Interview fail

I’m openly looking for a new job now. Which means I can post about my job-hunting, should I feel like it. I just got turned down for a job today. I usually do grand in interviews but this one was just a bit off from the start. What sucks is I’m pretty sure I blew it with one (or two) really basic questions. “List 5 factors that make a website accessible” and I completely blanked and ended up giving a long waffley answer rather than the requested list.

The ridiculous thing is that I’ve been building accessible websites for years now, the items I were to list are so ingrained in what I do every single day that I couldn’t manage to dredge them up from the bottom of my brain. When it came at me in the context of an interview question, it was like the word accessible lost all meaning, like when you say a word too many times. Building accessible web sites is my bread and butter. It’s all I do every day. It’s a bit nut’s that I screwed that question up so badly, negating all everything else. God, I could give lectures on building accessible sites, yet there and then I couldn’t list 5 simple practices of accessibility.

It’d be like asking an experienced builder to list all the ingredients he mixes into his foundation and he says “Jaysus I couldn’t tell you Paddy!” and then doesn’t get a building job despite the fact that he’s been building solid looking houses for years, and you can go and have a look at a whole street of them. Damn, chalk it up Johnny Boy and be ready to answer the basics next time.

While I’m at it – despite what everyone says I’m not convinced wearing a full suit is the best idea either – It’s just a hunch but I can’t help thinking I have less of a chance of *clicking* with the interviewer, who in my field tend to wear the same uniform I do every day – Jeans, Hoody and T-shirt. Not that I’d wear a hoody to an interview obviously but you can be shirty without being stiff. And if there’s no click, no rapport, you can forget about everything else. Doesn’t matter what you know or don’t know. I’m dropping the suit next time, unless entirely appropriate. Wotcha think?

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UPDATE: I was so glad this interview was a fail. Much happier with the job that I since got.



  • Reply DJ

    March 2, 2011, 10:16 pm

    Hi John

    Well, you could start by making your URL for the link accessible rather than a 404:'s%20all%20I%20do%20every%20day.


    Interviewing is about alignment of incentives – you should be clear on what you want from the job, just as they should be clear what they want from you. This should come through clearly in the job spec. However all too often employers are happy to list the tech skills (Adobe CS, HTML, CSS, JS) without saying what you will be actually responsible for on a day to day basis. It’s your job to find out they have what you want, same as it’s their job to find out what you have is what they want!

    On accessibility – this ought to go further than code and W3C standards. It’s about what people need first and foremost. It’s pretty easy to make an *accessible* site (technically) that still doesn’t deliver what people need to know. Spending time with people who use accessibility aids like screenreaders on a daily basis changes your view of what web developers/designers think is “accessible”.

    Just my 0.02ukp/euros


    • Reply John

      March 2, 2011, 10:46 pm

      Hey D. No that was all pretty clear, it’s pretty much the same job I’ve been doing for the last two years actually. It was just Stiffy McSuit here getting off on the wrong foot and then cocking up a couple of questions to make me look like I didn’t know some stuff that I know only too well. That’s the frustrating thing about it.

  • Reply Katherine

    March 2, 2011, 11:13 pm

    Hey, sorry to hear you didn’t get the job. Interviews can be so tricky. At least you’ve a good attitude – good luck with the hunt!

  • Reply Denise

    March 3, 2011, 12:50 am

    Ditch the suit and let me know how it goes! I’m a final year multimedia student and they’ve been forcing us to look at our career prospects, get our online portfolio together and brush up on our interview skills, the big bad world starts in June like. But it got me thinking if people are expecting a savvy trendy web designer/developer, should I show suited up or maybe try professional with a hint of trendy minus the suit

    • Reply John

      March 3, 2011, 1:04 am

      Hi Denise – funny I have a cousin with the same full name as you. I did a master’s in multimedia a few years ago – hard work but great fun too! Yeah I’ve already done plenty of interviews in more casual wear but against my own intuition have gone with the full suit more recently for some. I can’t help thinking it definitely gives the *wrong* impression for some jobs contrary to a lot of opinion. Good look with the impending career!

  • Reply Emmet

    March 3, 2011, 9:56 am

    Hey John. I tend to interview dozens of people a year. I’ve learned not to hold a suit against a candidate, but it does always make me suspicious. If the company is large 500+ people, they might expect a suit. But if it’s small/ in the creative area, a suit is a liability. It’s also about you being comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing. I’d suggest jeans/shirt rather than anything else. Good luck with it.

  • Reply Sarah T

    March 3, 2011, 11:25 am

    It is so annoying when the basics we take for granted trip us up. After 26 driving lessons I drove off in my test recently without putting my seatbelt on. That beeping sound will haunt me! I couldn’t shake it for the whole test so I failed with flying colours. Two years of driving well and I never did that before!

  • Reply FIn

    March 18, 2011, 11:56 pm

    Buy the right pair of meedja specs John. How d’ya expect to be taken seriously without a pair of extra wide meedja specs? Yer nothin’ without meedja specs biy…

  • Reply pob

    March 30, 2011, 5:54 pm

    late commenter here, but I feel your pain re interview fails John, have had a couple of spectacular ones myself! (both for the same job as it happens). My field would be v v suity, so dressing up for them hasn’t really been an issue for me, but I recall receiving advice from someone along the lines of – have a look at the acceptable dress code for the company and dress about 5% better – so if jeans and a hoody would be your work uniform maybe a shirt instead of a tshirt and some nice shoes? God, sound like the mammy with ‘nice shoes’ 🙂

  • Reply John

    March 31, 2011, 2:54 pm

    Good advice. Nice shoes and meedja specs it is then 🙂

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