Interviews: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward (and Not in Your Mouth)

Reflecting upon my recent interviews, I realized, I am either getting better at this, or interviews are getting easier. To be honest, I think they are getting easier. The last few I’ve had I just had to smile and listen. I barely even spoke, which might be why they went so well. I’m sure I am also getting better at them, but that isn’t saying much. I am so epically terrible at interviews, I had nowhere to go but up. Let’s take a brief tour through my Interview Hall of Shame as I share some of the tips I’ve learned over the years.

One of my very first interviews ever was my admissions interview with a Duke alum:

“So, you have been working at the FDA. Are you interested in science?”

“No, not really.” I apparently felt no need to elaborate.

Tip #1: Interview questions are very rarely meant as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.

“…so why do you work there?”

“You know, a job is a job.” Gotta get them dolla dolla bills, ya feel me?

Tip #2: You don’t have to lie, but you don’t have to be brutally honest either. You win no points for being frank and indifferent.

Though she had probably already written me off, the interview went on.

“I see you write for the school paper. What are some articles you have written?”

“Well, I just wrote this one about ideas for Valentine’s gifts as an alternative to flowers and chocolates. Like, if your girlfriend really likes cheese, you could get her a block of cheese. And other stuff… I don’t remember.”


“Yeah, it was funnier in the article. You had to be there.”

I could tell, she was not impressed.

Tip #3: Don’t talk about cheese in an interview. No matter what your favorite movies tell you, cheese is not a good ice breaker.

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Years later I had a similarly unpleasant interview for an HR analyst job. I think. I am not sure now what it was for, nor was I ever, which was a big part of why the interview failed. I got on the phone and really just had no idea what this lady was talking about. I very haphazardly bs-ed my way through her questions and most of my answers sounded a lot like this:

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I wasn’t even prepared for the most obvious question of all: “What interested you about this job?” Woah, didn’t see that one coming! I don’t remember what lie I eventually came up with as my answer, but nothing is convincing after a long pause and an “uhhhhhhh.”

Tip #4: Always be prepared to answer obvious said question. Also, know what job you are being interviewed for.

Around that time, to pay the bills while I was job hunting, I got a part-time job at Pottery Barn Kids. Luckily, I had learned my lesson and knew to anticipate that sneaky “Why do you want this job?” question. When asked, I answered, “It’s close to my house….yeah, that’s pretty much it.” Nailed it!

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I had learned from Tip #3, but had already forgotten Tip #1: nobody needs to know what you really think. I still got the job, but my manager later told me that she didn’t want to hire me. Sounds about right.

Shortly after that, I finally got my head on straight and managed to make it through an interview without making a total ass of myself. Until the last question.

“What are you passionate about?”

Um, I’m sorry, what? I’m not one of those people who is ‘passionate’ about things. I’m passionate about not leaving the toilet paper roll empty. I’m passionate about not wearing leggings as pants and other inappropriate wardrobe choices. I’m passionate about dogs and people respecting my personal space. But if you expect me to come up with a real answer here where I talk about my ambitions or hobbies…

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I got nothin. Now at this point, a lot of time has passed. A lot more than is necessary to answer a very simple question about my interests. She was tossing me a softball here. This was not supposed to be the ‘stump her’ question. The interviewer had a look on her face like, “Did I say something wrong? Did I break her?” because I’m looking at her like she has just uncovered my darkest secret.

So it’s time to spring into action. I start thinking of an answer. Can I say TV? I love my TV shows? No that is extremely pathetic and lame. Should I say world peace? No, God, this isn’t Miss America. What does she want to hear, volunteering? Training for marathons? Finally I just blurted something out to put us all out of our misery.

Tip #5: It is great to think about your answer, but at a certain point, you need to just say something, anything. Because the longer you spend thinking, the better the end result should be, and after a certain period of extended silence, you hit a point of diminishing returns. You just aren’t going to be able to live up to the expectations you’ve created, so it’s best to just cut your losses and give the best answer you have at the time. And as long as the answer isn’t “nah” or “cheese,” you should be okay.

What are some of your interview lessons learned, worst interview questions and answers, or other interview horror stories? Please do share, and make me feel like less of an idiot:)

Announcing the Idiot of the Week Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported this week’s Idiot of the Week Blog Hop! It is reassuring to know I am not the only one who thinks other people are idiots. I know there are more of you out there, and I hope to see you join the IOTW Blog Hop next week.

Now, a special congratulations to (drum roll)….Arden, at Musings of a Dancing Wino, for her winning post about her idiot coworker. Her prize is the satisfaction of knowing that out of all the idiots this week, her idiot was the most idiotic, based on the number of Likes her post received. I highly recommend checking it out here – I am positive you can relate to some or all of what she says if you have ever felt like this:

And a very honorable mention goes to Jill at Universal Musings for her post on idiots who misuse words. This is also extremely relatable, so go read her post now so you can either commiserate or make sure you aren’t one of these idiots. This topic is near and dear to my heart and I can’t believe I haven’t written about it yet. In high school I had a teacher who liked to say ‘for all intensive purposes’ instead of ‘for all intents and purposes’ and it drove me crazy. In our lessons on Charlemagne, he liked to refer to him as Charmaine. Um, this is what I think of when I hear the name ‘Charlemagne’:

(Actually, to be honest, this is what I think of when I hear the name ‘Charlemagne’:




because I’m like, Uh, who the f is that?)

And this is what I think of when I hear the name ‘Charmaine’:

(my apologies if your name is Charmaine and you are not a stripper, I do not wish to insult)

Even for the Charmaines who aren’t strippers, there is still a big difference between them and Charlemagne. The least of which being the number of syllables in their name. Just sound it out. It’s not that hard. I love when people see my last name (4 syllables, 11 letters), panic, and just blurt something out that has half the syllables and but new letters and sounds added. Yeah, that’s it. You had a one in a million shot that the word you made up happens to be my name and you got it. Well done.

But I digress.

Thanks again for being a part of the first Idiot of the Week Blog Hop and I hope to see you back next week!

Idiot of the Week Blog Hop – Last Day to Link Up!!

It seems like you can’t swing a purse these days without knocking over four idiots. So let’s all get together and laugh at them in the Idiot of the Week Blog Hop! You’ll have all week to decide on the biggest idiot in your life, write a hilarious tribute to him or her, and share it through the link-up between Thursday and Sunday. On Monday, I will announce the winner based on the post with the highest number of ‘Likes’.

Here are some ground rules:

1. Grab the badge below and include it in your post, or just link back to this post.

2. Share the link to your specific Idiot of the Week post (not your blog as a whole) through the link-up found at the bottom of my latest Idiot of the Week post.

3. Be sure to read/comment/like the other posts in the link up. Don’t be stingy with the ‘Likes’ just to win!

4. Remember that this is the internet so be judicious in your idiot-bashing.

Have fun!

Idiot of the Week: Reason #341 Not to Go out in Public

People: one of the many reasons I don’t like going out in public. More specifically, people whose voices carry their moronic conversations over to my ears and make me want to perform a chopstick lobotomy. If I’m not part of your conversation, but can still hear every word of it, you are too loud. If I am responding to your rhetorical questions a table away, you are too loud. As fun as it is to make sarcastic commentary that you can’t hear because I know what an “inside voice” is, I would still prefer that you have your conversation and I have mine. I didn’t come out to a restaurant to be inundated with stupid from every table around me.

This weekend I was sitting a table away from a particularly loud-mouthed 20-something. She had just graduated college, so naturally she knew everything about everything. She was in the process of explaining the ways of the world to her mother and younger brother when she came upon the subject of the metro. The metro really isn’t that bad, she explained, but you do have to deal with the occasional creep who tries to hit on you, or worse, cop a feel on a crowded train. As an expert on the topic, she took a moment to explain to her mother and brother just how annoying it is to be hit on by strangers, because nobody really understands it quite as well as she does. “It’s not just that you are getting hit on,” she explained further, “it’s that it is always by these ‘gross’ people, like working class, blue-collar people, like people who are in a lower social class — I know that sounds bad,” she acknowledged, “but you know what I mean,” she defended.

You know what a good thing to do is when something sounds bad out loud? Don’t say it! Especially when your voice is a shout and 20 people are going to hear you. Or, even better, take a second to think about why it sounds bad (because there is probably a very good reason!) and then maybe think about what you really mean and rephrase your elitist, ignorant comment before it comes tumbling out of the loudspeaker that is your mouth.

Being in the ‘working class’ does not make you gross, nor does it make you a womanizer. Don’t stereotype every working class guy into your image of the construction worker who cat calls women as they pass. Working class men aren’t inmates in a men’s prison, starved of regular exposure to the female population. They have wives and girlfriends just like everyone else. They are not automatically interested in you because they perform manual labor. Grabbing a girl’s ass on the metro makes you gross. Leering down someone’s blouse makes you a creep. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing coveralls or an $800 suit.

Would she prefer that only CEOs and college professors ogle and grope her on the metro? Yes, that is so flattering and romantic! *Swoon* Who gives a shit what he does for a living – a creep is a creep! Here is an idea for you – repeat what you just said next time you are on the metro – you might get hit, but I promise you won’t get hit on. Problem solved!

Glad I got that off my chest! Now it’s your turn! Vent about the biggest idiot you encountered this week in a post, then share the link in the link-up below anytime between now and Sunday. Don’t forget to include this badge in the post! (Get the badge code on the Idiot of the Week tab). Check back at the end of the day on Monday to see who had the most likes!

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