Recovering from a Downhill Job Interview


shutterstock_99259712

I often tell people that job interviews are a lot like dating; you’re nervous, wanting to make a good first impression without really knowing what to expect. Some people are really good at dating, and job interviews, while others tend to struggle a bit more. It isn’t necessarily an indication of what they are capable of, so much as it is a sign of their nervousness. A nervousness that everyone has, though some seem to contain it better than others. Still, I don’t care who you are, everyone has had a bad date (and a bad interview) at least once in the past.

There can be so many contributing factors to a bad interview. It’s possible the interviewer is in a bad mood themselves, and not responding to you as positively as they otherwise might. Or perhaps you have a lot of outside stress going on, and are having a difficult time concentrating on the meeting at hand. It’s also possible that you struggle with communicating your thoughts effectively, and are sitting in that chair hearing yourself ramble on pointlessly, without feeling capable of stopping that flow of words. Whatever the reason, you are in the middle of an interview that you know you are tanking. What do you do?

Deep Breaths

Since one of the biggest factors in a downhill interview is often nerves, it’s important to try to take a step back and reel in that anxiety, if at all possible. Obviously, you can’t likely take a step out of the room and a walk around the block, but you can take a few deep breaths and mentally remind yourself to calm down. Practice a soothing mantra of some sort before any interview (perhaps something as simple as, “I am skilled. I am qualified. I would be great at this job.”) Should you start to feel those nerves peaking mid-interview, repeat that mantra in your head a few times as you breathe. Then, if all else fails, you can always picture the interviewer in their underwear. Just don’t tell them that’s what you’re doing – there may be no recovering from that!

Show Vulnerability

We’ve somehow got it in our heads that with both dating and job interviewing, we have to present the façade of perfection in order to be taken seriously. But the truth is, people tend to respond well to vulnerability, and there is something to be said for admitting to an interviewer that you are nervous and that you know you didn’t answer the last question (or the last series of questions) as well as you should have. Take that opportunity to clarify what you meant, and to explain why you are so nervous – perhaps because this really is your dream job, and you have heard so many positive things about this company, you just want a chance to prove yourself there. Don’t start wallowing in your seat, and avoid coming off as too self-deprecating, but don’t be afraid to be honest if your nerves really are getting the best of you.

Redirect the Conversation

Once you’ve acknowledged your missteps, work to redirect the conversation to what you are capable of and why you believe you would be a good fit for this job. Try to talk freely about what you have to offer and the ways you have contributed to positions you have held in the past. When the interviewer asks at the end if you have anything else to add (and they almost always will) use that opportunity to put in a solid sell for yourself. This is something you can, and should, practice before any interview – because knowing what to say in those final minutes can absolutely override any missteps you may have made earlier on.

Follow Up

Following up is always a good idea, but especially if you know you didn’t make the best first impression. A brief e-mail to follow up, and to possibly clarify anything you realize after the fact you may not have answered well in the interview, could go a long way to helping to change the interviewers impression of you. Particularly if you acknowledge you were nervous and say something along the lines of, “When you asked about ____, I know I responded vaguely, but if I hadn’t been so nervous, I would have told you that ____.” The key here is to keep it brief. No more than a few paragraphs, tops. Thank the interviewer for considering you, choose one major point to clarify, and then end on a note about how hopeful you are to prove yourself at some point in the future.

About Kylie Hammond
Executive Search Consultant, Head-Hunter, HR Consultant, Executive Career Coach, Expert Resume Writer & Executive Talent Agent.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: