3 Sure Fire Ways to Fail an Interview

By Kim Monaghan

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When you think of the term “fail,” no doubt you’re conjuring up images of an applicant failing to coherently respond to the interview questions. Or perhaps your mind runs to more illustrative possibilities—an applicant spilling hot coffee on the interviewer or showing up in their pajamas. It doesn’t require a grand performance to fail an interview. In fact, many hiring authorities routinely share their dismay about how highly qualified professionals (including internal applicants) fail to impress in three common ways.

Kim Monaghan


The First Way To Fail An Interview

The first, and perhaps the most common of the three, is failing to offer concrete examples of success. Applicants may claim a skill, but often fail to back it up with relevant achievements. For example, take the question “Have you ever had to manage any difficult accounts?” By responding with a simple “yes,” or telling a story about a difficult customer, the candidate fails to educate the employer on the successful management of the “difficult” account. By not doing so, the applicant completely misses the goal of behavioral interviewing—the trend of interviewing which prompts applicants to give a C.A.R. (Challenge, Action, Result) response. Regardless of the behavioral response acronym, this answering technique is all about walking the interviewer through the process of how a challenge has been met with successful results and how it will be managed in the future.

The Second Way To Fail An Interview

Secondly, an applicant may fail to succinctly identify their strengths and skills and then fail to demonstrate how these, coupled with their accomplishments, transfer productively into the new position. By simply claiming that you’re a dedicated worker, you fail to educate the employer as to how this “skill” would contribute to on-the-job success. Additionally, the statement is subjective, in other words your opinion. You need to present the skill in terms of facts. So the challenge lies in objectively backing up that skill claim then outlining how you would implement that skill again in the future, in a way that proves that hiring you is a good investment. By finding opportunities throughout the interview to illustrate how your skills and background seamlessly transfer into this new role, you demonstrate a solid understanding of the organizational and position particulars; and more importantly that you’re ready to step into the challenge.

The Third Way To Fail An Interview

Third, lack of energy is a sure fire way to fail the interview. Showing energy during an interview doesn’t mean infusing a happy jig, flamboyant gestures or booming vocals into the dialogue. What it does mean is showing interest and enthusiasm. I’m always amazed at how often an incredibly talented candidate fails to show that they care. They let ego or nerves get in their way and unfortunately, it translates into boredom, arrogance or disinterest. Sure, everyone’s nervous, but that doesn’t mean you should temper down any excitement about this new opening. Even if you’ve discerned mid-way through the interview that the position is not right for you, be sure to leave the interviewer with a positive impression. Body language—including good eye contact, a smile and leaning forward from time to time—all demonstrates enthusiasm. Another way is to ask for the job. If you can do it, and you want it, no doubt they will want you too!


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