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  • Nicky Webster-Hart

Our top ten interview nightmares.

If you’re just coming to the job market now you will just be starting your recruitment journey - there are plenty of open roles waiting to be filled which means interviews and probably lots of them and some may not go to plan. Here are some helpful tips on what not to ask and what to ask in an interview as well as sharing some of the nightmare interviews we and our candidates have encountered over the years.

What not to ask in an interview

When they ask if you have any questions for them, don’t reply with a response like, ‘you’ve answered all of my questions already”. You must be prepared for this possibility and go in prepared with at least 3 questions. Otherwise, you are signalling to the interviewer that you are particularly interested in them. If you aren’t and you want to bring the interview to a close then take this approach and complete the interview with a polite, ‘thank you for your time’.

Don’t ask questions that you could easily find answers to on their website or that you should really know such as “so what does the company do?” Or “what is the job for”, when they’ve already told you what will be involved with the role and asked if you’ve read the job spec.

This is not the time to start asking about remuneration and packages either - so don’t make it about money, nor should you start asking about whether you can take time off or work part time, when it is a full time position.

Lastly, don’t talk about really negative issues about the business. You can always ask if they have poor glass door reviews and what the business’ approach is in relation to them but try and keep it positive.

Your aim is to ask a question that might become a discussion point between you and the interviewer. And if not, enjoy having some control in the interview process and getting to know your prospective employer better.

Examples of typical questions to ask of an employer in an interview

  • What would your expectations be in the first three months?

  • What do you see to be the biggest challenge of this role?

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge for the business right now?

  • What do you like about working here?

  • What do you enjoy about your current role?

  • How would you describe working for XYZ plc?

  • What is the culture of the business like?

  • How would you describe the team culture?

  • Ask about office locations and times expected in the office as well as travel if this hasn’t already been covered

  • Can you describe a typical day or week in this role?

  • Are there opportunities for training and development because…

  • Where do you think the business is progressing and where do you think it will be in the next couple of years

  • How do you help new joiners when they start in the business?

  • Why are you recruiting for this opportunity (unless this is a new role)

  • How has COVID changed working life at XYZ plc? (use this to identify if flexible working might be temporary or whether they have always had a flexi approach to working)

  • What do you find most challenging about working for XYZ plc?

  • What have past employees done to impress you in the department? / How could I impress you in this role?

  • How do you evaluate success in this role?

  • What type of appraisal system do you have? Is it a monthly or annual process? This might give you the opportunity to cover your management style and how you encourage employees if you haven’t already covered this.

  • What are the next stages of the process likely to be?

If, however, all signs point to the fact that the interview didn’t pan out as well as you hoped. It’s a bummer, but it doesn’t mean you should write it off as a flop and wash your hands of it. We can be unnecessarily hard on ourselves, and there’s still a possibility that your interview went better than your harsh inner critic would have you believe - everyone else interviewed could have been worse!

Regardless, there are a few things we suggest you should do to make the most of the experience:

  • Take a minute to feel disappointed—that’s totally normal.

  • Send a thank you note or email. This is always a smart move, regardless of how you think the interview went.

  • Reflect on your interview and write down some notes for how you can be better prepared and what you want to do differently in any future interviews.

Remember, every single interview—whether it ran off the rails or went off without a hitch—is a chance to learn something. So try to take some learning and reflect from the experience and you’ll be ready to make the most of whatever opportunity comes your way next.

Whilst you are reflecting, here are our top interview nightmares to learn from and not replicate:

  1. “My Nan died so I have been busy so no time to read up on your company” followed shortly by “I have lots of interviews lined up I cannot be expected to research all of them…”.

  2. “Sorry I booked this interview last week and I cannot remember who you are…..”

  3. “I’m sorry who are you? What company again?....”

  4. Interviewing via a video link on the phone whilst doing the weekly shop (“you don’t mind do you…”)

  5. Sending a text to the interviewer 5 minutes after the interview was due to start saying “hi hon, can I call you later…”

  6. “You sent me literature to read? Really? Didn’t notice that at all…oh you wrote it in capitals and bold and put it on the same email as the one to book in this interview…oh I didn’t bother to read that bit…”

  7. Someone eating their breakfast all the way through the interview.

  8. A very long interviewing process involving some sort of testing which goes on for hours (this is after going through early vetting with an agency and in-house interview) which you smash only to find that the final interview is with a Director who decides you didn’t ‘click’....

  9. Sent a zoom link for an interview only to have the interviewer email 5 times to change it beforehand and then forget to turn up on the day.

  10. Thinking this was a blue-chip company and turning up suited and booted and soo smart people think you are due in Court and your interviewer is in a t-shirt and jeans…

If you are interested in opportunities, follow our LinkedIn page - we share positions that we are actively recruiting for on there and you can also find them on our open positions page here.

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