What A Stack of Failed Job Interviews Has Taught Me In the Last 4 Years

by Rich DeMatteo on January 23, 2014 · 0 comments

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ZachGrothZach Groth is a senior at Ball State University. On the post-graduation job search himself, Zach has job experience in corporate, government, nonprofit and student-run organizations. You can tweet him any questions, concerns or blog ideas on Twitter at @zgroth.



I have worked my ass off in college. I have been very blessed and will graduate in four years with six professional internships and freelance work. My internships have been competitive, and the interview process has been fierce. I have been offered my fair share of internship opportunities, but I also have a stack of rejection letters that have allowed me to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others.

1. Realize that no one cares about who you were back in the day

If you’ve never heard the song “Eighteen Cool” by Hoodie Allen then go listen to it. If you assume that song is about you then take it to heart. The second you walk across that stage in your high school gymnasium every accomplishment that you have completed is irrelevant to employers. If you think that it is important enough to talk about in a job interview then link it to another accomplishment.

“Because of this award I received junior year of high school I had the courage (or another adverb to describe what you had) to do A, B and C.”

If this technique works for you… great. It is not for everyone. If you have to dig for a high school (or even freshman year) accomplishment then just stick to college. If anything, make an employer interested enough to ask you how you started accomplishment A, B, and C. The more recent the accomplishments are those that show employers where your skills are when you are interviewing.

2. Watch the news

If you are looking to be a professional in the next calendar year then you should watch the news. I am an account director at a student-run, accredited creative communication agency. There I conducted interviews for the account coordinator position. Freshman after freshman walked into the interview room and were not up-to-date on their current events, and that is kind of ok. A senior graduating with me walked into the interview room and didn’t know what was happening in the surrounding communities, let alone D.C.!

Watching the news will make you appear so much more intelligent in a conversation with a future employer. My 22-year-old opinion is that you can at least have the news playing in the background. You never know when someone will talk to you about Russian politics or something happening right down the street.

3. Watch what you say

This one is probably my favorite tip to tell people who are going into an interview. It’s also the most simple: watch what you say! Allow me to illustrate this concept. There are many terms that are used in everyday speak. One of these words is retarded. Now, I hate that word. I don’t say that word in my everyday conversations, but some people do. If you were to use that word to someone who has a child, sibling, friend or anyone with special needs I guarantee that is the only part of your interview that they will remember.

That is an extreme example, but a good one. I honestly would not even say “poor” in an interview. There are terms that make you sound smarter and not sound like a jackass. Here’s a few words to use instead of controversial terms:

Retarded – Special needs (If you are using that word in a derogatory just excuse yourself from the interview)

Poor – Middle class or lower socioeconomic background

Spoiled – Privileged  or gifted

4. Show up on time

You should show up on time for interviews, dinner, class, appointments, dates, personal time… you get the picture. Be on time, or I will assume you are a goober.

5. When an interviewer asks you to tell them about a time you learned a lesson do not talk about alcohol, drugs or sex

You would be surprised at home many applicants think this is appropriate. I believe that it is alright to say something like “I had a beer (single) with my dad on my 21st birthday and that was memorable.” I get that. If you’re 20 though…? No. If you blacked out and drunkenly called your dad on you 21st birthday… no. Keep that to yourself.

6. Have a unique question ready

When you are asked if you have any questions at the end of an interview take this time to put some personality in your interview. I had a friend ask an employer “If you were a Disney princess which one would you be?” Granted, that question isn’t for all employers, but you can use your better judgment from the interviewers emotions in the interview.

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