Don't Let This Happen in Your Interview

24 October 2020
Capt. Bob Smith

Don’t Let This Happen in Your Interview

We have all been at a party where a group of guys is standing around telling jokes and laughing. Then, somebody says something that doesn’t quite fit, and the mood is gone. Enter the uncomfortable silence.

Do not let this happen at your interview! Besides answering the questions correctly and having enthusiasm, it is crucial to keep a smooth flow during your interview.  Here is what I mean.

I have witnessed this happen first-hand. A firefighter candidate was asked this question. “What if you are on duty and a co-worker smells like marijuana smoke?”. Thinking he will get extra points for being innocent, he replied, “Well, I don’t know what marijuana smells like.” Then, there is that uncomfortable silence. You see, the Oral Board wanted to find out how the candidate would handle a drug problem in the workplace. Now, they had to explain that he does know the smell of marijuana and continue with the questioning. The smooth flow of the interview is lost and was never regained.

We asked another firefighter candidate if he had anything to add or any questions for the panel. He said, “I just wanted to know if you could think of any mistakes I might make in training after getting hired so that I can avoid them?” The panel met his question with open mouths. Again, there was an uncomfortable silence as they didn’t know what to say.  He had taken an excellent interview and flushed it.  The last impression they had was that he might be kind of goofy.

In both situations, the firefighter candidates had done something they thought would make them stand out.  Well, it did, but not the way they wanted. Here is my advice. Don’t try any funny stuff in the interview. It is too hard to recover if it goes wrong.

As your mom always said, “Practice makes perfect.” Well, mom was right. The best way to keep a smooth, steady flow during your interview is to practice, practice, and practice some more. Yes, you should talk into a tape player, and talk in your car on the way to work.  Practice with mock interviews. Jump at any chance you have to speak your stuff.

Practice will make you comfortable for your next interview. Being prepared will have you more relaxed, and you will be able to be yourself. Because you will memorize your script, you will not forget any of it. This prep work will make a big difference. You will carry yourself with more confidence, and it will show