Prepare for the unexpected in a job interview

Q: I’m going for an important job interview next week and I really want to be ready for the unexpected. I know that’s a contradiction in terms. But are they any possibilities I should consider. My aim is to leave it all out on the pitch, as the saying goes, so any tips, or tales from the field of battle, you can share would be most appreciated. (VF, email).

A: Good question. When working with clients, I try to prepare them for what’s likely to happen yet leave them in such a way that they can adapt to what actually transpires on the day. You can’t be sure how things will go in a job interview. Even the interview panel themselves can’t be certain how it will all roll. Here are some scenarios to think about:

  1. Meeting somebody you know going in or coming out the door of the hotel or company HQ. By this I mean another candidate; perhaps one you would see as a strong contender. Or maybe they work in your own organisation. Or maybe they are your boss – a conspiracy of silence might be the outcome in that case. The best example I have of this is of a candidate who saw another accomplished candidate park up in the car park before them. They allowed it to completely throw them and did poorly in the interview as a result. I have told this story here before. It turns out neither of them got the job. So, think about that: they got thrown off by a candidate who wasn’t actually the best candidate on the day either. Lesson: No matter who you meet, you need to stay focused on the job at hand. Be bullet proof.
  2. The interview panel fail to ask you questions after you make your presentation at the start, if a presentation is on the agenda. Most people expect to be cross examined after giving a presentation, but it doesn’t always happen. If you are not asked follow-up questions, take it that it’s the same for everybody else and drive on. Again, be bullet proof.
  3. The interview starts late. I know people who have been told in the waiting room that their interview is being delayed by an hour and a half. If this happens to you, stay calm and accepting. You might have no idea what caused this to happen e.g., a candidate could have been in a car crash. Or a member of the panel may be stuck out the road changing a wheel. Take it on the chin and accept the new time and turn up as fresh and as enthusiastic as you had planned to be earlier.
  4. The job interview doesn’t take place. Strange, but can happen. It happened to me, in fact. The key panellist for the second interview was called away at the last moment meaning that the three final candidates were left without an interview. The assembled panel, all of whom had had their say in the robust first interview, were apologetic and sheepish. What did I do? I said I understood, I shook their hands (COVID-19 wasn’t even a glint in the eye back then), and I reiterated that I wanted the job. I have no idea what the other two candidates did. I got the job – smiley face emoji warranted, I reckon.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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