My Worst Interview - Story Time

It's currently a pretty miserable looking Tuesday morning and I have just been reading Steph's blog, thinking about how good a face mask makes me feel and how they pick me up even when I'm feeling pretty damn rotten. It led me to remembering an awful experience I had earlier this year when I was trying to find another job before quitting my old one. I didn't then have the confidence to go freelance so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a job advertisement for a studio worker for a well known graphic design company not too far from where I live and my delight when I got asked to go in for an interview.

I've always prepared super well for interviews and in the days leading up, I chat away to myself asking those typical interview questions and this occasion was no different. I was so nervous but at the same time quite excited about seeing this place and meeting some new people, gaining some interview experience and potentially a new job. I left with plenty of time to spare looking like the dog's bollocks and found the company located out in the sticks in an old converted barn with a big gravel driveway. How picturesque and idyllic I begin to think.

I enter the main doors to reception and was greeted by a lovely man who guided me through to a tiny waiting area where I was left to it. A lady passed by soon after arriving and was so friendly and welcoming, asking if I would like a drink or anything and making sure I was waiting in the right place for the right person, assuring me they'd be along in no time. Eventually another man appeared, closely followed by another young scrawny looking man who turned out to be a woman...my mistake. They stood staring at me confused and gone out, refusing to make the first move, so I hopped up and introduced myself politely, offering a hand shake (as you would) and in turn asked if they were the people I would be interviewing with. Still silence. After what felt like a million years, the bloke said 'we were expecting a man to interview today, not you.'

Here I am, stood there enthusiastic about their business which I barely know and I'm making the effort to come and see them for an interview (because interviews work both bloody ways) and that's the first thing they say to me? Right. I tried to laugh it off explaining that having a unisex name, this is easily done and anyone else would have laughed back and apologised for their assumption but not these people. After a few 'umms' and 'erms' they led me up some twisty stairs to a room that was above the main office. No walls or privacy, people downstairs could hear you talking as it was designed like a maisonette; not the ideal place for a formal interview. We sit down, both of them opposite me and they proceed to get things out onto the table and then up pops the first question. Where do you currently work? After my in-depth answer they continue to look at me so confused and rigid which is off putting enough but also led me to believing my way of answering questions was either boring or that my answer was nothing more than demented nonsense. Then they explain to me that they were under the impression I worked for a windows and doors factory. Sorry, what? Then I get asked 'You are Ellis Walker aren't you? And you've got the right interview day haven't you?'

This was where I started to feel incredibly nervous and wanted the ground to swallow me up. Flight mode kicked in and I wasn't the same for the rest of the time I was there. I calmly and still politely explained to them they had the wrong person's CV in front of them and they immediately looked very embarrassed and that was the first apology I got out of them. As they began trying to get my CV up on the computer, I tried my best to relax once again so during this time I was trying to make a conversation with the woman who still hadn't really spoken to me. I complemented the location and asked how long she had been working there, you know general small talk to try and diffuse the tension a little. She was having none of it. I should have stayed quiet, I was even more nervous now because I was starting to feel like they didn't want me there. After a good 10 minutes of the man searching for my CV, he announces that he doesn't have me on file and asks once again if I'm sure that I applied for their position. Through pure nerves I try and joke back that I wouldn't have known where and when to find them if I hadn't applied and attempted to save the day by whipping out a copy of my CV which I had in my bag. Top tip kids, take a copy with you!

I was starting to think to myself silently that I didn't want to work for a place that was this disorganised and to my horror, the man asks me to go through my entire CV with them. The whole thing? Blimey. So I did and they looked just as uninterested as ever. Despite all of this, I continued to answer questions but the entire time I was wishing I could just go home and hide. Out of no where, the man starts to tell me a bit about the role and why it would be better suited to a man, asking whether I thought I would be capable of lifting big graphic design displays and such. Standing at 5ft1 I'm not very big nor do I have an immense amount of strength but I was also used to heaving 15kg bags of dog food every day so I thought I could at least build up some more muscle, showing them initiative and the enthusiastic attitude towards developing further. This entire time I wanted nothing more than to run, anywhere but here. My heart was pumping so hard I thought I would either be sick or just collapse and flop out of my seat. My hands were shaking, vision was starting to blur and as much as I tried, I was loosing control and an anxiety attack was starting.

I was asked to give an example of when I had worked on 'commercial value' and as I was at the time working in pet care research, I found this ridiculously hard to answer but still, I felt that what I gave them was a strong, interesting and well explained example all about a project I was currently doing within my role. I don't remember exactly how they asked but they began to challenge my answer and I gave them what I felt was a valuable reasoning each and every time but they still weren't satisfied. They were eye rollers and sighing before looking at each other after every answer. And did I mention the scrawny woman who barely spoke kept smirking behind her hand? I'd had enough and with the last bit of dignity I felt I had left, I regained control by removing myself from my seat and walking out. Of course, they asked what I was doing so I calmly explained that they had made me feel nothing but awkward and unwelcome since I arrived and that I wasn't prepared to stay any longer. They tried to convince me to stay and 'have a minute' but I'd already made my mind up; even if they offered me a job at the end of all of this and were simply testing my patience, I didn't want to work for a brand this unprofessional.

I let myself out, walked back to my car and left in silence, but upon arriving at the end of their driveway, away from view I burst into uncontrollable tears and the relief I felt was unreal. I pulled into a nearby car park which was a place I used to come walking with my Dad when I was younger. We used to call it Tubby Hill because it looks just like the place in the Teletubbies, a children's TV show made famous in the 90's and the nostalgia mixed with the fear of what I had just experienced caused one of the worst panic attacks I've ever had. I sat sobbing in my car for a good half an hour before deciding it was safe enough to travel home. When I pulled onto my own drive, I rang a friend who was waiting in anticipation for me to share my day with her and it wasn't until after I had filled her in and she said 'You walked out? Do you even realise how bad-ass that is? You're flippin' amazing!' did I understand that what I did was the right thing to do. I had travelled all the way home feeling like a failure and that I just wasn't good enough, but by walking out I had regained control over a situation which was making me extremely uncomfortable, way past the usual discomfort a typical interview can sometimes make you feel.

I opened up my front door and there on the mat was a little parcel from The Body Shop. I had forgotten all about them asking me to take part in one of their campaigns and they had very kindly sent me a jar of face mask to use. Without hesitation, I went upstairs and had a shower, washing the day and the smudged mascara away before popping on some face mask and climbing into bed with some fresh pyjamas to let it do its thing. As I lay there, I instantly felt calmer but was still mulling over what had happened that afternoon, occasionally feeling mortified but more so proud that I had chosen to leave a situation that wasn't bringing out the best in me. It took guts to do and I hadn't given myself any credit for that having spent so much time focussing in on just needing to get myself out of there.

Interviews are scary, I'm sure most of you will be able to relate and I honestly cannot remember an interview that hasn't frightened me or that I've enjoyed, but this was something else. It's also easy to forget that interviews work both ways; you need to be working out whether or not the places you go to can give you what you want and need as well as them getting to know you. Obviously I understand that when times are hard you might not be able to be too choosy, but if a workplace ever makes you feel how I did then you have no obligation to stay and endure their lack of consideration for you. Keep applying, stay positive and remember to look after yourself too - this is so important.

Oh - and you bet your bottom dollar I sent an email to the lady who invited me for the interview explaining that the two who had interviewed me were beyond rude and unwelcoming as well as exceedingly unprofessional. I wasn't going to let that behaviour slide.

Have you ever had a nightmare interview experience?

Thanks for reading!



4 comments

  1. I'm so sorry this happened to you, what a horrible experience - your friend is totally right though, such an awesome, bad-ass move walking out - good for you. I've had a few bad interviews and each time just told myself that it means it wasn't right for me and therefore something better was waiting - which for you it obviously was ����
    Hels xx
    www.thehelsproject.com

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  2. That sounds beyond awful. I'm full on fuming for you - I can't BELIEVE the first thing they commented on was your gender. It sounds like such an awful place to work, and kudos to you for having the guts to walk out and call them out on their awful behaviour!

    Steph - www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

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  3. Holy shit when you said it was the worst interview I actually didn't expect something this bad! That is just terrible what you had to go through and GO GIRL FOR WALKING OUT!

    I would have done the same and I bloody well hope you took your CV with you too! :P

    One of my worst reviews was for a store in Selfridges. They were late coming to interview me and instead of doing my interview backstage in private they insisted on sitting me in the middle of a busy Starbucks. I felt anxious and everyone appeared to be watching my interview. After the first couple of questions I thought, "Why the fuck would I want to work for this company when they can't even be bothered to conduct a private interview?" I just said in the end, "Actually I don't mind where I currently work as much as I thought I did..."

    Let's just say they sent me a letter saying I didn't make the cut! :P

    I really enjoyed reading this post! :D

    https://theremightbecoffee.wordpress.com/

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  4. I just found your blog and I love it!
    This post kept me on the edge of my seat- I can't believe how rude and unprofessional they were!
    Good on you for leaving!

    ReplyDelete

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