Tell us: Your interview nightmares

Arriving late, dressing inappropriately, taking personal phone calls. Just a few of your gripes when it comes to interview etiquette. But we know there are worse examples out there. And we want to hear about them.

As we all know, succeeding and impressing at interview is a balancing act. Whilst you want a candidate to act in a professional and confident manner, it’s equally as important they remain humble, inquisitive and appreciative of the opportunity they’re being given. However, as we also know, this isn’t always the case.

To give prospective candidates the best chance of succeeding  when interviewing for jobs, we want to give them some pointers from recruiters in the front line about what they should do and, more importantly, what they shouldn’t. And to do this we’d like your help.

Please share your best and worst interview nightmares* in the comments section below.

Need inspiration? Here are some of our recent favourites:

The hat-trick
The jobseeker who turned up 30 minutes late for his interview ‘wearing a Hawaiian shirt and trainers, having been instructed that the dress code was “smart”’. Halfway through the interview, the interviewee’s phone rang – and he answered it. The hat-trick of interview gaffes was complete.

The chancer                                    
The jobseeker who, when unable to answer questions about his CV, revealed that she’d never actually read it ‘because her brother had written it for her’.

The intimidator                                                            
One senior manager recalls interviewing an older candidate who, when asked a particularly challenging question, leant over and interrupted with a brusque: ‘Come on, son, dig deep’.

The lover
And, perhaps the pick of the bunch, is the howler described by a recruiter from the South West, who told of the time an interview was interrupted as the candidate had a visitor. Having argued with her partner beforehand, the interviewee’s boyfriend decided that making up was more important than his partner completing her interview. Needless to say, the candidate didn’t progress any further.

*Personal information will be kept private and confidential.

by Lynn Cahillane

Five curveball questions you should ask at every interview


Let’s be honest, it’s always nice to keep candidates on their toes at an interview…  

The classic curveball question, also meant to be a good gauge of a candidate’s creativity and how well they will work under pressure, definitely falls firmly within this category.

And whilst there are arguably no right or wrong answers, you definitely want to be sure you’re asking the right questions.

To help inspire you, here are five curveball questions that you could ask at an interview, courtesy of James Reed’s bestselling book, ‘Why You: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again’:


If you were an animal, what would you be?

The archetypal interview curveball, you already be asking this question in one of its many other iterations.

However, whether it’s the type of animal they are, the superpower they’d choose, or even determining the correct colour packaging for a packet of salt & vinegar crisps (always blue, obviously), this question is essentially a test of a candidate’s creativity. In other words, it’s not what they answer, but how they answer that counts.

Any answer which brings in some necessary skills for the role, whilst also revealing a little bit more of their personality, is definitely a winner


Good answer: ‘I think I’d be a duck. They’re always calm on the surface, but hustling like crazy to get things done underneath’.

Bad answer: ‘Definitely a Tiger. Grrrr…’


Every CV has one lie in it. What’s yours?

Research shows that as many as one in five jobseekers admits to lying on their CV.

However, even the most confident of candidate’s is unlikely to bring up any blurring of the facts without some kind of prompting.

OK, so it’s still unlikely they’ll admit whether they’ve been ‘creative’ with your chronology, and answers here should always be in the negative. However, if they’re able to use a little humour to break the tension, and convincingly reassure you that everything you’ve written is above-board, you might be on to a winner.

You might even catch out the any serial offenders before they’ve gotten started. A plan with no draw-backs.


Good answer: ‘OK, so “active lifestyle” may have been a bit of a stretch. I do go and sit in the sauna in my gym from time-to-time, if that counts? On a serious note though, I don’t believe there are any lies on my CV. I believe integrity is very important and that starts with your CV’

Bad answer: ‘Pass’


Would you rather be liked or feared?

While this could also be considered a character question, the fact that it’s almost a deliberate trick question means it could be considered in the curveball bracket.

There’s only one way a candidate should consider answering a question like this: they just shouldn’t answer it. You may have presented them with a straight choice, but it’s the unspoken third option that could make all the difference.

Let’s face it, no-one really wants to be feared at work, but it’s equally important not to come across like a pushover. The best candidates will always acknowledge the original framing of the question, but explain why it would be impossible for them to choose from what’s on the table.


Good answer: ‘Well I certainly wouldn’t want to be feared. Personally I think fear is a terrible motivator, and could lead to some uncomfortable situations. Everyone wants to be liked, but it isn’t always possible. Sometimes you have to do unpopular things to get the job done. I’d much sooner be respected, but have my co-workers understand that I always do my best for the team as a whole.’

Bad answer: ‘I want people to be afraid of how much they like me.’


Where does your boss think you are now?

In other words, are you hiring the kind of employee who would openly lie to your face?

This question is a good measure of character, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Admitting that they were happy to lie to their current employer in any way, shape or form, is unlikely to be an endearing trait. Even ‘white lies’ have the potential to do more harm than good.

The most reliable candidates will either explain that they booked a day’s leave in advance, or managed to work it into their current schedule. Notable exceptions include temporary or freelance roles, and redundancies. If it’s clear that they have no long-term future at a company, only the most unreasonable of bosses would stand in their way.


Good answer: ‘I booked today as annual leave. I know colleagues who have lied about their whereabouts in the past, but it’s not something I’d be comfortable doing’

Bad answer: ‘I’m not sure really. I just kind of walked out…’


Sell me this pen…

Finally, the perennial interview ‘sales-pitch’ favourite.

However, the beauty of this question lies far beyond an assessment of a candidate’s sales skills. Instead, it’s all about needs identification.

It’s all about the questions you’re asked, if they can correctly identify any issues you have, and demonstrating how their product is the perfect way to solve the problem.

To make it extra difficult, we recommend only ever selecting particularly ugly pens.


Good answer: ‘Do you do a lot of writing in your spare time?’

Bad answer: ‘You know how you were saying earlier that you needed a pen…’



Interview between businessmen

Need more interview questions?

Running out of inspiration when it comes to your interview questions? Don’t panic. We’ve got plenty more…

Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again


by Michael Cheary

Skills most important component of CV


Skills, work experience and personal attributes on a CV are more important to managers than qualifications, according to research by Conference Genie.

Skills came out on top, with nearly a third (30%) of respondents choosing this as the most important component of a CV. More than a quarter (26%) believe that work experience should be ranked highest. Sixteen per cent of managers said the personal statement was the most important aspect of a candidate’s CV.

The report, which investigated what employers are looking for in ‘superstar employees’, also found that the most highly valued trait is efficiency, with 21% of managers ranking this the highest. The least popular trait was resilience, chosen by only one in 20 (5%) managers.

REC director of policy and professional services Tom Hadley said that the survey highlights the pressure employers face when trying to source the right skills. “Our data is showing shortages across the economy, from professional service jobs like sales and marketing, to public sector roles in education and healthcare,” he said.

“The survey also fits with the ongoing feedback from our Good Recruitment Campaign – particularly the fact that employers are looking beyond qualifications and are more interested in specific skills and personal attributes. The challenge for businesses is how to identify these traits during the recruitment process, which is why we need to encourage dialogue within the business community around hiring practices.

“The priority here is to raise awareness among future generations of jobseekers; for example, by having more businesses engaging in careers events so that young people have the chance to hear directly from employers.”



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