What You Can Learn From My Worst Interview Everby Sima Dahl
Today I hosted a live teleseminar with career coach Charlotte Weeks on how to answer killer interview questions. At the end of the call I shared a personal anecdote about a killer question that stopped me dead in my tracks. At the time I had roughly five years of client-side marketing experience under my belt and was considering a switch to the agency side. I had a raging cold but I didn’t want to reschedule for fear I’d miss my big shot at what I thought was my dream job.
Mistake #1: If you’re sick you have to be smart and reschedule. Not only do people not like to be around your sneezing self but you will not be on your A game. I like to attribute Mistake #2 to the cold meds…
The interviewer was smarmy, distracted and generally did not send out a nice vibe. I remember sitting in his hip agency office with tissue poking out of all my pockets and thinking that I would not like working for this man. But geeze did I want this job! So after grilling me about my lack of agency experience he asks me the worst question I’ve ever been asked: Describe yourself in three words that begin with the letter C.
Softball. That’s what you’re thinking. Creative. Clever. Conscientious. Career-minded. Yeah sure now they’re easy to come up with but at the time my mind just went blank. I think I stammered out Creative… then maybe Courteous. Truth is the whole thing is rather fuzzy as I have desperately tried to block the event from my accessible memory banks. But what I do remember is my C #3. I looked right at this guy and said, “Well, it doesn’t really describe me but I’m going with Curmudgeon just because I like the word.”
Mistake #2: When an interviewer catches you off-guard, ask for a moment to collect yourself; admit that you’ve been thrown for a loop and you need a minute. Ask if they might move on to the next question and let you come back to it. If they have human blood running through their veins (not sure this guy did) they will likely give you some time to gather your wits!
Well Mr. Humorless was not impressed. I was mortified and long-story-short I was not invited back for another interview. I regretted my Curmudgeon answer for years until I came to realize a very important element of career management.
Mistake #3: It seldom comes down to one answer. It is a combination of skills, experience, cultural fit, interviewing savvy, presentation, recommendations and a host of other subjective measures that propel your career forward. Try not to beat yourself up for a single misstep, blunder or tactical error. Instead focus your energy on positive activities such as networking, rehearsing your pitch, improving your portfolio or role-playing with a peer.
But promise me one thing… if you ever meet a snarky agency fellow who asks you to describe yourself with three words that begin with the letter C, ask how he likes the word Curmudgeon.