Backstory: I work for a big and well-known company in Germany with journalism background. I had scheduled a first phone interview with potential next company I would be working for in a separate conference room, which our company provides for calls and short meetings. It's not a big room used for huge conferences or press releases or anything. So even if it is booked, it is common to check whether or not the room is full, since we have a lot of people not using the room, even if booked.

This call was known by my boss and direct colleagues. I am currently not a full-time employee, but rather in a trainee position, so I am allowed to have these conversations in our rooms, if I let supervisors know beforehand and use my shifted lunch break time to do so.

So, 3 hours ago I had a phone interview with a company I would declare as my dream company to work for. I was well prepared, had written down a lot of facts and questions and was ready to go in.

We scheduled about half an hour for a first "get-to-know" kind of interview and BOY did it go wrong.

The first 5 minutes was an introduction of them and their company and I patiently listened and showed my interest. After their short introduction it was my turn to present myself, what I did, where I worked before etc.

It started off well, but while being on a roll with my own introduction, a coworker burst into my booked room, to check if it was available. Thrown off by this interruption I got very nervous and told him that it was taken (in silence, after excusing myself to the interviewer).

As I imagined that disruption to be very unprofessional I got increasingly nervous and started to breathe heavy and got super distracted and did not really mention anything I am currently doing at my job (which was the entire point of my introduction).

After failing miserably and the interviewer guiding me to go a little deeper on my current tasks I was now so worried that I seemed unprofessional, that I kept breathing strongly and I was sure, he heard it, which resulted in a circle of getting more and more nervous.

If that wasn't enough, I got disrupted again shortly, by another coworker stepping into the room and asking if it was free, so I had to excuse myself again to wave him off.

Needless to say it all got worse. I gave vague answers and did not finish sentences properly with information or details he asked about, but rather, because I was breathing too heavily so I needed a little break. This continued for like a solid 10 minutes until I finally managed to calm down and talk properly and go into detail.

But the damage was done. I could pretty much hear him thinking how much of a waste of time I was. Although I cooled down and proceeded to answer questions properly, he ended the call slightly before scheduled time, thanked me and said they will be in touch.

Obviously I apologized for the disruptions again at the end and that it led me to get nervous in result and told him, that I would be glad to convince him in a personal interview about my strength and qualification for the position. Well, I don't think it mattered though. I could tell he was like "what the hell was that?" at the end.

So that leaves me completely and utterly embarrassed. This has never happened to me before. And I mean it. I never got nervous in a way that prevents me from speaking. Ever. The sad part is: I know for sure, that I would be a great fit for that position and bring a lot of required and desired skills to the table to fulfill that role. And I also know, that this interview did not represent the real, professional and detail oriented ME.

So my question would be:

  • Is there a way to control the damage that happened? I realized, that the odds of me getting invited to their offices for a personal interview are practically ZERO.

  • Asides from that, I would like to reduce damage as much as possible, so I may be able to apply there again in the future. Is there any way to minimize this mess?

Also, I obviously learned, that I should pick a better location to hold phone interviews. At least I do not go out of this experience empty handed, but with a lesson learned!

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  • 2
    Not to be picky or something, but why would you schedule an interview to connect from your work? – Strader May 27 at 16:10
  • Did your co-workers realise what was happening, and have they said anything? You're more likely to have to do damage limitation with your current employer if they did and rumours start going around. – Julia Hayward May 27 at 16:26
  • 9
    I should have clarified, that this call was known by my boss and direct colleagues. Also I should have clarified, that I am currently not a fulltime employee, but rather in a trainee position, so I am allowed to have those conversations in our rooms, if I let supervisors know beforehand and use my shifted lunch break time to do so. – MyNameIsJohn May 27 at 17:05
  • Thats true. It was. Thats why I said it has never happened to me before and that I am usually calm and professional in my opinion. I guess I wanted to make a great impression, since it is a job, I really want so I got more upset than usual. Might even describe it as panic attack. But thanks to all of your answer. I do understand, that even if I was allowed to, I should not take calls in current employers offices and move to a more controlled space. Edit: (Pressed Enter to begin new line, instead posted it) At least I can grow from here. I may apply again in the later future. – MyNameIsJohn May 27 at 17:20
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    @MyNameIsJohn, you should integrate this clarification into your thread. I would never have guessed that you reacted so badly to interruptions although you actually didn't need to hide that you were having an interview. – BigMadAndy May 27 at 17:33

Never ever schedule a phone/online job interview in a space that you don't control.

If the interviewer understood what happened, he could justify not hiring you simply by logic "If this guy did something so dumb (forgive me for not being politically correct here) even in a situation critical for his own career, he will also do such stuff if we give him a job"

Lesson: pick the field of battle. If you can't do it from your home, go outside (from work) and do the interview in your car while parked, if there is no better option.

As for that interview and chances to recover the situation... the chance is next to none. Maybe if they have no other applicants and your skills are rather good, but it would be an uphill battle even in that case.

  • 2
    It's strange to assume everyone has a car. Germany is not the US. – BigMadAndy May 28 at 18:06
  • I think this is a little harsh. Sure home might be better if you can commute back there in the middle of the day for a call but the second best option I can think of is an office meeting room. – Keith Loughnane May 29 at 8:09
  • @BigMadAndy: Pay attention to the point of what I said, not to a specific example. If he doesn't have a car, he should do something else - whatever, as long as it results in a space he controls, that others (especially from his current job) won't just barge in. Rent a hotel room if nothing else. Excessive? Not if it results in him getting the job he wants. – Dragan Juric May 30 at 13:47
  • @Keith: Office meeting room? Not if it's in the company he currently works for. Yes, it might work, but the problem is, it leaves too much to chance. If no one walks in, sure, he might have a good interview and a happy ending to the story. Or it might end... the way it ended in real life. Such things are too important to leave them to 50/50 coin toss style plans. – Dragan Juric May 30 at 13:50
  • What are you comparing it with? I've done interviews at home and had a housemate disrupt the call. It seems perfectly reasonable to use an office meeting room. Short of a bunker I can't think of any where better maybe a couple of places that are equal but it's a room pretty much designed for this kind of thing. There is at least some risk of some disruption everywhere. I think the root problem if the questioners inability to recover from a minor disruption. – Keith Loughnane May 30 at 14:43

First of all, I think it was unprofessional to take a job interview at your current employer's conference room.

I have just recently started working in Germany, but as far as I know, you can even get half a day off as vacation time. That's what you should've done. Maybe lying and calling in sick could be a better option (as far as I know, you donÄt need any proof of sickness for only one day off).

Now that the damage is done, I really don't think there's anything you can do. The interviewer knows it was crappy, might have noticed that you were at your current employer and his first impression, as you might've guessed, was far from good.

I don't believe that sending a "sorry" e-mail or trying to explain things will do you any good, nor will you have a chance to get another interview to "fix" the first one.

Learn from your mistakes and try again when another opportunity appears.

  • 6
    Why are you recommending lying as "a better option"? What if they find out somehow? Isn't the purpose of regular leave to be used when no other leave applies? – Dukeling May 27 at 17:59
  • @dukeling that's not something I would do, but if I had no choice (really wanted the interview but didn't have any more vacation days, for example) I'd rather not show up in the office at all than spend God knows how much time locked in a conference room that could be used by someone else for something work related and, on top of that, risk getting caught by my boss. – undefined May 28 at 0:17
  • wait for more than 6 months before reapplying at the company (period about which they may retain the data), reshape your CV a little and hope nobody remembers you (I have 50-100 phone interviews per year and you would have to do something pretty bad - see below - to stick in my memory so long)

  • apply at another company

Behavior which may stick in the memory of the interviewer:

  • pretty bad (that sticks in my memory): send an email to the reviewer convincing him/her that he may see your qualification wrong and you were a victim of circumstances

  • pretty bad: send unsolicited further explanations "showing" your skills.

  • even worse: call him/her by phone

So, take it as a lesson learned, accept a waiting time or bapply at another company (either to train or for real). Also check if you really knew all the questions, or if a part of the nervousness actually was based on a lack of knowledge.


Other people stress you shouldn't schedule calls with possible new employers in the office of the current employer.

While this is correct, in some cases it's very difficult or impossible to arrange it differently. I've had plenty of such calls and nothing went wrong. Actually, the worst call I had was at home, when my flat mate started to scream in front of my door. You can't control everything.

The alternative would be to take a few hours off or the whole day, but then your employer would know you're job searching, which may influence your chances to get promoted and/or get other opportunities at the current company. Yes, it's possible that you need half a day off for a doctor appointment, but honestly, if your "doctor appointments" start to happen regularly, every employer who's not a complete idiot will know what that means. And currently, in Germany, all companies start with telephone screenings, so you will probably need a few before you get a job.

What you should do instead is acting smart tactically.

  1. Choose a room where's the probability that you will be disrupted in as low as possible. Choose a room that everybody hates. Check whether it's sound-proof.

  2. Prepare psychologically that you might be disrupted and how you will react when distracted. Sit in a way that enables you to observe the door.

  3. If the room has glass doors/ walls and people can see from outside who's inside, have your laptop with you and other things that will make people think you're in a work teleconference.

How awful your interview went, this depends a lot on your job. You write your background is in journalism. If you're in television or PR, in professions where quick reactions and the ability to work under stress are important, I think the impression you left was indeed quite negative. If you're in a profession in which this doesn't matter, your publications/ portfolio should speak for themselves.


Well, as you're probably pretty aware of by now, scheduling an interview in the office of your current employer is probably a bad idea, for many reasons, at least one of which you're likely very acutely aware of right now. So don't do that.

It's highly unlikely that this company will forward your name to other companies, on some kind of a "do not hire" list. The probability that you've been blacklisted or something of that nature is very low. Don't worry about it.

You failed this interview, that is true. Do not expect a phone call back from them. That said, companies may not have long memories, and it's possible that if you apply to this company again in the future you may be able to get another interview. Don't apply there again for a while, but maybe in a year or so you can try again and see what happens.

If you want to try damage control now, what you could try is to email the point of contact at the company and let them know that "a very stressful, unexpected situation" (I would use those exact words) occurred during the interview, and it got you very flustered. Don't get into specifics, because the specifics make you look really bad (interviewing on company time, using company resources, and so on, not to mention you not being able to do this discreetly or in a sensible way speaks to your poor planning and so on). Simply say that something happened and be apologetic about your conduct.

Everything is fine, nothing is broken. Just don't do this again.

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