A 22-year-old girl bought her first suit and pair of work-appropriate high heels for a ridiculously important job interview at an international advertising firm in downtown Milwaukee. This was her first big interview – ever.
It was a morning appointment, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. The girl arrived downtown at 8:15 a.m., found parking, and readied herself for the interview. She thought she had a really good shot at getting this position. It was going to be so exciting. She had just graduated college, and she was ready to start living the dream.
She felt good. She had stopped at Einstein Bros. Bagels for a hot cup of coffee and a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. No empty stomach, no real nerves – she was ready.
At 8:25 a.m., she walked into the 15th floor office where she had the interview. She waited in the sitting area for the manager to retrieve her, and then she followed the woman into her office. She answered all the questions flawlessly. The manager even called in a colleague to meet this great girl – everything was going so well!
After an hour-long interview, the girl thanked both interviewers, and they walked her out. She walked to her car beaming, ready to go home and write thank-you emails to both women she had just met. As she got in the driver’s seat, she turned the rear-view mirror so she could look at herself, thinking how confident she was about the interview.
When she looked in the mirror, she noticed something weird smack-dab in the middle of her chin. It looked like a giant, pus-filled pimple – so GROSS! She touched it, and realized what it was – a glob of peanut butter – from the bagel earlier that morning. Oh. My. God. It had been on her chin throughout the entire interview! The girl was completely mortified, and any confidence she had had about getting the job flew right out the window.
Hadn’t she looked in the mirror the exact same way right before she got out of her car? How had she missed this? She wiped the peanut butter off her chin, and all she could do was shake her head and smile. She shook it off – whatever, she thought. Lesson learned.
She didn’t get the job – not even a second interview. The second colleague had probably been brought in to see the mess on her face so the two women could laugh about it later.
To this day, every interview she has, the girl doesn’t eat beforehand. And she always critically inspects herself in the mirror – more than once. This is the first time she’s ever told this story, and I hope you think it’s as horrifyingly funny as I do.
I wasn’t kidding when I said ‘lesson learned.’ All it takes is one snafu – I’ll never forget that. It was awful at the time, but I really did shake it off almost immediately. And I am totally convinced that’s part of the reason I didn’t get a call back.
Don’t underestimate the power of presentation. How you look matters – a lot. Obviously there are several other things I’ve learned since that first interview.
- Breath mints are a must. Remember those Altoid Smalls commercials with the job interview? Yeah, never forget about that!
- Don’t be too cocky, and don’t get too comfortable. With all the young companies out there with the 25- and 35-year-old CEOs, it’s easy to think you’re talking to your college buddy during an interview. You aren’t. They still look for professionalism, even if there’s a company beer pong tournament every quarter.
- Ask for the job. Always finish your interview by asking about the next steps. Interviewers are more impressed if they can tell you truly want the position.
- Research the company before your interview – this can take your further than you might think.
- Write a thank you note, and not just one. If you interview with multiple people, write a personalized note or email to each one.
Since the peanut butter, I’ve had several other rather entertaining mishaps during job interviews – from running the interview myself (I got that job) to having three interviews and thinking it was totally nailed, but then not getting the job.
The last thing I can say is never get your hopes up too high. Even if you think you totally nailed it and there’s no way another candidate is better suited for the position, trust me. There is. You might not get it, no matter how excellent you are.