Sometimes I think back to past interviews… and all I can do is put my head in my hands and shake it back and forth while I wish the embarrassing memory away.

Can you relate?

One memory in particular makes me cringe every time I play it back.

Long before I was landing jobs at places like Facebook and LinkedIn (what I like to call Phase 2 of my career), I was in my senior year of college, and I was interviewing for Google.

“For GOOGLE!” I would say to all my friends as my interview date approached.

It seemed too good to be true, and I wasn’t going to mess it up.

But I did. Epicly.

Because I decided to wing it… to bring my special ‘Liz flava’ to the table, and see how it went.

“So Liz, can you share an example of a time a customer was upset and how you handled it?”

The question came out of left field (not really though -- I was interviewing for a customer support position...)

I fumbled through a host of ideas in my mind, stuttered a few “um’s”, and then blurted out, “Well I have this one story about crispy bacon!”

Seriously, I said that.

I proceeded to share a strangely-long, rambling story about a former waitressing gig, and how a diner once asked me for crispy bacon and I brought him regular bacon instead. He got upset, and I took his bacon back to the kitchen, only to find out that our kitchen didn’t make crispy bacon. He got mad. I apologized. We parted semi-amicably…

I think I closed my answer with a rousing, “In retrospect I wish I would have convinced the kitchen to make him crispy bacon as a special request. So, yeah. That’s my crispy bacon story.”

And here I am again, shaking my head in my hands…. Oh why did I do that???

I’ll tell you why.

Because I was so nervous, that instead of leaning into my discomfort and preparing exceptionally, I chose to wing it -- an approach that sadly left my confidence bruised and convinced me I was doomed to fail at interviewing forever.

Here’s the secret I wish I would have known and embraced at the time:

Winning in the interview is a skill you can learn -- and need to learn if you want to land the job.

I realize that sounds scary (no one said landing an amazing job was going to be a walk in the park…) But as someone who has had to overcome numerous epic fails and significant interview anxiety, I promise you, even if the idea of this makes your stomach churn, it can be done.

Truly. I went on to land killer jobs at amazing companies. I see my clients tackle their fears and master interviewing every day.

So I know that with the right approach and enough practice, ANYONE can do it.

Here are my top 3 tips for getting started:

  1. Build your story bank: You need at least 6 pre-rehearsed, succinct stories you can share as examples. That way, whether you’re asked “Tell me about a time you failed,” or, “Tell me about a project you managed to success,” or even a curveball question, you can easily select and slot in a story you’re ready to tell.
  2. Respond relevantly: Always pick the most relevant story to share -- the one that shows you’re ready to succeed in this role at this organization. Then, slot it into our handy Next Step Careers interview response formula that helps you clearly articulate why this story proves you’re the best choice for the job (and leaves your interviewer begging you to join the team).
  3. PRACTICE, practice, practice: Like any skill, you’ve got to practice over and over until responding exceptionally becomes second nature. Practice in your mirror, with your friend, your career coach. You can start with the most commonly asked interview questions, and then trust that your story bank and response formula will serve you well even when the curveballs come flying.

It took me a while to recover from my crispy bacon fail. But I’m grateful it allowed me to learn from my mistakes and share these lessons with you.  

What's your most epic interview fail?

Please post to the comments below or share with me via email at [email protected] I’m going to turn these into a book one day -- and it’s ALWAYS nice to know we’re not alone in messing up! :)


Liz Cohen is Founder & Head Coach at Next Step Careers, a career consultancy dedicated to helping professionals navigate today's job search successfully (and happily). If you like our style, sign up here for the Next Step Careers newsletter, where we share today's smartest job search tips.