“Pretty much everybody who’s ever held down a job has at least one bad interview story. For me, it’s showing up soaking wet in the middle of a downpour for an interview at a major publishing company. ‘This weather is terrible, isn’t it?’ my interviewer asked. ‘It’s the kind of day you really should call in sick and stay in bed!’ I responded enthusiastically. J.Doll, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“I didn’t get the job. The truth is, I don’t even remember what the job was. But every time I walk into another interview, my heart starts beating faster, I feel slightly nauseated and I wonder how I might mess up again.
Learn from your mistakes
Those nerves are as common as having a bad interview story. Dr. David Austern, a clinical instructor with the Department of Psychiatry at N.Y.U. Langone Health, noted that 92 percent of adults have job interview anxiety…We worry that we won’t be able to express ourselves clearly, or that we won’t look right. What if people think we’re awkward or have a bad handshake? What if we’re evaluated poorly compared to others? With all this comes the behavioral manifestations — shaky hands, getting queasy, sweating — that ratchet the anxiety up even further…’Even if we don’t consider a bad interview a capital-T trauma, it has this emotional leadenness to it,’ said Dr. Austern, who reminded me that, on the up side, ‘pretty much everything short of death we can survive.’
In the case of Kashif Naqshbandi, the gaffe was the nightclub stamp from the evening before, which he saw when he reached out to greet his interviewer. ‘I could tell they noticed the crude smudge on the back of my hand, but they didn’t address it, which made matters even worse,’ he said. “I felt I had to compensate for my indiscretion and probably came across as too serious or strait-laced.’
In retrospect, he notes, he should have just addressed it.‘It shows honesty and willingness to discuss difficult or sensitive subjects.’ Now Mr. Naqshbandi is Chief Marketing Officer at Frank Recruitment Group, a global niche technology recruitment agency, and he washes all nightclub stamps from his hands when he gets home.
What goes wrong is as important as what goes right
No matter what you might think, interviewing isn’t about avoiding rejection. It’s not (entirely) even about impressing the person behind the desk, who, by the way, is a human just like you, and may be just as nervous as you are. The interview is your chance to find out if this is the right fit for you. So trust yourself — if it goes badly, that might be the best thing that’s ever happened.
Just roll with it
You might commit a fashion fur-pas, like Jen Bekman, founder and CEO of 20×200. She was interviewing for a job at a start-up run by David Steward, the former COO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, “a really impressive and somewhat intimidating guy all around.”
Ms. Bekman had been staying with a friend who had a cat and lived in a “very dark” first floor apartment. ‘It wasn’t until I sat down across from him for the actual interview that I realized that my black suit was absolutely covered in cat hair. I mean, like … covered. I think it’s possible that he might’ve even handed me a lint brush during the interview! Totally mortifying.’He hired her anyway.
For Ryan Su, lead designer at TeliApp, an AI software development firm, his worst interview moment was also his … nicest. Instead of the hard interrogation he expected, he got questions like, ‘What kind of movies I watched, what the most recent series I’m binge watching was, and what was the most recent book I had read. And it totally threw me off my game…There are a million embarrassing things that could happen in an interview, Dr. Wen admits. The best thing to do is acknowledge it’s happening and refocus. And later, once you go home, ‘if they don’t call you back, the best thing you can do is move on.’Mr. Su resigned himself to failure and sent an email thanking his interviewers for their time. Two days later, he got his offer.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- I stashed my umbrella in the hallway.
- He responded enthusiastically to the questions.
- Some people might feel slightly nauseated after an interview.
- What if people think we’re awkward?
- Some feel that they’ll be evaluated poorly due to a mistake.
- In the case of Kashif Naqshbandi, the gaffe was the nightclub stamp from the evening before.
- He felt that he had to compensate for his indiscretion.
- In retrospect, he notes, he should have just addressed it.
- Frank Recruitment Group is a global niche technology recruitment agency.
- Mr. Su resigned himself to failure.
Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Prepositions:in, for, of, with, by,on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,through, from, during, up, off,
I had an interview___ Dumbo and had no idea that the building was 30 minutes___ the subway station!
I was a half-hour late or more and completely frazzled_____ the time I got there. When she finally arrived, the interview took place___ ___ the middle ___an open-plan office, So I had the fun___ having everyone listen___ me apologize.
I’ve spent the last hour convincing this guy I can learn___ pressure, and now I’m going ___look ___a flake.
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Have you ever experienced a bad job interview? Describe what happened.
- Describe a good job interview that you’ve had.
- Did you learn something from your experiences?
- After reading the article, list what you think are the most significant elements one should keep in mind during job interviews.
Role Play: In groups students can write short scripts for job interviewers and the interviewees. Members can take turns playing each role. Groups can share role plays with class.
Visual Ideas: Students could create pictures, collages or drawings to demonstrate their understanding of the article. For example they might focus on the appropriate type of clothing to wear for a job interview. Another idea would be the correct body language during an interview.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.