Interview problems

Everybody has some sort of weakness in their interview techniques.

Some people are much better at interviews than others, but there's usually something which makes them uncomfortable.

Common problems:

  • Orientation
  • Types of question
  • Lack of self confidence
  • Lack of preparation- not knowing how to prepare

Most of these are actually mechanical problems, not knowing how to do things, which causes the Interview Nerves effect. There is such a thing as Interview Phobia, which is dealt with elsewhere, but these issues are really a result of lack of knowledge and training.


Orientation means knowing your way around. Job interviews can seem quite mysterious to people grappling with a new environment, total strangers, and a complete lack of familiarity with such exotic details as how to get a glass of water from the carafe on the table.

(By the way, that water can come in handy, during an interview, both preventing dehydration and giving you time to think while you drink.)

Common wisdom is for once right, on the subject of orientation.

You need to do some practice interviews.

If you've been having real problems, you may need to do several.

You will benefit from practice interviews, because the added experience will help you learn to orient yourself. Having got more familiar with the process, you'll learn how to focus on questions, and not get distracted by the experience itself. That's normally the main problem, distraction, caused by a natural awareness of the environment.

Another thing you can do for yourself, with specific interviews, is just check out the people and place beforehand. You can even meet the convener, usually, and just mention you'd like to see the workplace, if at all possible. That's not too difficult, providing you're not using up too much time, and you at least get to see the place and learn how to find your way around.

You can also find out quite a bit about the job, which is well worth doing, and ask any questions you may have.

Not getting lost is another good idea.

A whole new building, by definition, is disorienting. Many interviewees have spent more time in elevators, trying to find the right floor, than doing the actual interview, so your time won't be wasted if you just make sure you know where you have to go.

Types of problem questions

One of the most difficult issues is that some people, although quite OK for a job, with all the knowledge they could possibly need to get the job, trip over some particular questions.

It's mainly because they don't know what the interviewers want. This varies between individuals, but some people don't know how to answer things like problem solving questions, or team questions.

The rest of their interview is OK, but these are the questions they routinely make a hash of, and it's costing them jobs.

There's only one real solution: Go to work on the problem yourself.

To do this:

  • Identify the problem questions There's usually only one or two, but if there are any other problems, find them.
  • Ask interviewers what you did wrong on those questions This is the only genuinely effective method of locating the problems with your information. You'll find that the answers are fairly consistent, and you can see a pattern.
  • Research the questions Check out a reliable source explaining interview questions, find the one which addresses your specific problems.
  • Practice your answers This may sound like it's overdoing it, but the fact is that most people aren't good speakers. Some will blurt out answers, others will be shy, and the result is the information in the answer gets scrambled by the way it's given. You need to get to the stage of speaking fluently.
  • If necessary, write down your answers and edit them This is all about information quality, and really, it's vital. Does your answer contain the material you were told you were leaving out? Does it look right? Does it sound OK when you say it?
  • Recheck with a trainer or a friendly interviewer for quality control You'll find your trainer can give you a lot of useful advice and most importantly, feedback. You need that feedback, because otherwise you're guessing, and you may also have found a way of making other mistakes.

This takes time, but remember: Not getting those jobs is costing you time.

Lack of self confidence

You'll be surprised to hear that lack of self confidence is actually a good thing in some ways.

It means you're a lot more alert.

Some people are overconfident to the point they can sail through interviews majestically, getting most of the answers wrong, and apparently not seeing the despairing looks on their supervisor's face. Nor do they bother to find out why they didn't get those jobs.

Given a choice between lack of self confidence and overconfidence, you're at least on the right side.

It's a problem when it stops you from functioning properly. This is a mild form of Interview Phobia, and it usually means you don't behave normally, and hold back too much.

You don't say enough, you don't present well, your answers seem forced.

All of which adds up to a problem. The interviewers can, and some will, give you some time and space to add to your answers.

But if you're not able to deliver the answers effectively, your lack of self confidence is working against you.

This is a combination of the Orientation and Types of Question situations, made worse by the fact that your lack of confidence is stifling your answers.

The remedy is practice, and some good research of your interview problems.

To deal with lack of self confidence, you need to do some speaking practice before groups.

This is tough at first, particularly for naturally shy people, but with time, you'll find you can speak well to any group of people. At interviews, you'll be able to speak well, and perform at your best.

In many cases, that's all people need. They know the answers, know the job, and just have difficulty delivering their information.

The actual training in public speaking, by the way, is a lot of fun, and you definitely won't regret the time.

You will also definitely learn a lot, and many career people recommend public speaking training as a major skill.

Lack of preparation- not knowing how to prepare

If the others are difficult, this problem is real trouble. You can walk straight in off the deep end.

To prepare for an interview, you need:

  • A list of the essential job criteria
  • Sources for questions so you can practice
  • The information in Types of problem questions, above

A list of the essential job criteria

This is in many ways a Join The Dots process, and you can make it that simple for yourself.

It really is quite easy to prepare for an interview, if you're systematic about it.

You start with a list of essential criteria, like:

Communications skills
Problem solving skills
Leadership skills
Teamwork skills
Relationships skills

With this list, you:

  1. Figure out how these skills relate to the job
  2. Check out sources for questions on these skills on sites like
  3. Adapt your answer to the job, using this information
  4. Use the various techniques on problem questions in this article

The idea is that you thoroughly research and practice your answers, so you can make sure you're properly prepared. It's also very useful to run through your answers so you can check quality.

This is basic preparation, with the added emphasis on problem questions.

The really important part of preparation is sharpening up your awareness of why certain questions are asked. Good preparation is also giving you an insight into the employer's needs, which is vital, in context with getting the job.

Most people blow interviews because of comparative standards of answers.

In some cases one person will find an interview full of questions which are easy for them, but are problem questions for all the other applicants.

Nobody does interviews the same way.

Everybody has weaknesses that have to be addressed, and preparation is the only way to do that.

Summing up:

Any interview problem is fixable, usually pretty easily. Preparation, training, and researching the interview issues is the way to go.

You'll see we have a lot of material on interview questions, and coping with interview problems. These will give you an insight into any problems you may have, and if you have any further questions, just ask on our Forum. The advice is free, and you'll get a few perspectives on the problem which may not have occurred to you.

You don't have to suffer, but you do have to solve the problem.