Job interview advice: do not joke about Satanism

The Key
The Key

We all know interviews are a sweaty cesspit of nerves, despair and unfortunate mistakes. At The Key, we have a range of articles that suggest interview questions for a whole variety of school-based roles. These articles are popular with school leaders, but I’m not sure a list of questions fully encapsulates the torrid experience of a job interview.

I still grimace when I remember my first proper job interview. Before attending university, I took a year out to experience the exciting world of work. This wasn’t my brightest idea, given that it was the peak of the recession and my only previous experience was a paper-round and a brief stint as a waiter at a run-down B&B. After sending off roughly a million applications, I eventually got an interview for a support staff post at a local Catholic secondary school.

Clad in my old school shirt and a tie stolen from an older brother, I sweated and stuttered through the interview. Then came a question I probably should’ve been expecting: “Given the religious nature of the school, are you Catholic?”

I politely answered “no,” only to be met with a slightly awkward silence. To try and fill that silence with humour, I quickly added, “… But, I’m also not a Satanist …”. This turned a slightly awkward silence into a very awkward silence.

I somehow got the job, but more importantly, I learnt a vital life lesson: do not joke about Satanism in job interviews.

To comfort myself, I emailed my colleagues at The Key in search of other embarrassing stories. Luckily, a bunch of them responded.

One colleague regaled me with fashion disasters:

I wore my friend’s new suit to my first proper job interview as I didn’t own one. It would have been fine, but she was five inches shorter than me. I wore the flattest shoes I could find and spent the whole time walking with bent knees.

A former teacher confessed his unusual reason for getting into the profession:

In my first teacher interview, I was asked why I enjoy teaching. My reply was that it is nice to have something interesting to talk about with my girlfriend in the evening.

Not my best answer.

Another colleague got a bit too vague with his answers:

When I interviewed at Google for a TeachFirst summer placement, they asked:

“How many commercial aircraft are currently in the skies across the USA right now?”

Turns out they didn’t consider “quite a lot” an adequate response…

Someone proved a bit too honest for the role:

I once went for a job in a call centre where the role was asking people if they wanted to change estate agents to sell their house. I was asked, “How do you feel about lying?”.

At this point I balked and she rephrased it:

“Ok, how do you feel about bending the truth?”

One colleague pretty much just used this as an excuse to brag about her muscular arms:

I was once in an interview on a hot summer’s day, wearing a sleeveless dress because of the heat, when the interviewer asked what my hobbies were. I’d recently graduated from university, where I’d rowed, so I told her that I’d been doing that for a couple of years.

Without missing a beat she said “Well, that explains the muscular arms”, and then changed the subject. Awkward doesn’t really cover it.

Another told me about a gun show of a different kind:

Once, a guy interviewing me shouted, “Is that a gun in your bag?” midway through one of my responses to a question. He then casually said, “Oh, it’s just an umbrella” before I had chance to respond.

Pretty weird, but after getting the job he explained to me that it’s a tactic they use to see whether candidates can resume their train of thought after being disrupted.

And finally, a researcher who I hope was joking, responded with:

This one time, I applied for a job as an education researcher for a joke…

Most of these stories ended with “I got the job in the end!”, which is a little concerning.


Comments 1

  1. 12th August 2015

    I think part of the fear comes from not knowing the other candidates; not knowing what you’re up against. You entered the marathon but what if Mo Farah’s in the race? I think there’s only one way to approach a job interview. You must go with the attitude that if there IS a better candidate than you, he/she is going to have to be pretty darned good to beat someone as good as you. The preparation you do should instil that belief. Most candidates don’t prepare at all. You can succeed in your job interviews, you need only a bit of preparation! I wrote a review of a popular interview book here

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