Interview Tips: When Good Interviews Go Bad

We know how daunting interviews can be, and we want you to succeed. Knowing your way around an interview is crucial so that you can come across as relaxed and awesome as you can be! Read our story on how good interviews go bad.



Arriving home at 11.30 pm after her shift, Sarah flopped onto the couch, kicked off her shoes, and started on the cup of strong coffee she’d been hanging out for. Flicking on the TV, she was soon lost in the Netflix series her mates at work had all been raving about.

Before she knew it, she’d done 3 episodes back to back and sleep was calling.

As she snuggled into bed, she made a mental note to get up early to have a look online at the hospital she was interviewing with in the morning.

With a start, registering it was already 8 am, Sarah realized she hadn’t set her alarm. Fumbling out of bed, she raced into the shower, wondering if she had time to wash her hair. With her interview at 10 am she figured she’d be ok to leave it one more day. It would have to do. And her top really could do with an iron, but it was probably fine as it was, and anyway, she was running out of time to do that now.

Toast in one hand, coffee in the other, she opened up her laptop to have a look at the company website so she had a handle on the job she was going for. Damn! No internet. Of all days! Never mind, she could come back to that later.

And where was her CV? She knew she'd left it on the table. Hadn't she? Where on earth was it?? There it was, the folder sticking out from behind the couch where it must have fallen. What else did she need? She was sure that's all they'd said to bring along with her.

Locking the door and doing her best to run in her high heels to the car, Sarah threw her jacket on the passenger seat and inhaled deeply as she grabbed the seat belt and started the engine. She knew where she was heading, and as long as there were no delays with the traffic, she figured she’d be fine.

Turning out of her street, Sarah glanced down at the petrol gauge. Oh no! Almost empty! She’d meant to fill it up last night but with the last minute emergency at work, it had completely slipped her mind. Hopefully, it would get her there and she could fill up on the way home. As long as all the rubber-neckers looking at the breakdown on the shoulder kept moving! This trip normally only took her 20 minutes. Today it seemed like it was going to be double that. Perhaps an earlier crash?

Pulling off the motorway and heading in the direction of the hospital for her interview, Sarah hoped she’d make it. At least this gave her some last-minute time to focus on what she needed to know. But the information she had in her head about the company had just evaporated. Who was she seeing? What area of the hospital was the job in? It must just be pre-interview nerves she told herself. How hard could it be? This was still a nursing role. Still in aged care, which she knew inside out. Confident she could wing it, Sarah swung into a carpark, grabbing her jacket and CV, and tucking her top into her skirt, smoothing down her mind-of-its-own hair, she summoned up a confident smile and pulled open the reception door.

Glancing at the clock in the entrance, she realized she had only made it with 1 minute to spare. She gave her name and slumped into a very plush chair, grateful for a respite from the morning’s dramas.

Hearing voices, Sarah glanced up to see two people approaching. Professional and smiling, she was warmly greeted as they introduced themselves. Sarah jumped up from her chair, dropping her folder as she did so, and stretched out her hand which was now shaking and sweating in a not-very- attractive manner. Why couldn’t she feel more together?!

The interviewers were very pleasant and tried to put her at ease, but Sarah struggled to answer some of their questions. Totally blank, she couldn’t identify her strengths, or recall a time when she had had to deal with a conflict situation in the workplace, forgot the process for medication errors, and couldn’t remember the new initiatives on their website about their secure dementia unit.

She felt a real connection to the interviewers though- they were both so friendly, and obviously passionate about their company and their staff and residents. There clearly was a real focus on quality care here. What a great place to work!

She regaled them with amusing stories about her awful boss and the great team she worked with, but made it clear they shouldn’t contact him for a reference! Not the way she left! They laughed with her about that.

Handshakes and pleasantries over, Sarah made her way back to her car, quietly confident she’d nailed it.

So when three days later, Sarah saw an email in her inbox, she held her breath. This was it! When was the second interview?

Her face crumpled in confusion as she scanned the email, which simply notified her that her application had not been successful, and thanking her for her time. Mystified, she retraced the process.

As she replayed the previous few weeks from her application through to the interview, she mulled over what could have gone wrong. What might she have done to discount herself? Surely they liked her? She was friendly and outgoing- sure, she’d bluffed some of the answers, and assured them she knew about the company despite not checking them out online- but seriously, how different could they be to all the others? She was a good team player, she enjoyed her work (mostly), and the stories she recounted about her hideous previous manager were pretty funny- and all true!

Disappointed with the outcome, Sarah began to google interview techniques. She really didn’t need to though, she’d aced interviews before! And she was an experienced Nurse. She knew how hard they were to come by!

But as she trawled through the pages, a little light went on. Hmmm, perhaps she should have left out the arguments with the manager and her stories about how he used to treat people.

And I guess it did make sense to show the interviewers she understood their business and appreciated their values and what they were trying to achieve.

And she hadn’t reeeally left enough time to get there, so when the traffic was appalling, it did cost her time. And nerves.

Perhaps if she’d got out her outfit the night before and checked, she would have realized then that it needed ironing. But they knew she’d be in uniform in the job though, so did it matter??

If only her shift last night hadn’t been so frantic at the last minute, she would have been able to relax and get to bed sooner. And maybe had time to wash her hair in the morning.

Looking at the suggested formatting for CV’s online, she realized with a thud that there were numerous ways to make it look great. Maybe she should have left out all the boxes and off-set margins. And should she have started her work experience at the beginning, or with the most recent job? It seemed all the suggestions indicated most recent should be first. How odd!

Sarah poured herself a cold drink and collapsed onto the couch, reflecting on the whole experience.

Perhaps next time she’d get it right. She knew she had what they needed- it was just a matter of making that clear.

Next time she’d be organized. She’d do the research on the company and come up with some really good questions.

She’d highlight her strengths and experience, and even gave examples of how she’d managed some of those tricky situations.

And she wouldn’t mention her terrible boss specifically, but instead, she’s been able to show how she had controlled things and got a positive result out of it- how she’d mentored her team and shown them by example what to do….

Next time she’d definitely make sure she was ready the night before-and even check she had enough gas! She’d go to bed early, leave plenty of time to get to the interview, stay calm and confident. She knew they could see her potential. But perhaps it was hard for them to see past the slightly chaotic appearance, lack of preparation and getting flustered at some of the questions she hadn’t thought about.

At least the one good thing was, Sarah knew there were plenty of jobs out there for someone with her skillset. She just had to improve on this one. She’d never screw it up like this again!

With a sigh, she placed her glass on the bench as she headed off to bed. Tomorrow was another day. Another job application. And this time, she’d do better!


(Image Credit: Christina, Unsplash)