I spent the weekend in Buffalo, NY on my 2nd graduate program interview. I am confident it went well, though that is no guarantee of acceptance. After a very positive experience at this program, it got me thinking about my first interview for a grad school (which was just a week before this past one). It also became glaringly obvious how awful I did. This is no exaggeration. It was horrendous. I’m a very personable individual, and I’m also very confident in my ability to communicate my strengths, weaknesses, and any other information about myself. I was wonderful at this; perhaps a bit too wonderful. In retrospect, I spent very little time being friendly (or even smiling for that matter) because I was so preoccupied with portraying myself as a professional and work-oriented person. Following the interview, I realized how little the ‘real’ me actually participated in the conversation. I was interviewing for what I thought they wanted, not who I really was. As I said, this occurred to me shortly after the interview, and became really apparent after my Buffalo interview, during which I was committed to stop this “acting job.”
Regardless of the outcome, I have looked at that first interview as both a wake-up call and a learning experience. I believe it took these mistakes in round one to be successful in round two. But to help those of you out there who would prefer never to make a mistake at all, or perhaps to make the worst mistakes in the books, I present to you three easy steps to bombing your first interview:
1. Don’t even think about smiling.
By not smiling, you communicate to your interviewer that you’re neither friendly nor interested. This is the first, and perhaps one of the most important steps to bombing your interview. Employers want to see a mature yet personable individual. While they often take their power to hire extremely seriously, a program is usually looking for someone with a bit of spunk too. Someone who can smile has an immediate advantage. If you’re looking to bomb, this is an advantage you’re not interested in. So keep your happy thoughts and positive verbalizations to yourself. They won’t do you any good for this cause. [Bonus points for a frown.]
2. Don’t prepare.
The prospect of improvising your way through an interview sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Even if your people-skills are the best in your league, this is another great way to turn an interview into a disaster. If you wanted to ace the interview, you’d do your research on the program or workplace and prepare solid responses to typical questions. But since you’re looking to bomb, use it as an opportunity to work on your acting; pretend you know what the program does, and try even harder to explain why you’re wasting their time.
3. Appear disheveled.
If the company and/or program was worth being a part of, they’d accept you no matter what you dressed or appeared like! Professional attire is for the sucker, right? Wrong. Pat yourself on the back for being a fool (if that’s what you’re going for). Your attempt to stick it to the man will most likely assist in your journey towards the big ‘bomb.’ Employers want to see someone who takes themselves and the interview opportunity seriously. To them, your initial behavior during this interview is a direct reflection of both your attitude about your work and your maturity. By not showering for a week, waking up, throwing on sweats, and hopping in your car to the interview, you’re sure to screw up big time!
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to bombing your interview. The rest will come naturally if you’re foolish enough to follow the first three steps! Good luck, and never forget to stick it to the man (if you want to live in your mother’s basement for the next decade or two)!