Recovering from a Downhill Job Interview


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.

Frequently Asked Interview Questions

shutterstock_89779570Interviews give hiring managers the opportunity to personally assess candidates, looking for the person who will be the best fit not only in the current opening, but also within the corporation. Usually lasting between 30 minutes to an hour, this brief window of time is your opportunity to sell yourself above and beyond what anyone could read about you on a single piece of paper. Most of the time, a successful interview comes down to your ability to remain calm and collected under pressure. Preparing yourself for some of the most common interview questions ahead of time can help you to do just that.

Tell Me About Yourself?

You can expect most interviews to start off with a generic question like this. The hiring manager wants to get a feel for who you are, and what better way is there to accomplish that, than to give you a few minutes to speak freely about your background and what you believe you have to offer. Avoid answering this question with anything too personal; your current relationship status and whether or not you have a baby on the way isn’t relevant to the job you are hoping to land. Instead, stick to topics your interviewer will find most pertinent, including your educational background and what piqued your interest the most about the opening you are now interviewing for.

What are Your Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses?

This is always a tough question to answer, because you don’t want to come off as arrogant, but you don’t want to undersell yourself either. Tailor your answer about strengths to the job, indirectly referencing back to a few key points you remember seeing on the job description as you talk about your assets in those areas. When it comes to your weakness, put a positive spin on whatever you mention. For instance, a good weakness might be that you are a bit of a perfectionist who occasionally puts too much pressure on yourself to get the details of a new project or presentation just right.

Why Are You Interested in Working Here?

Most interviewers want to know that you are interested in this job at this company, not just any job anywhere. If they don’t feel you would be passionate in this role, they won’t want to hire you out of fear that you will quickly move on to any better opportunity that presents itself. Use this question as your chance to assure the interviewer that you have done your research about both the company and the job, talking up aspects of each that you would be excited to take on.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

With this question, interviewers are trying to gauge not only your company loyalty, but also what kind of employee you would be if you came on board. Never make the mistake of talking poorly about your previous employer. Instead, mention the things you loved about your old job, before giving an honest yet positive reason for leaving. For instance, you may simply want to say that you had mastered your old position and found yourself ready to look for a new challenge. Speak glowingly about what you learned previously, even as you place an emphasis on where you hope to be in the future.

How Have You Handled Difficult Situations With Coworkers in the Past?

Show the interviewer that you are a team player when you answer this question. Speak about ways you have worked to build unity and meet on common ground with coworkers you otherwise may not have always seen eye to eye with. Avoid placing blame and instead talk about differing personalities and how you worked to come together.

Visit Resumes Australia to learn more about how we can help you with interview coaching. Alternatively, take advantage straight away of our services here.


kylie hammond

3 Day Count-Down to Your Interview: What you Should be Doing

shutterstock_99259712You have been on the search for a new and fulfilling career for a while now, and recently you saw an opening for a job you know you would be perfect for. You scoured the job description and diligently targeted your cover letter and resume to catch the hiring manager’s attention. Your eye for detail has paid off, and you are now three days away from that first interview. How should you prepare so that you can give the best impression possible?

Study the Company

Get online and learn everything you can about the company. You want to find out about their core philosophies and goals for the future. Read through any recent reports they may have released, and check to see if they have made the news in any capacity over the last year. Pay attention to the other companies they may align themselves with, as well as ways they have become involved in the local community. If you can, try to get a feel for their corporate culture, including ways they show their appreciation to employees and how much they value a work/life balance. All of these things can come in handy during an interview, allowing the hiring manager to see that you have done your research. Try to find a few aspects to remark on, expressing how impressed you are by what you have learned.

Review the Job Description

Yes, you already looked over the job description when you first applied, but now you will want to commit those details to memory. Throughout the interview you will have many opportunities to show the hiring manager you are exactly what they are looking for, but you have to know what they are looking for first. If there are some key skills and abilities which seem to come up multiple times in the job description, make it clear that you possess those traits which seem so important to this role. Think up some questions you can ask about the position as well. Not about the benefits, but about the type of person they are specifically looking for and how you could better fit that mould.


Now is the time to go through a few dry run interviews, making sure you are ready to answer any questions which may come up with composure and confidence. Compile a list of typical interview questions and ask a friend or family member to help you practice. Treat this as you would a real interview, not allowing yourself to fall out of character or lose focus. If you don’t answer a question in the way you would have liked to, come back to it later and practice your response again and again until it feels right. Have your faux interviewer throw in a few unexpected questions as well, even if they don’t necessarily pertain to your ability to complete the job. This can help you prepare for any surprises which may come up during the actual interview.

Check out the Location

Save yourself some stress by heading to the interview location a day or two early. Pay attention to any traffic congestion which you may need to plan for on the day, and drive around the parking lot a few times to get a better idea of exactly where you need to go. This can also be the perfect time to get a feel for the new office you may be working at. Scope out local eateries and assess employees as they walk in and out of the building. You can take in the corporate culture by making these pre-emptive visits, and if the current employees are all dressed to the upmost level of professionalism, this can also give you an idea of how to present yourself on interview day. 

Visit Resumes Australia to learn more about how we can help you with interview coaching. Alternatively, take advantage straight away of our services here.


kylie hammond

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