Job interviews can go bad pretty quickly. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to catch an interviewer dozing off in the middle, and other times you might not notice until you walk out the door. Regardless of when a job interview goes bad, here’s how to recover.
Picture: Tuomas Puikkonen/Flickr.
Turn the Tide and Save a Bad Interview
If you’re sitting in your interview and start noticing the person interviewing you has fallen asleep then your interview probably isn’t going so well. That means it’s time to turn the tide and try to save it as much as possible. Here are a few bad circumstances you can save pretty easily.
Recover from a Terrible Answer
We’ve all had the facepalm moment in the middle of an interview where we give a terrible answer and catch it too late. Thankfully, the Daily Muse provides a pretty simple way to handle it:
Take a deep breath, backtrack, and rephrase your answer. You can even say, “actually, can I repeat that, a different way?” The most important aspect to coming back from a blunder is to keep your cool — the interviewer will most likely remember your smooth recovery better than your slip-up.
Unless you’re really well-rehearsed, you’ll bumble at least a question or two during the interview. The lesson here isn’t so much that you don’t make those mistakes, but that you handle them really well after the fact. The same goes for any other similar mistakes you might make, including accidentally spilling something on the interviewer, or calling someone by the wrong name. Shrug it off and use humour when it makes sense. You’ll recover with at least a little grace. Picture: bpsusf/Flickr.
Ask Questions When They Seems Bored
If you glance over at the interviewer and they look like they’re spacing out a bit, it’s time to try and engage them and bring them back to the interview. When they’re tuning out, it’s likely a sign they’ve stopped considering you as a candidate, so it’s important to bring them back to reality. CBS News recommends you ask them a question:
Stop talking, take a breath and smile. Try [to] make them feel important with a question like, ‘What do you like about working here?’ suggest [Career Expert Jeff] Gordon. People love talking about themselves — and by responding directly, your interviewer will be forced to focus on you.
While they’re talking, try and get a better idea of their role in the company and formulate new ideas of where you’ll fit in. If you were boring them, it likely meant they didn’t think you were a good fit, so now is the time to try and get any extra information you can so you can turn the interview around. When it’s your turn to speak again, Business Insider recommends you talk as little as possible and tell a short story to keep the interviewer engaged. Picture: bpsusf/Flickr
They Claim You’re Overqualfied or Underqualified
If you’re in the middle of an interview and you’re told you’re overqualified or underqualified you need to prove otherwise. As we’ve talked about before, overqualified means a lot of different things, but if you want the job you need to make it clear to the interviewer.
The best way to handle this is to reiterate your interest in the job. If you can, give them a commitment and say something like, “I really am interested in the job, and I’m willing to commit to at least two years with your company.”
If the interviewer suggests you’re under qualified, you might need to take a different approach. First and foremost, consider the fact that you are under qualified. Job listings aren’t always a good gauge on the work you’ll be doing, so if you found yourself in the interview thinking the same thing, ask the interviewer if they might have other positions you’d fit in better at. Alternately, you can ask what skills you’re lacking and you and the interviewer can decide if it’s realistic for you to learn those.
However, if you are actually qualified and you’re simply explaining yourself poorly, CBS News suggests you rephrase your answer:
Calmly look at them, and tell them, ‘I understand how it can appear that way and it makes sense. However, I’m not sure I adequately explained that area of experience. Would you mind if I elaborated a bit?’”
You do want to actually fit in at a company and perform the job well. Being over or under qualified doesn’t have to rule you out completely though. Picture: Gangplank HQ/Flickr
Recover After the Interview Is Over
While you might be lucky enough to realise an interview is going bad in the middle of it, chances are you won’t really notice until it’s already over. Here are a couple of different ways to recover after you’re home.
Construct a Thank You Note that Explains the Problems You Had
The “thank you” note is traditionally reserved for making a quick reply to let your potential employer know you appreciated their time, but it can also be used to cover from any huge mistakes you may have made in the interview. Speaking with Forbes, author Katherine Brooks recommends you explain what went wrong:
[I]f you realise you accidentally called the interviewer by the wrong name, for instance, but didn’t realise it until later that you called her Mary instead of Marie, that might warrant an apology in your e-mail. “Mention that you were mortified after the interview when you realised that you called them by the wrong name,” Brooks says. “You can use an excuse, like ‘my best friend is named Mary’ or you can just say, ‘sorry, I’m usually much better with details than that.’”
Brooks also adds that if you were distracted by a big life event — like a death in the family or something similar — it’s not a bad idea to note that in the letter as well. Just keep it short and don’t over-apologize for the mistake. Likewise, if you simply forgot an important piece of information like a connection within the company or a major part of your work experience, you can add that into the thank you note as well. Picture: Ashley/Flickr
Make a Request for a Second Interview
If the interview really went horribly, you can always ask for a second chance. This is a last resort and is only worth it if you really feel like you’re a good candidate for the position. Ask Men suggests the long shot might be worth it:
Your only chance to recover from a bad interview now is to phone your potential employer and ask for a second chance. However, you should avoid making this request by e-mail. It’s typically harder for interviewers to turn you down when they’re actually speaking with you.
Like writing a thank-you note that describes your circumstances, requesting a second interview is best served if you have a good excuse for your behaviour. If you simply flubbed the interview because you were nervous or unprepared, it’s not worth trying again. Take the experience of the interview and move on so you can perform better next time. Picture: Sipris/Flickr
A bad job interview is always a bummer, but even if you can’t recover it’s at least a learning experience you can take into the next interview. Keep a mental log of your mistakes so you don’t make them again and move on to the next one.