When rehearsing for a job interview backfires

The interbusinesswoman holding her head with handview has just started. Pleasantries are exchanged and the candidate—we’ll call her Jill—is confident.  She’s been rehearsing for a job interview like this a million times since getting the call.

She’s prepared. Word perfect in fact.

“So! We’ll get right into it,” the interviewer says as he smiles at her encouragingly.

“What I’d like to know first, is how you think you are different to all the other candidates I’ve seen today? How do you think your expertise will add value to this role and this company?”

Jill’s mouth goes dry as her eyes dart to each interviewer.

“Ah…Hmmm…” she mutters buying time, scanning feverishly through her paperwork. “I’m sorry, it’s um… here somewhere” she says.

“If I could, ah, just, ah say this first?” she asks.

They smile and nod… Amused? Encouraging? She can’t tell.

Composing herself, Jill squares her shoulders and provides her 30-second, fully prepared elevator pitch. “I am an experienced sales and marketing professional with more than five years of experience in the widgets industry. I have a passion for blue widgets and in my last role, I delivered one point five million dollars in sales and increased market share by 10%”.

The interviewers share glances.

“Ok… we need a little time out here” suggests one of the interviewers, “Because, well, that wasn’t the question we asked”.

Crestfallen, Jill stares at the panel, her world crumbling. This isn’t how it was supposed to be at all! All the coaching, all the rehearsing for a job interview—perfecting her answers so she appeared the ideal employee. And, despite all that work, the interview was going south on the first question!


This real-life scenario that happened just a few weeks ago, shows clearly that Jill mistakenly believed she could anticipate every question and have every answer researched and thoroughly prepared. Memorising her lines parrot-fashion meant that she was unable to demonstrate the mental agility to think on her feet, choose an appropriate response, and knock the interviewer’s socks off. By stage managing and rehearsing her answers for this job interview beforehand, she was viewed as being unprepared and amateurish—entirely the opposite of what she was aiming for!

By all means, give your interview a lot of thought. Think carefully about what you are offering, what the employer wants and why you would be of value to the company. Give a great deal of thought to examples of how you solved problems and found solutions, and, if you have a difficult situation (gaps in employment, a sacking etc), then give thought as to how you are going to present that information.

But learn it parrot fashion? Forget it!

What was your worst interview experience?


  1. Melissa Cooley

    What’s sad is that, with a little tweaking, Jill’s 30-second elevator speech could have been the exact answer they were looking for. Candidates should practice their answers, but they should also know the details of their career stories well enough so they can appropriately fit them in to the questions that are asked of them.

    • Gayle Howard

      Yes indeed! Thanks for your comment Melissa!


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.