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How to fail a job interview

Updated on March 21, 2012

Why listen to me?

Recently I have found myself in the unenviable position of trying to find work. As anyone looking and looking hard to find a job will know there are many odds stacked against you before you even begin.

Let me clarify my title, how I failed a job interview. May what I have learned be of use to you.

In my case I had the following issues working against me.

1. The poor economy. In times of economic difficulty and high unemployment the competition even for the most basic of roles means you really must stand out if you have any hope of being noticed.

2. My age. Although I am not old (34 for those that are curious) I often found myself competing for job roles against 18, 19 and 20 year old's. Some may argue that my additional years give me more experience. However in my country minimum wage laws mean an under 21 can be paid less for the same role. Secondarily many employers may favour the young as they are considered quicker to learn and easier to mould to a company identity.

3. My employment back ground. I have spent over 10 years working within my family business. Potential employers see this as an issue as they do not feel that employment references will give an accurate representation of my abilities because my previous employers may be biased in my favour. An understandable assumption.

Whether these issues are applicable to you really do not matter for the purpose of this article as I will explain a recent application I made and succeeded until the final stage when I was finally unsuccessful in my application.

Have you ever applied for a job you did not really want to do?

See results

The role I applied for

The role I had applied for was that of a field sales advisor for a large Energy (Gas and Electric) supplier. The requirement was that after training I would knock on homes within a targeted postcode or zip code area and attempt to persuade customers to change their supplier to the company offering the role.

The basic salary for this role was poor however the potential commission to be earned if successful could be very lucrative if you proved to be good at delivering sales.

This is not a desirable role, statistics show that 95% of people actively dislike cold callers who knock at their doors attempting to sell to them. I am no different, I do not like people selling to me on the door step either. Therefore my hopes of making good money in this position were somewhat limited. This as other job hunters will attest is not any good reason for not applying, beggars cannot be choosers as the saying goes.

So why did I apply?

I needed a job, although the idea of working out doors knocking on the doors of people who would rather be left alone attempting to sell them something they are probably not interested in hearing about really did not appeal, I genuinely believed I had a shot at getting the job. And any work is better than no work.

A few tips

The application process

Step one. Fill in a complete an application form stating your experience, education background and a brief description of why you felt you are suitable for this role.

Result - Success. I was contacted the following day and asked to arrange a telephone interview.

Step Two. The telephone interview. During the telephone interview you are asked a series of questions in which you are given specific examples of things that may occur. You in turn are to answer with specific examples from your own experience how you have encountered similar scenarios and how you over came them.

Result - Success. My feedback was Excellent and I was advised I had an excellent telephone manner and that I would do well in the interviews.

Step Three. Screening.

You are checked for motoring or vehicle offences and a criminal records check is performed.

Result - Success. I am very pleased to say I have no criminal convictions, arrests or motoring offences against my name.

Step Four. Interview in person and role play. You were to be given 15 minutes preparation time before attempting to sell to an existing member of the companies staff who would be pretending to be a difficult customer. This was followed by an interview covering much the same ground as the telephone interview.

Result - Failure.

Why did I fail?

Unlike most job interview scenarios I was on this occassion given detailed feedback as to why I had not been offered the job. So here it is.

1. My experience was good.

2. I came across as polite and friendly.

3. In the role play I had not built a sufficient rapport with the pretend customer, although I had done enough to be considered as successful.

4. I had not shown enough enthusiasm for why I wanted to work for this particular customer.

So there it is number 4, not showing enough enthusiasm for that specific company and that specific role.

I have spent many hours thinking and rethinking what I could of done different and it boils done to this. I could have lied to them. No one in that interview waiting room wanted that job, it was poorly paid, it was long hours, it was guaranteed to cause conflict and result in receiving abuse from disgruntled customers. Myself and my fellow applicants had discussed this whilst waiting and had all agreed it would not be an enjoyable role. Yet we were all more than qualified to do and were not daunted by the task.

It is interesting to note at this point that some of my fellow applicants were better qualified than I to do it but were also unsuccessful for a variety of reasons including being too pushy in the sales role play.

What can be learned?

Those interviewing myself and my fellow applicants were bright, smart and intelligent people and were well aware of how unpleasant the role could be. They even told us as much prior to the interview and role play assessment.

So why did they feel we should be enthusiastic about it? Any reasonably intelligent person would not be wild with enthusiasm at the prospect of this job. Perhaps they just want to see how well we could lie to them.

The honest truth is I will never know as none of us could ever know exactly what is on the minds of those that interview and assess us. Prior to the interview I had researched the company and could have recited a great deal of information regarding facts and figures and spun these to sound like unbridled enthusiasm but I chose not to and focussed on selling myself as capable of doing the job and doing it well.

It seems I succeeded in selling myself well but what I really should of been doing is selling their company back to them. In a job market where you are competing with potentially hundreds of others for the same job perhaps in the end it does all boil down to who wants it the most!

Or then again perhaps it is just who is the best liar!

In the end

I do now have a better potential job that I will start training for in the next few weeks. But until then I will keep on trying to find ways to make money online or with ebay. I do not expect to make a great deal of money and really do write for the fun of doing so, but every penny counts as the saying goes.


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    • saitam profile image


      6 years ago from Lisbon

      That is useful information on how someone can fail an job application and how to improve.

    • ThoughtMonkey profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdon

      Thank you, much appreciated

    • hair bender profile image

      hair bender 

      6 years ago

      Good hub! Good luck!


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