Yes, I Failed My First Job Interview6 min read

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Last updated on by and first published on March 16th, 2017 in Interviews
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My first job interview came soon after I graduated college. My first job interview was at 84 Lumber for an assistant accountant position. Founded in 1956, 84 Lumber is privately held and today operates more than 250 stores and custom millwork and engineered wood manufacturing plants in 30 states. 84 Lumber advertised in the local newspaper a need for an assistant accountant at one of their primary locations. To me, I thought working at 84 Lumber as an assistant accountant would be a good starter job. What a great fit, I had just graduated with a B.S. in Accounting and this was an assistant accountant position.

Before my first job interview at 84 Lumber, I had successfully held many jobs; catching chickens, working on a farm, movie theater projectionist, gas station attendant, assistant manager at TG&Y, being in the U.S. Air Force, and working on the production floor at a flat glass factory. I was even a computer consultant at my own company. Yet, I had very little if any, “job interview” experience.

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My First Job Interview Preparation

None of the jobs I held had much if any “job interview” process; i.e., I caught chickens working for my daddy and worked on the farm for my uncle and cousin. The gas station attendant and movie theater projectionist jobs I got through friends of mine who knew the owners of the theaters and gas station. At TG&Y, it was timing and my persistence that got me the stock-boy job, not an actual job interview. Working at the flat glass factory came through my daddy’s friendship with the glass factory plant’s manager. So, I had not been in an actual job interview.

Thinking of the assistant accountant position as something that I could easily get like I did the jobs I’d held, I did not prepare for an interview. I figured that I would get the job and then quickly move up from it and into something more substantial somewhere else. I did not take any time at all to prepare for my interview with 84 Lumber. Nor, did I consult anyone about what working at 84 Lumber would be like or what their job interview process was. I just quickly put together a cover letter and resume, then printed them out on nice resume paper. After putting them in a high-quality envelope, I hand delivered my cover letter and resume to the 84 Lumber office. A couple of days after I personally gave my resume to them, 84 Lumber contacted me about an interview and my first job interview was scheduled.

My First Job Interview

Three days later, I was at the 84 Lumber office to interview for the assistant accountant position. First, I meet with a lady from human resources. She takes me through paperwork needed completed for me to interview. After completing the paperwork, she gives to me an outline of what their interview process is and a list of interviewers who would interview me. The list had five people on it! At that point, it felt like my heart skipped a beat or two. I had no idea that I would be interviewing with more than one person – let alone five people!

84 Lumber

First, an 84 Lumber store manager interviewed me. The person getting the assistant accounting job would be working a lot with 84 Lumber store managers. The store manager was very interested in my accounting experience; which I had nothing other than in college. Next, three people at once interviewed me; an assistant accountant and two sales people. They were most interested in my handling of accounting for inventory, supplies, and sales. Again, just graduating from college, I had no real-world replies to their questions and went to my college work and my computer consulting.

Lastly, an 84 Lumber accountant interviewed me. This interview I felt went much better because he wanted to know how well I understood accounting. He also focused more than the others on what it was I was looking to do if I got the 84 Lumber assistant accountant job. My answers to his questions I felt were right in line with what he was looking to hear from me.

I Failed My First Job Interview

Well, at the time during and just after my first job interview, I thought that the last interview had gone much better than the first ones. Though, I found out later the last interview (and the other interviews) had gone much worse than I had thought. Throughout the 84 Lumber interview process, I was very open and honest. When asked about things that I had not done, I said that I had not done them and noted if I had in college; even saying how I would go about doing them. When asked about what my plans were if I got the assistant accounting position, I told them something like; “The assistant accountant job would be a great starter job for me. It would be something that I could prove myself in and quickly move up from so that I could get a better job somewhere other than at 84 Lumber.”

Needless to say, I did not get the assistant accounting job at 84 Lumber. It was not because of my lack of real world experience. They knew and understood that I had just graduated college and did not have much real-world accounting and sales experience; they even liked my answers to their job-related questions. Also, it was not because I had never gone through an interview process having more than one person before. The human resource lady told me everyone said that I did well during the interviews. What kept me from getting the assistant accounting job was my blunt honesty about my plans and my lack of knowledge concerning 84 Lumber. Not that 84 Lumber does not appreciate honesty, they do. 84 Lumber and everyone who interviewed me wanted someone in their assistant accountant position focused and dedicated to working at 84 Lumber. 84 Lumber and the people who interviewed me did not want someone like me; someone who did not know what their company was about and who was planning on quickly moving along to somewhere else.

What I Learned from My First Job Interview

During the whole interview process at 84 Lumber I was very nervous. I felt nervous for a few reasons and the first being that it was my first job interview. Mostly however, I was very nervous because I was unprepared for an interview with them. I was unprepared for an interview with them because deep down inside I did not want to work at 84 Lumber. At this time in my life, I was still not sure of what I wanted to do. If I had gotten the assistant accountant job at 84 Lumber, my focus and attention would had been split; on doing well and on looking for somewhere else to work. From the interview process, the interviewers through their questions knew that and that’s not what they wanted.

After my first job interview at 84 Lumber, I was both disappointed and pleased about not getting the assistant accounting job. My first job interview experience had opened my eyes to what can happen during job interviews. It gave me new understanding of job interviews and what I needed to know and what I should do to prepare for future job interviews. Also, it gave me insight into what jobs I should and should not apply for so that I would be most successful in future job interviews. I took not getting the 84 Lumber assistant accountant position in stride; as a learning experience and continued working with my computer consulting clients. Most importantly, I made a promise to myself that I would properly prepare for my future job interviews.

What job interview experience have you learned from that can help others be successful in their future job interview?


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Victor Pearson, PMP, CSM

Senior Program Manager & Founder / Owner at ProjecTutor Professional Development
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I have 20+ years at Microsoft (Office, O365, Windows, Windows Phone, Exchange, SQL, MSN, Bing, SharePoint, SharePoint Online, Xbox).
I have Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Six Sigma Black Belt certifications. And I aided the successful release of over 150 Microsoft software products and services.
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