

Several years ago I had to interview 5-7 candidates each week as we were a growing company and hiring 1-2 candidates a week into the department I managed.

I glanced through 100+ resumes each weekend. Sorry to say, I could blow through 100 resumes in 8 minutes and boil them down to a pile of 10 candidates worth phone screening. Yes, that's about a 5 second quick glance per resume. Most went into the "to file" pile, and only about 10% went into the "2nd look" pile for consideration.

Funny you mention turning off your cell phone. I actually had a candidate in the middle of an interview take a call. It was from a prior interview he took earlier that morning (at another company). When he got off the phone and had the nerve to say "Now, where were we?"

My response... "we were wrapping up... thanks for your time..." (what an idiot)

Mar 27, 2014 6:23pm
Wow! That's a ton of resumes! Luckily this experience taught me a few lessons which have helped me improve my interviewing skills. I realize I'm also interviewing the company to see if they're a good fit for me.

I'm impressed by your reply to the cell user, I might not have been as tactful. Thanks for your comment!
Mar 29, 2014 7:31am
@EBChristine -

The most successful candidates I interviewed skillfully converted the interview into a mutual exchange of information and asked questions about our company, as well as, responded candidly to questions I asked.

By showing a sincere interest in not only what our company did, but also in the culture of the company, it told me they would be the kind of employee who take care of our customers.

That ability to ask and not just follow oozed of entrepreneur behavior.

As for the idiot on the cell phone, what he didn't realize is I personally knew the hiring manager in the company he was talking to. 30 days after the interview, I asked the other hiring manager if he ever did hire that joker. His response "are you kidding, he had no listening skills". -HA-

I truly loved interviewing and had a knack for finding individuals with drive. I also enjoyed knowing I was sitting before someone who had a great career ahead of them and wanted to be part of kicking off their journey if this were to be their first job out of school.

Mar 29, 2014 8:17am
Yes, I completely agree that a mutual exchange is great, unless the interviewer just wants another robot who won't question the status quo and work until they fall over.

I'm working in a pharmaceutical repackaging company and I'm looking to improve my situation. I recently interviewed for a third party billing position in a Long-term-care pharmacy and the interview went great in my opinion. We had a great exchange until they came to the end of their questions and one interviewer remarked that she was sad she didn't have any more questions to ask me. Nevertheless I was sent a rejection email saying they were going with someone else.

It was frustrating to feel like everything went well, my qualifications were an excellent match, and they wanted to extend the interview with more questions.

Would you as an experienced interviewer find it unusual if I were to call and ask how I could have been a better candidate for their company? I'm used to being offered a job instead of being rejected and I want to add to my interviewing toolkit if I'm missing something important.

Thanks for your reply!
Mar 29, 2014 12:03pm
@EBChristine -

Glad to - hope the feedback is helpful.

(I won't sugar coat - as long as - you receive the feedback as simply my opinion)

First, a candidate who is receptive to honest feedback and is sincerely interested in self-improvement is EXACTLY the kind of person I would recruit.

Second, a candidate who has a solid ability to communicate (as you have demonstrated in your writing skills on InfoBarrel) is also a solid plus.

Third, rejection is the beginning of a job search, not the end. A job search ends with an acceptance. The process of job hunting is a difficult one, so most individuals don't proactively look for a new job instead they reactively do so when they have lost a job. YOU are that exception. Your proactive nature and thirst for self-improvement is a HUGE positive. Chin up, charge forward.

Finally, to answer your question, what are my thoughts on you trying to respectfully contact them to seek advice after you received a "sorry, but thanks" email/letter? Honestly, you will likely get forwarded to the Human Resources department (a dead end). Why? If I had provided someone a job offer and another candidate called to discuss my decision (or seek my advice), I wouldn't take the call and would forward the message to a HR Rep. Why? Because, I want the person I hired to know I am giving them my FULL commitment to help THEM succeed and my speaking with a prior candidate potentially sends a mixed message.

Suggestion - I would like to offer a couple of techniques to keep your name in front of them.

1. You mentioned "they came to the end of their questions". I interpret that to mean the final interview had multiple decision makers at the table. Correct? If so how many? And what were their job titles (area of responsibility)? [please clarify the dynamics of the interview]

2. Of those at the table during the final interview, which (1) individual did you connect with the best? And which (1) individual was the one that said she "didn't have any more questions"? What I'm looking for is which interviewer "hands down wanted you" and which interviewer "may have wanted the other candidate"?

3. How far are you willing to travel/commute to your new job from your current home? A you willing (or able) to move to relocate?

4. In your travel radius, how many companies are in the pharma industry? And how many third party billing agencies exist?

5. After a 2nd interview, prior to their final decision, I suggest sending a hand-written Thank You card to the hiring executive via the postal mail. Everyone these days uses email. Many hiring managers (myself included) like that personalized touch of a hand-written note. It shows EXTRA EFFORT and a level of class. In the note, keep it simple, but mention something along the lines of "I am writing you because I sincerely enjoyed our discussion about...." ---fill in something they shared with you about the business you sincerely found interesting and draws you to want to work for them--- better yet, if an interviewer spoke about why they choose to work there---add it into your Thank You note and mention why you found that of interest. Nothing wrong with stating at the end of your brief Thank You note "I want this job". And then sign it. One company I interviewed at 6 years ago, I sent the departement head who interviewed me such a Thank You note. After receiving a job offer and accepting, I was surprised my 1st day on the job to see my Thank You note on his desk. I mentioned "I'm glad you received my note". His response "that's why you're here today".

6. After receiving a "sorry, but thanks" letter, your task at that point is to keep your name visible (and on their radar) should they have another similar opening. I would consider sending them a personalized Thank You note (20) days after receiving the "sorry but thanks" letter) to the individual you felt was your internal champion (most likely wanted to hire you) with a handwritten note. For example "I enjoyed meeting you. If the candidate you hired does not work out, for whatever reason, I hope you will call me. I want this job. And I want to work with XYZ Corp. In the interim, I value your opinion and will call you this Friday at 9:00am to ask what skills I could improve to be part of your team. Please accept my call as I value your opinion". If he/she accepts your call, you'll still be on their radar for future opportunities that might arise. If not, so what! You don't work there currently and if your best supporter doesn't take your call, move on. You'll have a 30% odds he/she will take your call. Keep it brief, don't call them weekly for additional advice (stalking), but do send that person another Thank You note 10 days afterwards, not only to show appreciation, but to KEEP YOUR NAME on their desk.

Please provide me answers to some of the above questions and I'll gladly provide more specific suggestions... Glad to keep our dialogue on your Comments section to share the dialogue with others. Also, if you prefer, glad to take the conversation off-line through InfoBarrel Mail.

Let me know if I can help...


ps: If anyone else on IB has done interviewing, please provide your perspective for Chris so she can have additional insight from those of us who have had hiring experience.
Mar 29, 2014 1:45pm
Amazing advice Jim! I'll answer your questions below:

1. You mentioned "they came to the end of their questions". I interpret that to mean the final interview had multiple decision makers at the table. Correct? If so how many? And what were their job titles (area of responsibility)? [please clarify the dynamics of the interview]

I was interviewed by two women and there was supposed to be a third who couldn't make it. One woman was younger and she is the HR rep and the other more mature woman was the head of the third party billing dept. I spoke with both easily about the business, but I focused more of my attention on the third party billing manager. The HR rep was the one who was sad that the questions came to an end so it appears she might have been the champion. But the third party manger was eager to listen to what I had to say and made sure I was given a business card if I had any further questions.

Of those at the table during the final interview, which (1) individual did you connect with the best? And which (1) individual was the one that said she "didn't have any more questions"? What I'm looking for is which interviewer "hands down wanted you" and which interviewer "may have wanted the other candidate"?

I felt I connected to both equally, but I did notice that the HR rep tuned out now and then (the interview was at 4:30 pm) and then I engaged her by eye contact or by asking her a question.

The billing manger was the one who said she didn't have anymore questions and that's when the HR rep said she was sad there wasn't anymore questions. After the interview was complete the billing manager went out to get a business card and the HR rep stayed behind and said how glad she was that we were able to make contact on the phone. (We had played a bit of phone tag to ensure the interview would take place) and I agreed. I walked out of the conference room and saw the billing manager at the receptionist counter telling her that it's okay if the only business card to give didn't have her name on it because she could write her name on it. I told her that I would remember her name and she smiled wished me a good weekend and I wished her the same and left.

3. How far are you willing to travel/commute to your new job from your current home? A you willing (or able) to move to relocate?

Traveling isn't an issue because the office is in town, and traveling wasn't brought up during the interview.

4. In your travel radius, how many companies are in the pharma industry? And how many third party billing agencies exist?

There are about fifty total pharmacies and two Long-term-care pharmacies which would have third party billing as a department. All the others are either retail pharmacies or hospitals, and I don't have interest in either.

It's funny you mentioned sending a thank you note after a second interview. I have done that in the past, but I didn't recently. Good suggestion.

Is there a reason I should wait twenty days? Why not two weeks or ten days?

One more thing, I'm going to be nationally certified on April 12th making me even more valuable as a technician. Should I bring that up in the thank you note to show that I'm continuing to educate myself in the field or will the addition to my resume be adequate?

I really appreciate your compliments, comments, and advice. It's all golden!
Mar 29, 2014 3:10pm

@Chris -

I may break response into a couple pieces to simplify. Hope the feedback is helpful.

1. Your business instincts are spot on! So glad to hear you focused your attention on the Billing Dept Head with your responses as she is the decision maker. The HR Rep is a paperwork pusher. HR does not make hiring decisions. Their job is to handle paperwork, schedule meetings, and do background checks, etc. The decision maker is the one who says "yeah/nay" and has a budget to manage. It is her (dept mgr) budget that your pay will come out of and she is responsible for. Think of it this way, HR is there to process the decision of the manager. From a person who has hired 120+ employees over a 4 year period, I respect the folks in HR and appreciate their paper pushing skills, but they don't drive the success of business, management does! Whenever I have personally looked for a job, my first contact is always with a hiring manager. I never blindly send my resume into a HR dept.

2. The Dept Head was likely a salaried employee and the HR Rep an hourly employee. The reason the HR Rep tuned out it was probably time for her to punch out, while the Dept Head being a salaried employee is more likely to not care about a clock as they are there to "get the task done" and make a decision. Most of my hiring decisions were made in the first 3 minutes of a 30 minute interview. The remaining 27 minutes was to confirm my decision. Think of it this way, humans make decisions emotionally - and justify intellectually. In 3 minutes they either had my vote (or not), the remaining 27 minutes was me "intellectually" throwing curve-balls to see how they handled the situation or spent trying to introduce them others to get them to "buy" into the vision of our company. My best technique to "real in" a great candidate would be to walk them out on the floor (80+ bull pen setup) and invite them to walk up to any cube they want and strike up a 15 minute conversation. I had full confidence that those who worked with me were the best and believed in what we were accomplishing. That confidence in my team floored most candidates as they NEVER had that much control over open information from ANY random employee. Worked like a charm. Once the candidate came back to my office, it was time to transition the conversation to "so, tell me, who else you are interviewing with..." and the offer was on the table from my mouth to our handshake.

More to follow in a bit...

Mar 29, 2014 3:36pm
I'm totally jazzed for part two!
Mar 29, 2014 4:33pm
@Chris -

To continue...

2 (continued). a 4:30pm interview? Ouch! The best time to set up an interview is 8-11am or 2-3pm. By 4;30pm most folks start thinking about what's for dinner or heading home. 1:00pm is the worst time and is known as the "sleeper hour". Too many 1:00pm interviews start late as people arrive late from lunch, then check their emails, etc. Not to mention 1:00pm, as their food is digesting, they start to doze off and are not awake. My personal favorite time is 9:00am or 2:00pm for an interview to start. Each time slot provides ample time for a hiring manager to check emails and voicemail prior to the interview and allows for your interview to run longer if it's not up against lunch appointments or end of day.

3. I was curious about your ability your max commuter interest or your ability to relocate as it widens your job pool.

4. The best way to be introduced to a hiring manager is through a local contact they know. You mentioned 50+ retail/hospital pharmacies and 2 long-term-care ones with billing depts. Here's an idea... walk into 5-10 of the retail/hospital pharmacies and strike up a conversation with the person at the counter. Ask to speak with the Pharmacist. Be pleasant and ask for their help. Simply tell them your interest in working in the billing dept of one of the local long-term-care pharmacies and ask if they have any recommendations. 7 out of 10 of the Pharmacists might be rude, so simply say thank you for their time and be respectful. It's that 3 out of 10 that are willing to help a smiling ambitious individual. People in the same industry (pharma) will not only share some great industry insights, they may actually give you the name of someone who works at one of the companies you are trying to get into. If they do, simply call the person at the company and say "Good morning. My name is Chris ?. I was speaking with my local Pharmacist, Mrs. Smith, and she recommended I give you a call." (at this point you have 15 seconds to get to your point before they hang up) Then say "Do you mind if I ask you a couple of question..." (almost always will be a yes if they know Mrs. Smith) Your goal during this brief phone conversation is to obtain a face to face visit, so only ask them 3-4 great questions and anchor with "Do you mind if we meet for 15-20 minutes so I can learn more about the industry?" 15 minutes will turn into 45 very quickly. Your goal is to LEARN more about the industry and develop a RAPPORT with the individual, not to assume you're Wonder Woman and will get a job offer on the spot. At the end, thank the person and ask "What do you recommend I do to learn more about the industry? Is there someone you could introduce me to so I could learn more?" You meet with 3-4 different people from the initial 3 pleasant Retail Pharmacists you met and the next thing you know someone mentions the name of someone you've already met. Eventually, you will stumble into a situation where someone mentions a job opening that's not yet been advertised and they give you the phone number of the hiring manager. Now THAT'S how you get a new job. Tenacity, patience, and a willingness to research the players in the local market.

FYI --- 85% of all job openings are never advertised. Well known fact in the recruiting business.

5. Why 20 days? Funny you ask. The reason is the first 10 days of any new hire (aka "The Honeymoon") will always be peachy-keen as they become oriented and everyone is newbie polite. It's as they approach that second 10 days (day 20-30) the Sophomore period that hiring managers start to notice a problem. The smart managers move quickly to consider their options. The weak managers you don't want to work for.

6. Oh heck yeah on bringing up the national certification date. It demonstrates your value-add but (more importantly) highlights that your are striving to improve your skills set. It also helps to differentiate you from candidate sitting next to you in the receptionist area waiting to be interviewed.

Don't be shy to shoot me more questions. Glad to help...

Mar 29, 2014 10:32pm
Thank you so much Jim! You have been a wealth of information which will speed me along in my job search and help me acquire a new position with a company that is a good match for the both of us. I'll keep you in the loop!
Apr 12, 2014 2:41pm
Hey Jim,
I'm coming up on the twenty day mark, I've passed my national certification, and I'm ready to send a hand written thank you note. I hope you will be willing to critique it before I send it.


Thank you for the opportunity to interview on March 27, 2014. I really enjoyed our conversation about the team-spirited dynamic of Propac. If the candidate you selected does not work out, I hope you will call me. 360-***-****

In the interim I have earned my national certification on April 12, 2014 so I could be a better fit for your company. I want to work for Propac, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Christine ......
Apr 12, 2014 3:33pm
Hi Christine,

First - Congrats on passing your national certification!

Second - Your note is perfect.

1. It is quick, clean, and to the point.
2. The intro thank you is immediately followed by a statement of what you value in a work environment... and then immediately followed with a call to action. Perfect!
3. Your mentioning the date of your certification adds credibility to your statement. Nice touch. Better yet, you mention why you pursued the certification as it enhances the value you bring to them.
4. And finally, you anchor with your clear desire to work for THEM.

Interviewing is a sales process. This type of thank note, personalized to that specific interview, shows perseverance and will keep you "top of mind" should that original candidate not work out for them.

Not 1 in 500 candidates I interview ever send this type of note. Too bad... it's a lost opportunity for them to further demonstrate their follow-up skills!

You are that exception.

When it comes to prospecting new opportunities, it only takes ONE YES to success.

Best of luck and please keep me posted.

Your fan from Northern New England...


ps: Do you go by Chris or Christine? (apologize for shortening your name earlier as I saw your IB name listed as "Chris" on the above author section and made the assumption)
Apr 13, 2014 6:49am

Thanks Jim for the glowing review! I can now send off the thank you card with a confident, light heart. No worries about shortening my name. I go by Chris as a pen name and Christine in my real life activities. You have been an amazing source of knowledge and encouragement. I'll keep you abreast of my success.

Apr 23, 2014 5:16pm
It's been a week with no reply to my hand written thank you card. Would you suggest I drop the matter until there's another job posting?
Apr 23, 2014 6:40pm
Hi Christine,

A couple thoughts...

1. I agree. I would let it rest a bit. Your note was professional and, hopefully, if there is another opening Teresa will give you a call.

2. I would continue to network and learn more about the industry. For example, if there was an instructor for your certification, you might want to contact him/her and ask their advice. Also, every time you're in a pharmacy, ask the pharmacist where they got their degree and why did they choose this industry... then casually ask where else have they worked prior to their current job... and what recommendations might they have for you.

Wish I knew more about your skills/education/background... then I could offer more specific suggestions to help out.

For example...

1. How long have you worked at your current job? (years experience)

2. What training have you had? And what is the "title" of the job you are looking for? (so I could x-reference your experience against a couple of local job postings to see what are the typical job specs - also to consider what other job roles might be a good fit for you)

3. Are there any industry events that provide you an opportunity to meet others in the line of work you are looking for? (you never know who you might meet and strike up a conversation with at a local training center or industry event)

4. Also, if you have a local Chamber of Commerce, glance through the contact listings and cold call a few of them... and respectfully mention you've had great success at your current job and would like to be further challenged... do they have any suggestions on who might be someone worth talking with. (you never know who'll connect you with the a wealth of knowledge and helpful direction)

Contrary to the nay says... I believe successful people enjoy helping others succeed...

--- another idea --- do you know any local reporters? The reason I ask is they have a wealth of contacts and seem to shoot the breeze with everyone. I recently ran into a local reporter who interviewed me 10 years ago... he's now working in the broadcast media center for the city I live and introduced me to a couple city councilors that afternoon... one of which I struck a conversation and during our chat I learned about a new business coming to town... he gladly gave me a contact name...

Hope the suggestions are helpful...

Apr 24, 2014 7:58am
Again excellent advice! I'm going to start broadening my contacts and seeing who knows who. Thank you!
Nov 9, 2014 5:57pm
I can recall 3 interviews that I've had over the since college. The first was planned because I was informed in advanced about the time. Did well and was hired.

Interview 2 was a complete surprise. I had just submitted the application and went to get some coffee from the student lounge. Next thing I know, I get a message saying to report to such and such location.

Not thinking I go and wind up in an interview; mind you my attire wasn't professional but fortunately the interviewer didn't care. Did great with the interview and was hired.

3rd interview was couple years later that involved me waiting a couple of hours for the interviewer. The interview seemed promising but ended with the interviewer telling me that they didn't want me to get bored with the work. Still a confusing process.
Nov 9, 2014 6:44pm
It seems it's the luck of the draw sometimes without rhyme or reason to getting a job. Thanks for your comment, Browna86!
Nov 9, 2014 10:52pm
No problem.
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