How to Mess Up an Interview in 30 Minutes

By Mei Chang ‘15

Mei Chang '15

Mei Chang '15

For many of us, the dismay accompanying January's frigid temperatures is no match for the dread we feel when anticipating interviews. Troops of freshly minted first years and seasoned second years brave the onslaught of case interviews, technical questions and the occasional 'What is 25 times 34' curveball*.

We read manual after manual about what to do. Yet sometimes we forget some of the core traits that all interviewers are fundamentally seeking in a candidate. Unless you really are Kate Hudson** with the modern-day luxury of purposefully messing up an interview for a great story, beware of the following three blunders:


We all do it. The nerves take over and somehow the words come pouring out without any sense. Stop and take a breath. Most importantly, the attention span an interviewer will have for any individual question is approximately 2-3 minutes. Time yourself if you have to and make sure to stay within these bounds.

Not Providing Examples

The point of qualitative questions is to elicit examples from your personal and professional experiences so that the interviewer can gauge how you have acted in the past. Responses that claim you are "an extremely hard working person" are relatively meaningless unless you can point to that time when you pulled fourteen back-to-back all-nighters in order to finish a project for your boss. 

Being a Robot

The main gist of any good interview is that the interviewer asks all the questions and you provide all of the answers. But a GREAT interview is a conversation. When possible, try and form a personal connection with that person. Tell them not just an answer, but a story about why you are the best candidate for the job. Obviously this might be hard in say, a case interview, but one can still weave in personal tidbits even as you are market sizing the opportunities in the gluten-free industry. 

Your friendly neighborhood Career Advisors are always here to help conduct mock interviews, walk through tough questions, and generally serve as an unbiased resource for you. 

* 25 x 34 = 850.

** How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days reference. Watch it.