The Job Interview Mating Dance

There are few things in life more painful than a job interview. Except, perhaps, dating.

There are also few things more shameful. Right? It’s not something you want to talk about. The screw-ups, the flubs, the asinine mistakes that everyone makes but which feel totally unique to your sorry ass.

In a nod to the generous holiday spirit, I will attempt to lessen the collective shame of job interviewees everywhere by sharing some actual outtakes from various interviews I’ve suffered through over time.

I would also like to reassure the group that with each of these horrendous meetings, your self-esteem will drop by 3 percentage points. Which you can later drown in a gigantic iced coffee at any high-end coffee shop of your choosing.

Also on the positive side, you will likely never see these people ever again.

And now without any further ado: Lights, camera, ACTION.

* * *

“Here, Dannielle, have a seat. Sit right here.”

Clearly this isn’t a choice thing. “Sure. Thank you.”

“There are a few of us, so please bear with us as we gather in.”

“No problem.”

“Oh, there’s one more…is Katie on the phone?”

Then, to me, as if I will in any way, shape or form remember this.

“That’s Katie, our Director of Field Coordination.”


“Are we all ready now?”

The group nods. Waves of nods appear. Mmhmm. We. Are. Ready.

“Well, welcome, Dannielle, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.”

“For me as well.”

This is not a pleasure for anyone. I need a job, and for you it’s 3:00 on a Friday.

“We’ve heard so much about you. We love your blog.”

“You do? I appreciate that.”

Because it’s the only thanks I’ll ever get. It doesn’t make me a damn dime.

“We’re on a tight schedule here, so if you don’t mind let’s get to Question 1.”

Back to Planet Earth.


By the way, I have gleaned from many years of experience that the less you say in an interview, the better.

“OK, Question 1.”

Shuffles papers.

“Tell us a little about yourself, if you would.”

“Sure. Well, I started out as a writer from a very young age….”

  • One of them is checking his smartphone. I can see you!
  • The other is drooling.
  • The third is busy “taking notes,” a.k.a. doodling.

“Thanks. Now on to Question 2.”

Laboriously he reads. This one’s gonna be a doozy, I can tell.

“Tell us about a time when you had to handle a difficult communication situation. What was the problem, who were your key stakeholders, what are some of the challenges you faced, and what was the outcome?”


“Um, could you repeat the question please?”

“Question 3. What’s your biggest weakness?”

“I am an obsessive perfectionist.”

Wait. That didn’t sound right.

The guy’s expression says: freaking 3:25 p.mmmmmm.

“I get to do Question 4,” Katie chimes in. From the phone, all chirpy. I hate her already.

“Why do you want to work HERE, specifically?”

Because you have a job available, idiot.

“I, uh, mm, I, well…” stuttering, stammering.

“…I just love the very important critical aspects of the esoteric specific highly confusing and impossible to understand work that you do.”

There. Now it’s perfectly clear.

“Last one. Do you have any questions for us?”

Oh good. That one was in the article about interviewing skills. Which I read on the train.

“Tell me what is the absolute worst thing I could do in this job if you hired me. Like the one thing that would make me fail, out the wazoo.”

The doodler looks at me as if to say, OMG.

“It’s been a pleasure, Dannielle.”

“Thank you. I thought that went well.”

“That being said – we’ll call you.”

Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia. Currently she is a public servant, as well as an independent freelance writer. This blog, like all of her public content, is written in her personal capacity unless otherwise noted. It does not reflect the views of the U.S. government, in whole or in part. Photo credit: Gerard Stolk via Flickr

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