Interviewing No-Nos!


Recently, during some interview skills training, I cited an example of a really bad interview I once attended as an interviewee many, many years ago in Birmingham, with a senior executive of a (then) very well known international photocopier company.

Sent by a recruitment agency for the job, on arrival I was directed to said executive’s office. I knocked on the door, was called in and entered to find him seated at his desk, head down, looking at paperwork. I stood there, waiting to be invited to take a seat. He eventually looked up and, in an exasperated tone, told me to sit down. I held my hand out and introduced myself and he ignored me.

During the course of the interview, he was quite rude and condescending, but I stayed polite and professional. At one stage, he asked about my age and marital status (I was young and engaged then) and proceeded to make comments that I would get married and go off and have babies. Fuming inside, I politely said that thought he should know that it was illegal and inappropriate to ask such questions. He responded with a shrug and quite obviously did not care.

The interview finished and, as I left, he again didn’t shake my hand, nor did he rise to see me out. At the door, I turned around, thanked him for his time, told him I didn’t think the job was right for me and left.

I immediately found the nearest phone-box (pre-mobile phone days – shows how long ago!) and phoned the agency to give feedback and make a complaint about it. Apparently, I was the latest of several applicants who had been treated by him like that.

Looking back, I should have reported him to his company (and maybe the agency did, but there again they may not have wanted to upset a big-name client organisation).  I certainly would do nowadays.

Parlez-vous français?

Another interview I had, some years later, with the CEO of a government-based organisation, ended up with me having half of my interview being conducted in French. As I was a qualified multi-lingual PA, he had spotted French on my CV.

I coped fine of course, (nowadays, I can probably remember just about to enough order baguettes, croissants and du vin!) but this particular job had absolutely no foreign language requirements, as it was for a regular PA. The CEO spoke some French, however, so thought it would be good to interview me in French (to show off?). I got the job, so obviously passed muster!


These are both prime examples of how not to behave in interviews, especially the first one. Thankfully, however, nowadays they provide me with very useful analogies to use as examples in my training courses.

What interview experiences have you had in the past – good or bad? Do you think things have improved over the years?


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Photo credits (Pixabay):
Russell Clark
Robin Higgins
Jill Wellington