How Not to Screw Up a Job Interview – From a Real Life Experience

Story by Ivy Gathu

Last week, I wrote about my journey in mastering rejection, which if you have not read can be found here. The ultimate test for this came in April, I had been job hunting for around 6 months in between getting some consultancy opportunities. During the months of March and April, I allocated more time to my job hunt; I revamped my resume and profile. I was sure this was the kick that would secure me a job and I knew exactly what I wanted in my next job; a good work environment, doing work I love, health benefits, a mentor for a line manager, pension, career growth, travel perks and a long term contract. It is good to dream big because sometimes the universe will listen.

One morning, I saw a job post by the Open Society of East Africa that was crafted for me, I literally read it and I saw myself in that position. I prepared my resume and cover letter and sent in my application on 12th April 2019.

On 15th April 2019, I received a call from Open Institute asking me to come in for a job interview on 23rd April 2019.

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The week before my interview, I dedicated it to prepare for my interview. On 23rd April 2019, I was ready to impress my interviewers. I made sure I was there before time, I scoped the office and the personnel and thought; “ Wow! The OSIEA office seems understaffed.”

I was asked to wait outside until I was called, I was there with a fellow interviewee, we exchanged pleasantries and I waited for my turn on the hot seat. Finally, after what felt like ages, I was called into the interview room. I was in the hot seat being evaluated by a three-panel interview team. The butterflies in my stomach turned into moths, and my hands were shaking. Luckily, the interview panel was very considerate and eased my anxiety and offered me some water.

It was go time! My 30 minutes to shine, sell myself and my skills.

The interview started with the usual questions, tell us about yourself …blah! Blah! Blah! Then the big question came; tell us about the organisation and I went in on everything and had read about the organisation. Once I was done the interviewer asked me to name of their organisation.

I started off “ The Open Society….” one of the interviewers stopped me and said “ The what?” and I repeated “ The Open Society…” and he told me that this was Open Institute. In my head, I was like — “Sir, why are you confusing your organisation’s name?” But he wasn’t confused it was I that was confused.

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The interview continued — I now had to somehow re-craft my answers, even though I had already made a fool of myself. I finished the interview, thanked my interviewers and left. As I was walking out of the office complex my mind started racing…

“ Where did this organisation get my resume?”

“ Had someone referred me for the position and I had forgotten?”

“ When did I apply for the job?”

My thoughts were cut short mid-walk, by a phone call from the Open Institute, they asked me to return because there were some questions I had not answered. These questions were not unique to any interview I had ever been to, they asked me: whether I could cook or wash a car? In my head, I started thinking maybe now they want me to be an office administrator. Finally, the second unexpected interview was over.

I met up with my mum and aunties and told them about my big blunder at my job interview. They had a good laugh and but as the staunch Christian women they are, they had hope that I could get the job, I just shrugged it off, because who in the world would hire someone who mixes up their organisation for another one.

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Now that I had the names of my interviewers, I decided to stalk their profiles on twitter, and alas I saw a tweet about my interview as seen below, I had fully expected it.

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Screenshot of the founder’s tweet

I wrote back to the founder of the organisation, thanking him for the opportunity.

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Screenshot of my tweet

I counted my losses gracefully and gave myself hope that at least I had a dry run of an interview process and I knew what not to do. Honestly, I was so proud of myself because old Ivy would have beaten up herself.

On 26th April 2019, I got an unexpected call from Open Institute, they had given me the job. I was in utter complete shock.

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Screenshot of my job acceptance offer

When I reflect back all the signs to let me know that the job interview was not with OSIEA were there, however, I ignored all of them:

  1. The first sign was that OSIEA must have really wanted to fill the position because their deadline for the job post was for 22nd April 2019.
  2. The job post for OSIEA was Programme Assistant but for Open Institute was Programme Officer. Which is clearly noted in the email.
  3. The location for the OSIEA offices was Lenana Road and Open Institute was Stare House Road. Having worked in the civil society space, I figured they must have moved offices and not updated their website for security reasons.

So job seekers, do not be me, instead:

  1. Make sure you know the name of the organisation you are applying to
  2. Read about what the organisation does.
  3. Be confident in selling your skills
  4. Be real, passionate and open to learning, which my current line manager told me is what got me through the interview.
  5. And keep track of all the organisations that you have sent in applications.

…….Wishing you success in your job hunt.

And thank you to Open Institute for taking a chance on me.

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