Best and Worst Interview Moments

Have you ever opened your mouth and then thought, “Did I just say that?  I’m an idiot.”  I hope those moments don’t occur too often for you.  With any luck, reading my humiliating responses will give you an indication of what not to say during an interview.  I will also share some ingenious responses that I’ve used in order to provide some positive examples and to make myself feel a little bit better after revealing the embarrassing stories.

Abysmal Moment #1 – “Oh, you’ve read that book?”

Having had ten or so interviews in my life, I was prepared for any question.  Or so I thought.  One of the interviewers asked me what my favourite movie was and I replied, “Harry Potter,” and gave her an explanation of how the movie’s themes would relate to my work.  Right after, she asked me, “What is your favourite book?”  Well, I couldn’t use Harry Potter again.  So I thought, “Uhh… I should pick something smart-sounding!  A book from my IB syllabus would work!  The House of Bernarda Alba?  No… Waiting for Godot?  Gosh, no.”  And then it comes to me!  “The Glass Menagerie.”  Right after I said that, I realized that I don’t remember anything about it.  Excited by the possibility of bluffing my way through this, I ask the interviewer, “Have you seen the play?”  To my horror, she responds, “Yes, it was very interesting.”  I made some stuff up about The Glass Menagerie anyway.  After the interview I looked up the play on Sparknotes to realize that my response actually had merit.  Nonetheless, this question totally destroyed my confidence.

Abysmal Moment #2 – “Oui, je peux parler en francais.”

One of the requirements for a federal job is being bilingual.  I took French in high school.  Also, at that instance I have lived in Montreal for a year and I practiced French on a regular basis… not.  Anyway, on the application I’ve indicated that I was bilingual.  During the interview, I glide through the first few questions.  Then, the interviewer asks, “Can we continue the remainder of the interview in French?”  Uhh… “Oui.”  Then the interviewer goes, “Blah blah blah.”  En francais.  I catch the word, “motiver.”  I realize she must have asked me what has motivated me to apply for this job.  While I usually give responses that are at least five sentences long, I was only able to compile one sentence in French.  The interview ended right there.  I was pretty disappointed with myself after that.  As a result, I took French at McGill my second year after which I was able to come up with three sentences per French question during interviews.  I will be taking French again this year with the goal of reaching my English equivalent of five sentences.

Ingenious Moment #1 – “I have never broken the law.”

One of my interviews contained very original questions.  There were only four of them but the interview lasted an hour.  One of the questions was, “Tell us about a time when you had to break a law for a good reason.”  Immediately, I said, “Well, that one time I jay-walked…”  Just kidding.  I needed a moment to think.  Then, I asked for clarification, “Does it have to be the law?  Can I describe a time when I broke a rule for a good reason?”  Fortunately, the interviewers said yes.  I proceeded to analyze the time when I was a leader at day camp and broke the “be quiet” rule on the bus to sing with the kids.  I got the job in the end.

Ingenious Moment #2 – “I go to McGill.”

One of my interviews was particularly easy.  The first question was, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”  I commence by saying, “I study blah blah blah at McGill University.”  Then, the interviewer says, “Oh, students from McGill are very hard working.  So, which project would you like to work on?  You can do blah blah or blah.”  That’s it?  Yes.

From this blog, I hope you take away the following points: talk about things you actually know about, do not over exaggerate your abilities, ask clarifying questions, and tell them you go to McGill University.


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