Why I Failed Badly in an Internal Interview?

Lessons Learned from my badly failed internal interview – a topic that I don’t feel comfortable talking about.

This article was originally published at vtsen.hashnode.dev on Aug 20, 2022.

About a year ago, I applied for an internal position within my company, and I failed very badly. Failing badly is because I’m not supposed to fail! I had all the qualifications required by the job, there was no reason why I couldn’t get it.

The fact is, I still failed at the end. In fact, it is the biggest failure in my career. I’ve never felt so sad and embarrassed about it. Furthermore, this was not the first internal interview that I failed. What a loser!

Now that I reflect what I did, it is no surprise that I failed. Well, let’s see why this loser failed?

FYI – this is behavioral / soft-skill interview, no technical coding invovled.



Overconfidence

Before the interview, I had this mindset – why do we need this interview at all? Isn’t that I’m the obvious candidate, since I have already proven myself?

This confidence is not coming from nowhere. It was partially planted by boss. He gave me the impression that I 100% will get this position. Thus, the overconfidence was built like that.

The issue is he was not the only one who made the final decision. There were total 4 interviewers in the panel and my boss was not the key decision maker. The other 3 interviews had very limited experience dealing with me. To them, I haven’t proven myself at all for this position.

So it was totally wrong that I assumed I have already proven myself! Big mistake!



Lack of Preparation

Overconfidence is the main issue here, which leads to other issues. Lack of preparation is one of them. Because I didn’t prepare well, I was nervous when answering some of the questions that I didn’t anticipate. A lot of questions can be answered better.

Honestly, I need to put more effort in preparing the interview than anyone else because I’m simply suck at that. Interview is my weakness.

Specifically, one interview question that I remember I answered very badly is

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career? You can mention your previous company.
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Maybe the last statement is a trick. I stupidly quoted my ex-company, which was > 8 years ago and likely not relevant anymore. If I were the interviewer, I probably think this guy has done nothing over the 8 years in this current company.

This is just one example. There are many interview questions I could have done better. In short, all my answers lead to show that I’m not interested in my current job. No wonder I failed badly!



Treat it as Informal

This is probably my biggest mistake. I did not treat it the same as external interview. A lot of things that I did, I think I won’t do it if it was an external interview.

Shouldn’t this be an informal interview? Yeah, because I treat it as informal, I did the following stupid things:

  • I told them if I don’t get any pay rises or the pay does not meet my expectation, I won’t consider this position. This is interview 101 man! You don’t talk about pay until you’re offered. This shows that I’m not interested / not very keen in this position. What I care is only just $!
  • I told them there is someone I do not prefer to work with. Are you kidding me? I just dug my own grave. Saying this basically means I’m not flexible to deal with different kind of people, furthermore this is not really a showstopper for me. Then, why I said it?

Technically I just told my boss the above stuff but I believe this is communicated to the rest of the interviewers.

Maybe being too honest is not a good thing here. Depends on your scenario, I made a wrong move because my trusted person is NOT the key decision maker. So I can’t be 100% honest here.



Talk Too Much

I think because I was nervous and overconfident, I talked too much. I talked about things that they don’t ask me. This exposes unnecessary risk of mistakes that I could have made.

I remember I talked about HR policy such as employee performance improvement plan sounds good in theory but not practical. One of the interviews is from HR, so I guess she must be disagreeing with me.

The point is, I shouldn’t talk about this topic at all. No one asked me about it, why should I? I should only talk about relevant stuff that they asked me. This is interview 101 again, a smart interviewee probably won’t make this mistake.



Lessons Learned

I think the main reason I failed is treating this internal interview as informal, which I shouldn’t. Even though the interview in internal, the evaluation process has no difference than interview in external company. Thus, I should treat it exactly like attending an external interview. A lot of my mistakes above can be avoided.

I also need to be humble, regardless what external factors are. Having confidence is good, but not overconfidence, which leads to arrogance. Maybe I should act like a fool during the interview instead of thinking I’m better than anyone else, including the interviewers. This helps me to shape myself to have a right mindset.

Failure doesn’t feel good at all, but it at least helps me to understand myself more. It also makes me realize the importance of self-improvement, no matter how busy you are.



Some Thoughts

I don’t know about you. Interview is not my strength, both technical and non-technical interviews. In fact, I’m very bad at it. This is a skill that I need to acquire if I really want to be good at it. To do that, I need to attend a lot of interviews.

The problem is, attending a lot of interviews is tiring and time-consuming. This leads me to think, why should I focus on my weakness? I can put in a lot of effort, but the result probably won’t be very significant at the end – the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule.

Is improving my interview skills worth the investment? Or should I just focus my effort on my other strengths?




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Vincent Tsen

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