Turning a nightmare interview into a great opportunity.

Is a nightmare interview the worst thing ever, or is it an avenue for opportunity?

If you are career-minded, it may seem like an uphill battle to find success on a sustainable basis. Some days are great, while some you might wish you could just forget.

I was recently reminded that seemingly bad situations in life can often be the most impactful.  It all depends on how you react.  This is the exact case of the nightmare interview that I was a part of.


A couple of years ago I was asked to an interview for a new position.  The recruiter sent me to the wrong office within the company I was interviewing with. Not only was it the wrong office, but the wrong branch as well, so I was in the wrong city altogether.  I thought I was interviewing for one position, and the office manager thought I was interviewing for something totally different.

The Interview:

After the opening introductions, the questions started to come my way. What I began to notice early on was that the questions didn’t seem ‘right’ for the position I was supposed to be interviewing for.

The interview questions were so off-base, I finally asked how they applied to position X.  The person was shocked and said they didn’t apply, because they were designed for position Y.  I quickly apologized for wasting his time, but I was not qualified for position Y in any way.

I explained that there must have been a misunderstanding since I was there for position X.  I apologized again, said I would follow up with the recruiter, thanked him, and left because I did not want to waste any more of his valuable time.

I was horrified and embarrassed.  I called the recruiter as soon as I left.  He confirmed that indeed there was a mistake.  He apologized to me and said he would call the office manager himself to explain and apologize to him as well, but in my mind the damage had most likely been done.

Would I ever be able to interview for a position with this company? How would this hurt my reputation within the industry?


Article: Appear as an Authority in the Office


I never forgot about the event and recounted it multiple times when colleagues and myself were sitting around telling nightmare interview horror stories.  It was my trump card that no one could beat! They would tell stories about bad questions, personalities that just didn’t mesh, etc. “Oh yeah?  Did you ever get sent to the wrong town??

The positive:

Fast-forward a few years and a bit of the sting may have been taken away from my winning story.  You see, the person who interviewed me remembered how poised and professional I was in the face of such embarrassment.  He never forgot it either.  He was so impressed with how I handled myself, that he ended up contacting me about doing some project work when he found out I was starting my own company.

(Which I’m literally doing ‘by the book’. I have an MBA but this has been my go-to guide to get my company started.)


He happened to see the news on LinkedIn and contacted me right away. So in a way, my nightmare interview, in time,  turned into one of the greatest sources of opportunity for me. Have you ever had a nightmare interview? I feel like everyone has some story to tell. If you do, then feel free to share below.  How did you handle it, and what did you learn?

No matter how your career-path unfolds, don’t let setbacks bring you down. They are almost always a teachable moment, and sometimes can become your greatest opportunity in the end.