3 Lessons from a Terrible Job Interview

After graduating from law school and taking the bar, I was interviewing for jobs… like it was my job. 

Image by Jonathan Mueller on Flickr CC BY 2.0.

Some interviews went well. 

And then, of course, some didn’t. 

Some were obviously my fault: insufficient prep, fatigue, applying for jobs I knew I wasn’t a good fit for, blanking on softball questions like “what classes are you taking this semester?” 

Others, however, were not my fault: an interviewer singing a derogatory song about my faith, another complaining about women applicants getting pregnant after hiring, and others with misleading or incorrect job postings. 

But there is one that stands out as the absolute worst. 

The details are not important. All you need to know is that it was a prestigious interview and despite my best efforts, 10 minutes in the employer decided I was not the right person for the job.

Lesson 1: Neither the square peg nor the round hole will benefit from the wrong fit

There is nothing wrong with improving yourself or rising to a new challenge. But if there was something in those 10 minutes that showed the employer I was not the right person for the job then both of us dodged a proverbial bullet. An employer is not the only one who gets to confidently pursue a “good fit.” I’m not saying you are entitled to a problem-free job. Or that you are above working through struggles or differences. But there is genuine wisdom in our forefathers' idea of the “pursuit of happiness,” be you employer or potential employee. 

Lesson 2: You can’t prepare for everything but you should still try

I thought I was prepared for the interview. I was wrong. I prepared for the interview I thought I was going to have. The real interview was very different. I did the best I could with what I knew at the time and I shouldn’t allow self-loathing for my lack of clairvoyance. 

Lesson 3: Blatant failure is a good teacher 

I had many good interviews as a recent grad that ended with a one sentence email saying they went with someone else. And I learned nothing from those experiences. But those 10 minutes were so clearly a fail that I almost couldn’t not learn from them. Sometimes, life’s lessons are loud and unmistakable, albeit unpleasant.