Tell me a bit about yourself

Today, I have an interview for a marketing job at a design company that works with arts organisations. I’m very excited about it, but nervous about totally messing it up. I have obviously done well in some interviews over the years, because I’ve had jobs, but I’ve equally come out with wildly inappropriate sentences that I would never advise anyone looking for a job to repeat. So, as a potential expert in the field, here are 5 things not to mention at a job interview:

  1. Periods

I once said in an interview something like ‘yes I would be able to handle this situation, unless maybe I was in a bad mood because I had PMT’. This was in my early 20s, it was an interview for a membership/ subscription assistant for some sort of book order magazine, and the company told my recruitment agency that they wouldn’t give me the job because I would ‘get bored too easily’. It was too late to say ‘I want to be bored’ a la Lee Holloway from Secretary. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. Menstruation is probably one of the worst things you can mention in an interview. Unless the job is for a tampon company, in which case, l say go with the flow (#sorrynotsorry).

  1. Castration

In another interview around a similar time for an admin job in a car garage, I mentioned that one of my favourite books from University was ‘The Passion of New Eve’ by Angela Carter. I can’t remember if I actually mentioned the graphic castration that occurs (spoiler alert), or just that the book was extremely feminist.  Either way, needless to say I didn’t get the job. Not saying that car garage companies and feminism are mutually exclusive, but I think 8 years’ ago, it was probably a bit more unexpected to bring up feminism in a job interview.

  1. Fame

Last year I went for a job for a part time assistant tour coordinator in a youth theatre. It started off awkwardly, as I had to do a role play of a phone conversation. I then had to enter the info from the ‘phone conversation’ into an Excel spreadsheet. However their version of Excel was so old that I couldn’t find the ‘wrap text’ button. I tried to explain this, but was told that my time for the task was nearly up. I then had the interview and a couple of questions in, I was asked ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ I said ‘Still doing comedy in the evenings and possibly doing a creative part time role somewhere creative like in a theatre …unless I get famous ha ha ha’. At this point the interviewer stood up and said ‘Well thanks for coming’, and ushered me out of the door quicker than an MC trying to get a comedian to get off stage who has overrun their time. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. (On a side note, I saw the same role advertised again about a month later, so either they couldn’t find anyone, or the person they hired left again pretty quickly).

  1. Flexible Working

I know someone who went to an interview for a telesales position and asked in the interview ‘Can I work from home?’ I was shocked that they had thought this was an acceptable interview question, but I was even more shocked that they were offered the job about a month later. Until I remembered how quickly telesales companies turnover staff, and this means they will usually take pretty much anyone. Asking for special working arrangements at interview stage is never a good idea though. It’s like questions about salary. Wait until you are offered the job, then you can negotiate on that sort of thing.

  1. Over-Confidence

I went to an employability course once and one of the course instructors told us that it’s good to ask at the end ‘So do you think I have the necessary skills and experience required for the role?’ which is basically like blatantly asking ‘So did I get the job?!’ I did use it once in the next interview I had, and I did get the job, but the manager that hired me teased me about how forthright I had been, even years afterwards. I stayed at the company almost 6 years in the end, so sometimes over-confidence can be a good thing, but it so easily could have gone the other way.

So there you are – 5 things not to say at a job interview. In retrospect, I didn’t really want any of the jobs (especially not the telesales job I didn’t even go for!) including the job I stayed at for a long time, as they were all admin roles. Maybe now I have the opportunity to do something creative that I am much more interested in, I won’t be as likely to say something ridiculous to my interviewer, I will just be myself and answer the questions as best I can. Even if I don’t get this particular role, the fact that I got an interview means I’m getting closer, which is good, because I don’t really want to be bored. I want to be inspired.

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