When the Job Interview is Going Terribly Wrong

It’s every job candidate’s nightmare – you’re at a job interview and things are not going well at all. You are a little more nervous than usual because this is a job that looks really good and one that you really want. But you are having trouble gathering your thoughts and articulating them clearly and cogently. You have stumbled through a few answers and begin to feel a little dampness from the sweat clinging to your collar. What can you do to get things back on track?

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We did some digging and found a few suggestions. We also came up with some of our own. Take a look below.

  1. Keep calm.

Yes, easier said than done. But if you want to recover, you need to stay cool and poised. Take a few deep breaths, maybe pop a breath mint. Put the past behind you. Don’t rerun previous answers in your mind or obsess over the way you answered them. You need to give your complete attention to what is going on now and the questions yet to come.

Don’t get spooked by the demeanor of the hiring manager either. Some people are not as emotional as others, so if the interviewer isn’t very responsive or emotive, it could just be the person’s personality. Don’t automatically take it as a sign they’re unimpressed with your responses.

  1. Mirror the interviewer’s mannerisms.

For example, the interviewer may be someone who tends to use their hands more when they talk and raises their voice from enthusiasm. Or, conversely, the interviewer may be someone more phlegmatic, talking more slowly and staying on an even keel.

In either case, take your cue from the interviewer’s demeanor, and try to push the tenor of your responses in a direction that is more in line with theirs.

Body language is also important. Lean forward slightly to show enthusiasm. Make eye contact with the person, and avoid actions like fidgeting or toe or finger tapping, as this can be distracting and give the impression of insecurity.

  1. Connect to your strengths.

As part of your preparation for the interview, you should have a few anecdotes and examples of your strengths, skills and accomplishments. Try to work these stories and examples into your answers.

  1. Acknowledge a misstep and move on.

If, for example, you begin to answer a question and realize that it is not the approach you want to take, don’t be afraid to admit the misstep and start over. The larger error here is to be so fearful of admitting you took a wrong turn that you continue plowing ahead with your original response, even though it’s not where you want to go.

Admitting you made an error may actually impress the hiring manager because it demonstrates a maturity and self-awareness about your performance.

  1. Make a phone call afterwards.

If you leave the interview still feeling that it did not go well, all may not be lost. If there was a third-party involved in helping to arrange the meeting or make an introduction, call them and explain your situation. They may be willing to advocate on your behalf by providing additional explanation or information to the interviewer/hiring manager.

  1. Use the thank you note.

You can also take advantage of your thank you note to ameliorate your situation. If there is some particular information you failed to provide during the interview, make reference to it in the thank you note and provide it there. Or if you feel you botched an answer to a particular interview question, use the thank you note to take another stab it.

Whatever you do, don’t apologize or otherwise call attention to what you perceive to be a poor performance. For one thing, your perception of your performance may be completely different from that of the hiring manager. Focus on being positive, correcting errors, expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to interview, and your interest in the job.

If you feel your interview went poorly, talk to your Helpmates recruiter soon after. We may be able to talk to your interviewer to get their feedback and, help plead your case.

Don’t have a Helpmates recruiter yet? Call the branch office nearest you and make an appointment to talk to us.

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