In the high-stakes world of job interviews, every word and action can make a significant impact on your chances of success. One common pitfall that many candidates fall into is “white elephanting” themselves during the interview process, which can undermine their candidacy.  

What is White Elephanting? 

To “white elephant” yourself in an interview is to unintentionally draw attention to weaknesses, failures, or irrelevant details about yourself that detract from your qualifications for the job. Examples of white elephanting include dwelling on past mistakes, disclosing personal weaknesses without context, or providing excessive information about unrelated topics. 

Why You Shouldn’t Do It 

White elephanting yourself in an interview can significantly diminish your chances of landing the job. Instead of highlighting your strengths and suitability for the role, focusing on negatives can leave a lasting negative impression on the interviewer. Employers are looking for candidates who demonstrate confidence, professionalism, and a clear alignment with the job requirements. White elephanting can make you appear unprepared, lacking in self-awareness, or even unqualified for the position. 

How to Know You Are Doing It 

Recognising when you’re white elephanting yourself requires self-awareness and careful observation of your own behaviour during interviews. Some signs that you may be white elephanting include: 

Dwelling on past failures or mistakes without providing context on what you learned from them. 

Discussing personal weaknesses without highlighting how you have worked to overcome them. 

Providing excessive or irrelevant details when answering questions. 

Struggling to articulate your strengths and relevant experiences clearly and confidently. 

Not receiving positive feedback or engagement from the interviewer during certain parts of the interview. 

Examples to Learn From 

Consider the following examples of white elephanting in interviews and how to avoid them: 

Example 1: Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you faced a significant challenge at work and how you handled it.”  

Candidate: “Well, there was this project where I completely missed a deadline, and it caused a lot of problems for the team…” 

In this example, the candidate focuses on a past failure without providing context on what they learned from the experience or how they resolved the issue. Instead, they could have framed the response more positively by discussing the lessons learned and the steps taken to prevent similar challenges in the future. 

Example 2: Interviewer: “What are your weaknesses?”  

Candidate: “I tend to procrastinate a lot, and sometimes I struggle with time management.” 

In this example, the candidate openly admits to a weakness without offering any strategies for improvement or demonstrating self-awareness. Instead, they could have discussed how they have implemented time-management techniques or sought support to address this weakness effectively. 

How to Stop White Elephanting 

To avoid white elephanting yourself in interviews, follow these tips: 

Prepare thoroughly: Identify your key strengths, accomplishments, and experiences relevant to the position. 

Practice self-awareness: Reflect on your past experiences and identify areas where you may have struggled or made mistakes but focus on what you have learned and how you have grown. 

Stay focused: Stick to answering the interviewer’s questions directly and avoid going off on tangents or providing excessive information. 

Highlight positives: Emphasise your achievements, skills, and qualifications that demonstrate your suitability for the role. 

Be concise: Keep your responses clear, concise, and focused on the most relevant information. 


White elephanting yourself in an interview can be a significant obstacle to securing the job you want. By understanding what it means, why you should not do it, how to recognise when you are doing it, and how to stop, you can position yourself as a strong and confident candidate who is well-prepared to succeed in the interview process. 

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