Life After a Bad Interview

This post may contain affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.

I went back and forth debating with myself if I should do this post or not. I decided that I should share it. This will be one of my realest posts to date. I’ve shared this story with a couple of people before in the past. Today, I want to share it with y’all so that you don’t make the same mistake that I did on this bad interview a few years ago. To date, it was my worst job interview.

I moved back to Atlanta in late February 2011. I had outgrown Savannah and was ready for a change. At the time I was working for a bank, so I was able to transfer to a branch in Atlanta. Once I returned to the ATL I felt things out for a month then I started applying for other jobs. Some jobs were still in the banking industry, but most weren’t. About three months after I returned home I had a chance to be interviewed for a higher paying job at another bank. I was tired of working at banks, but I needed more money, so I gladly accepted the interview and started to prepare for it.

A couple of weeks before the interview I found out that my fraternity was having a conference during the same week that my interview was scheduled for. The welcome party for the conference was Thursday night. My interview was scheduled for Friday at 10 AM. I figured that it would be fine to go to the party for a couple of hours and have no more than three drinks. I would then leave early enough so that I could still get a good rest. That’s exactly what I did.

The Morning of the Bad Interview

The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed. I showered, got dressed, and headed to the interview. Once I got to the interview the 1st thing that I noticed was how hot the room was. It was June, but for some reason, they didn’t have the AC on. Even though I was in a suit, I didn’t let that get to me. The interviewer came in and started asking me the typical interview questions. I answered them to the best of my capabilities. Probably ten minutes into the conversation I began sweating because it seemed to be getting hotter in the room. As I finished the interview, I thanked the interviewer for their time and left.

Later on that day my phone rang. It was the recruiter who helped me secure the interview. I was expecting for this to be a positive phone call. Boy, was I wrong. The recruiter told me that the interviewer didn’t say anything about my interview answers. The only thing that the interviewer told them was that they immediately smelled alcohol when they came into the interview room. I was in a brief shock. The recruiter asked me if I had a couple of drinks before the interview. I told him that I had a couple the night before. He then told me what I already knew; I didn’t get the job. I thanked him for getting back to me and hung up the phone. I sat there for a minute and thought about what went wrong.

The 1st thing that came to me was that the interviewer probably thought I was a damn wino or something. I also realized that the interviewer smelled the alcohol because I was sweating. The alcohol was seeping out of my pores. I can’t believe I had made such a terrible mistake. At that moment, I made a promise to myself to never drink the night before a job interview again. I was embarrassed, and I never wanted to make that type of mistake again.

I learned a hell of a lesson that day. That was my worst job interview ever. I haven’t had a drink the night before an interview since then. If that had been my dream job that I was interviewing for, I would have been screwed big time. Thankfully, I’ve matured and realized that some things could wait (drinks) until later.

I learned a good lesson that day. Since then, I haven’t had anything like that remotely happen in my interviews. I’ve been focused and had some great talks with potential employers. Here are 5 things you should consider before your next interview.

Focus on the Basics

1. Be realistic in your conversation, dress modestly, and smile.
2. Use non-verbal communication techniques to the best of your ability—for example, A strong handshake, eye contact, posture, hand gestures, etc.
3. Remember rule 7 – 38 – 55.
7% verbal communication, 38% verbal, and 55% of non-verbal communication.

View Conversation as Conversation

One of the keys to a good conversation begins before the conversation. Don’t think of an interview as an ‘interview’ but think of it as a conversation with someone from the company. You have a conversation or meet someone about a company. This will help you to change your beliefs in the interview. No longer will there be deeper and deeper questions about who you are, but a conversation where they learn about you, and you learn about them.

Be a Student and Show Interest

If you are interested in the position, be sure to show this. Another big comment I hear from employers and managers is that they want to hire someone who is eager to learn. Before the interview, write down any questions you would like to know about the company. This includes organization, culture, and position details. During the interview, it is not only important that they learn about you, but that you should learn as much as you can about the organization. Depending on the situation, show them as honest and humble as possible. If you do not know the answer to a question, let them know, and let them know if you would like to know more about this topic.

Ask for Time to Think

Denzel Washington spoke to his interviewer about the long-term consequences of having too much detail from the media, in which he expressed concern about the need to be first rather than contradicting the need to be real. One of the things I learned that helped me to be as honest as possible in the interview was asking for time to think. If you are facing a challenging question, ask the inquirer if you have time to think about the question. I strongly believe that the person asking the questions does not see how quickly you can answer the question but the quality of the answer – and quality takes time.

Follow up

Whether you get a job or not, always show appreciation for the interviewer and the organization. A simple email expressing your gratitude for this opportunity goes a long way. Be sure to do this as soon as possible after the interview.

Have you ever made a mistake at a job interview? What was your worst one?

/>

29 Comments

  1. This is great advice and I commend you for being so honest about your experience. First impressions really are everything when you go to an interview. I haven’t interviewed in a while but what I find interesting about your experience is that you had someone to tell you what you did wrong so you could fix it moving forward. A lot of people who go on interviews don’t get that type of feedback but it can be so helpful.

    1. You’re right. It was definitely helpful. I haven’t made that mistake since.

  2. I’m surprised they could smell alcohol on you after that long, even with sweating. I would have thought I’d be OK too. wonder if the heat was part of the test on how you deal with stress, even if it’s physiological stress.

    The only interview I remember being awkward was a job fair, but it was a job fair only for one large company. I was fresh out of college and had been looking for a job for a couple of months, it was 2011 and the job market still sucked. I guess I expected more younger people trying to get their career going but I found myself in a big conference room with a lot of desperate engineers that had 10+ years experience and I was the youngest. Then I got an individual interview for no particular job during the fair where my lack of experience probably showed, no job offer came.

    Another one came less than 2 years later when during an interview I was asked to program, I told him I had no idea how and never seen that language before but he insisted I give it a go for a couple minutes. I came up with nothing, next he showed me basics on how to use the software, I actually corrected him on something(suggested) because I do understand logic and have programmed other languages. Got the job on the spot, been in the field ever since.

    1. They may have kept the heat on for that reason. That’s great that you were able to get a job on the spot. I was never that lucky.

      1. I heard it’s common for small businesses to do that. Small family feel but you usually get lower pay and not much for benefits. Every place I’ve worked at since college has been small 10 man or less shops. Two were pretty much on the spot offers and one was within a couple days. I work in an unusual industry where there’s apparently a lot of small engineering houses. If I ever move to a bigger company, the whole wait months for a possible interview, wait weeks for the interview and wait for a second interview, then wait weeks to hear if you finally got the job. That whole system is still foreign and bizarre to me.

  3. Omg, who would’ve thought that a few drinks the night before would have such an impact the next day, especially without a hangover. Btw, I was sure you were going to say you threw up somewhere in the office lol.

    Jason so glad you decided to share your experience. It takes real guts to be so transparent. I’m sure this will help those who may consider doing something similar.

    ~Lea

    1. I didn’t throw up, but this was bad enough. I’m glad I learned from this experience.

  4. WoW! I worked on a college campus for 10 years and you could always smell last night’s party on people the next day. A hard lesson learned a great advice.

  5. Heather Stokes says:

    I was working as a secretary at an elementary school. I had taken college courses in IT; although I had switched my major to accounting. A friend was working in the IT department for the school system, and she had mentioned there was an opening. I felt like I had taken enough IT classes that I could do the job. It was more money, and it would be something new each day (rather than dealing with sick kids and angry parents HAHAHA). The person over the IT department had been my high school computer teacher, so she knew I had knowledge in IT. I put in for the job, and about a week later, I was called and asked to come in to interview. I was excited. I went to the interview, and ran into my old teacher in the hall as she was about to go into the interview room. We chatted for a couple minutes, and she took me in with her. As I walked in, my heart dropped a little. I wasn’t just interviewing with her….there was 10 other people in the room all sitting around a table. I was sat at the head of the table and all eyes were on me. The first question I was asked was “How many wires are in a Cat-5 cable?” I knew the answer, it was easy….however, my brain was drawing a complete blank at that moment. I was then asked a few other IT questions, and again, complete blank. After about 10 questions, that I couldn’t answer, I was basically told thanks, but no thanks, and was asked to leave. I had never been so embarrassed in all my life. I walked to my car, and immediately knew the answer to every question they asked. Too little, too late. I haven’t spoken to that teacher since. It took me days to get over that embarrassment, and if I saw her today, I’d probably still go hide under a rock, some 10 years later.

    1. Wow, I’m sorry that happened.

    2. Wow, nothing like elevating a naturally high pressure interviews with multiple people. I’ve heard of having single interviews before and they if they like you, you come back for a group, but I’ve never heard anyone get blind sided like that. I’m basically in IT work of sorts. Who gives a shit how many wires are in a Cat-5 or Cat6 cable lol. no one needs to know details about an ethernet cable to use it, maybe know the difference between Cat-5 and Cat-5e or 6. Even if you connect your own cable ends you can look that shit up in 1 minute. Those types of questions is like asking how many transistors are in your i7 CPU or do you know machine code. No and they’re not relevant to doing your job.
      I watched someone take an IT class at a tech school and just the dumbest and often obsolete stuff they were teaching instead of real world application. They often teach half truth’s as if they’re always true or ask questions that can be taken several ways so there’s a couple different answers when they want one answer. It was pretty bad, I’m pretty sure the teacher didn’t know what he was doing. Classes like that just confuse the kids more and make them disinterested in the topic. Maybe the guy that asked that Cat-5 cable question taught this class. *Rant over. Sorry you had to go through that.

  6. Wow what a story Jason! I honestly easily could have made the same mistake. This is something I would not have thought of and might help me avoid having the same issue in the future. I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I think my biggest mistake is just being too quiet and giving short answers. Interviewers are really looking to listen to you and I’m pretty quiet around people I don’t know well. I’ve been able to adjust this as the years go on but it’s something I always have to be intentional about.

    1. I could see how being quiet in an interview isn’t a good thing. I’m glad you’ve been able to adjust it.

  7. wow, I didn’t see that coming at all! No more wine to calm my nerves before big interviews/meetings for me LOL

  8. Really great advice and i like that you learnt from your mistake, thanks for sharing this with us all.

  9. Good idea to never drink before an interview again. I spent many years as an interviewer and can tell you that this would have been one of the milder wrong-things I’ve seen.
    And I was a very kind interviewer!

    1. Milder? I would love to hear about some of the things that you saw.

  10. Good heavens, you must have been mortified! Many, many moons ago I went to a job interview and as it progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that I did not want the job. The boss was a vulgar, sexist jerk, so I answered his obnoxious questions with obnoxious answers. Well, he called me the next day and told me I was the best candidate he’d interviewed, everyone else was a shrinking violet compared to me. I declined the offer, as quickly and graciously as I could.

    1. Wow. That’s crazy. I guess he was one of those fight fire with fire type bosses.

  11. What an embarrassing experience! I am sure you have since learned your lesson.

    Alcohol does seep through your pores. I have smelt it on a number of commuters first thing in the morning. They probably have no idea. Do not get me started on the smell of cigarettes!

    1. They probably don’t know. I know I didn’t.

  12. Hi Jason. Commenting from Bloggers Helping Bloggers. That does sound like an embarrassing experience you went through, but in every mistake there’s a lesson to be learned! The interviews where I didn’t come out feeling 100% were the ones I could’ve prepared more for in terms of selling myself. Now I try to allow myself enough preparation before the interview so that when it comes down to the real deal, I don’t feel nervous about having that conversation.Thanks for sharing.

  13. It’s good that you shared this info, Jason, and it’s good that you learned from it.

    I don’t go on job interviews as I am a self-employed writer. But I did make a bog mistake withy a new (editor) client recently in that I criticized the writing that appeared in one of her publications. I foolishly forgot about the fact that editors approve all there writing that goes into a magazine, so in criticizing the published piece, she may have perceived that I was criticizing her editing abilities. So we have to be very careful as to what we say and the implications it may have on the recipient of those words.

  14. Oh my, I’ve never had an interview experience nearly as bad as yours! (I actually don’t have any personal stories about interviews. I’ve been pretty lucky in that even the “bad ones” were okay.) “Smell” really is a big deal. The conclusions many people jump to can be instant and along with them often comes the “certainty” that they’re right. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Good of you to share this. I think most of us don’t realize how the smell of alcohol lingers as it seeps through our pores.

Comments are closed.