The Worst Interview Experience

Mar 03, 2014 1 Min Read

Photo Source: Woodleywonderworks

In HR Talk, we pick one human resources (HR) related topic each week, and gather a few HR experts to share their opinions on it. If you have any questions about the HR industry, send them to us at and we will get our panel of experts to answer them. For this article we talk to 3 HR leaders who are experts in their field for their views on the “worst interview experiences” they have come by. We start by talking to Nikki Grant-Cook, Country HR Director for Citibank:

Nikki Grant-Cook – Country human resources director, Citibank Malaysia

1. Mr Tardy: Being late for a job interview puts you behind in the race even before you jump off the starting line.

2. Ms Unprepared: Not knowing anything about the job/company you are interviewing for means you don’t care enough about us for us to care about you.

3. Mr Monosyllable: Giving one syllable answers makes the interview a drag – Nobody wants to work with a bore who can’t communicate.

4. Ms Cartoonist: A comic artist whose parents told her to apply for a “proper job”. Don’t apply with us just because someone tells you to. We want independent people with free-will!

5. Mr Passion-Is-Everything: “I’m passionate about Engineering. I can be passionate about Banking too.” Support assertions of interest with facts. Attitude is key, but not the only attribute needed.

6. Ms Broken Record: Linking back to the same answer for every question, regardless of relevance. Better to admit unfamiliarity, rather than giving an out-of-topic answer.

7. Mr Bookworm: Citing “wanting to focus on studies” as the main reason for the lack of co-curriculum involvement. We need well-rounded individuals who have demonstrated more than just studying skills.

8. Ms Spell-Check-Let-Me-Down: Defending glaring grammatical errors in resumes by saying they thought spell check would pick it up.
9. Mr Ungroomed: Job offers are rare for those with unprofessional/stained/creased clothes, dirty nails and an aversion to shampoo and deodorant.

10. Ms. Impatient Type 1: Rushing through the interview because you have a train to catch. This shows poor schedule management.

11. Ms Impatient Type 2: Candidates who don’t focus on proving themselves but ask how quickly they will be promoted and when they will have an overseas posting. Employers are not looking to fund your overseas holiday!

Datin Nancy S Y Sim-Lim – SVP, human capital, Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd

With our country’s high literacy rate and progressive development in the human resource profession, most job seekers today turn up for interviews in a professional manner.

Applicants who are motivated to seek a new career usually always try to make a good impression.

This is the general impression that I have of Malaysian applicants and also of applicants in the north Asia and south Asia region where I have worked in. In general, I have not come across really bad interviews.

However, there are some experiences which have left a lasting impression. Through these experiences, those of us within the HR profession, particularly the seasoned recruiters, constantly go back to the basics and remind ourselves to be more precise in the way job postings are scripted, as well as the manner in which we invite applicants for interviews. Here are some personal experiences that I can recall from some of my previous assignments:

1. Candidates’ assessments

Many years ago I invited an applicant for an assessment in a management consulting role.

For those who are new to assessment centres, it is vital to inform applicants how long they need to set aside for the assessments and the kind of tests to expect.

This is to help set the stage on what will happen and also hopefully put the candidate at ease so that they can perform their best.

I remembered this particular applicant who did not complete his assessment. He was fine at the interview, but he left feeling very nervous and tense.

Left alone to complete the test in a room by himself, his frustration was accompanied by the banging of his calculator.

Therefore as recruiters, we are duty-bound to constantly improve on our communication and ensure that applicants who desire a certain role to expect to be put through some form of assessment to assess verbal reasoning and numerical dexterity.

Usually, it is wise to send some sample questions on what they can expect at the assessment stage.

For roles such as training, applicants can also expect to do a presentation. Therefore, recruiters must prepare well in advance for interviews and decide on what to assess and the purpose of the assessment.

Hence if you are looking for a job and have been invited for an interview and assessment, always call up to find out what you can expect.

2. Dress code

Style is a very personal statement and job seekers should always try and find out the culture of the firm they are applying for.

In the mid-1990s, I was assisting my colleague to find a secretary. I came across a pleasant young lady who came for the interview looking as if she was heading for a rock concert.

3. The financial crisis of the 1997

I interviewed many applicants post-crisis and one in particular stood out. While it was not a bad interview, I came across an awkward one in which I had to interview a senior person who left his job, and separated from his spouse.

He was extremely emotional during the interview and I could see the pain of his experience. During moments like this, it is important to know when to stop the interview and let the candidate regain control of himself, serve him a cuppa and then let him decide if he would like to continue.

In summary, interviews must be held professionally and in confidence. At my workplace, we serve applicants a hot beverage and cold drinks the moment they walk through the door.

There are in-house newsletters and industry magazines available for reading. We also try to give away a premium to applicants to thank them for attending the interview and this is done with the intention of enhancing the customer experience.

There is a need for HR professionals to realise that job seekers could also be your customers one day. Thus, selling the employer brand starts with the interview process.

We must also remember that an interview is a human experience and we must be flexible to adjust the pace, if needed, to bring out the best of the process.

Sugunah Verumandy – Human resources director, GE Global Growth & Operations (part of General Electric Co Group)

Interviews are a platform for both the employer and potential employee to connect with each other to ascertain employment suitability.

It is therefore very important for both parties to spend sufficient time preparing to participate in a meaningful conversation.

I have in most cases thoroughly enjoyed the conversations each applicant brings to the table as each individual is unique and provides a different value proposition.

As such, it is important for interviewers to enter a conversation without any preconceived notions or expectations.

Having said that, there were several interviews from which I walked away feeling sorry for the candidates for having not been able to bring out their best.

Preparation and meaningful communication are integral to a successful interview. I once interviewed medical doctors for the position of product physician – one key requirement for the role was interaction with customers and to train medical sales representatives on product details in order to sell to the customers.

I interviewed a straight-A student, who had won a state award for academic achievement and was best in medical school. He even showed a newspaper cutting of himself receiving a state award from the Sultan.

However, the candidate had challenges responding to interview questions candidly. Throughout the interview, the candidate was mumbling to himself and had no eye contact at all.

In most circumstances, a trained interviewer would try his or her level best to help the candidate through the first couple of questions.

If the lack of interaction patterns still persists, the interviewer will mark the candidate down. In this instance, this is what I did.

Lesson No. 1: Be prepared for interviews and remember to communicate confidently.

As an interviewer, I like to observe the ability of a candidate in the area of critical thinking.

There was one interview, during which I requested the candidate to explain a project which the candidate led in terms of its purpose, opportunities, challenges and what the candidate did to overcome the challenges.

In the project, the candidate had to supervise a team of individuals filling up 500gm of material into a container.

When I asked why 500gm, and how the candidate ensured the team complied with the requirement, the candidate responded, “I don’t know, I believe they filled 500gm, that’s all”.

Lesson No. 2: Know what are you are talking about and that includes not just “what” but also “how” and “why”.

Interviews are channels for candidates to share their experiences and the value they can bring to the organisation as well as an opportunity to express their motivation.

A positive and lasting impression can be created with thorough preparation. In GE, we do not just hire for a job, we hire for a career.

For more great interview tips, and to watch great video on leadership, go to Click here for more articles.

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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