My worst job interview didn’t get me very far; not even into their office. It was just a phone call. It was a brief and kind of upsetting moment in my early career. Allow me to explain why I think this was my worst interview.
Just before I graduated from university, some design agencies in the surrounding area had expressed interest in people who might be looking for work after they’d left. A few representatives from these agencies even came in to chat with people from my course and other design courses. I made my best attempt to chat with as many as I could, even just for a brief moment, to see what they were looking for and to get contact details for them.
Some time passed after this; I’m not sure how much, but not a lot, as I believe I was just rounding off a few things before I packed up to move back in with my Mum. During this time, my results came through for my degree. I was pleased that I had passed, but the result was less than expected. At the time, I was quite upset because I really thought I’d worked hard on my projects. It was a 2.2 - not a bad mark, but I was hoping for better. I decided at the time to only tell people if they asked in an interview.
At the time, I had the mentality of 50% “time to chill out and relax after 3 years hard-ish work” and 50% “Oh, shit - I’d better get a design job before my Mum makes me fill in this Morrisons application form”. I’m not even kidding with that last part. My Mum knew it would be hard to get a design job in the area, so anything that would bring in some money was worth going for.
I remember this time kind of fondly because I was naive, but really keen to work in the design industry. I collated all the contacts I’d accumulated, including the ones that had dropped by the university, and began my research on where they were and what they did. Sadly, very few of them had junior positions that I could apply for, but I was hopeful that if I at least made contact, that I might at least get a bite.
At the time, emailing was still a bit iffy; agencies tended to show their phone number over their email address and weren’t so swift to reply if you did email. So, I started calling some of them to introduce myself and to ask if they’d be interested in someone like me. Most of the replies were polite, but unsuccessful…
“Thanks for calling, but we aren’t looking for anyone at the moment.”
“We’re not looking for anyone right now, but feel free to send us your CV.”
For someone who didn’t have any job prospects at the time, these were crap responses. However, they were at least polite and sometimes promising. Then I made a call to this one agency - one that I had noted down after speaking to a director at my university.
This seemed like a pretty good opportunity, so I decided to give them a call. It was quite a while ago, so I’ll try to remember the conversation the best I can:
“Hi, [Agency]. [Front Desk] speaking. How may I help?”
Dave: “Hi, my name is David Darnes. I’ve just graduated from university and I was wondering if I could speak to the director about any design roles you may have?”
Front Desk: “Oh, right. Let me just check if they are available.”
Dave: “Ah, great. Thank you.”
Dave: “Hi, there. My name is David Darnes and I’ve just graduated from university. I was wondering if you may have any design roles I could apply for at your agency?”
Director: “Ah, right. What course did you do?”
Dave: “A degree in Interactive Design.”
Director: “And what grade did you get?”
Dave: “Err…” *Slight hesitation* “a 2.2.”
Director: “Do you think that is good enough?”
Dave: *Longer hesitation* “I guess not, no.”
Director: “Well, I guess we know where this conversation is going.”
Dave: “Oh, okay. Bye, then.”
After that, I hung up as quickly as I could. I think I was in a bit of shock at the time. It was quite upsetting, especially as at the time, I was quite embarrassed about my results. Little did I know that it would mean pretty much nothing when applying for any other jobs after that. However, it seemed to mean a lot to them, or maybe they just wanted to see how I would respond to being challenged in that way?
It didn’t stop me applying though, I continued to contact other agencies before getting my first job a month or two later. Even so, I would class it as one of my worst interviews for a job, if not the worst, as I didn’t even make it past the phone call.
I guess if I was to mention a few take aways from this experience (having looked back on it), I would say that:
- Being a new graduate in this industry can be an upward struggle. If you are one, watch out for challenge questions like this and be prepared to give a good answer
- Keep in mind is that interviews work both ways. You may not feel like you’re in the position to be fussy but if you don’t like the sound of them don’t pursue them
- If you’re at an agency that’s reviewing applications from newcomers be kind and patient
- Grades almost mean nothing now; experience and willingness are a lot more powerful strengths, so give people a chance to show their worth