Help Is On the Way: How to Save a Bad Job Interview

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Can you tell your job interview is going south, quick? Here are five ideas to save a job interview that has gone bad.

If you read job hunting tips, they'll tell you that the first impression is the most important thing in the world and that hiring managers often make the decision within the first 30 seconds.

So, if you trip while walking in or have lipstick on your teeth, forget it, right? And if you say something wrong, you can just turn around and walk out of the interview because you are finished. It's not actually as bad as it seems. You don't have to be perfect to land the perfect job.

Here are five ideas to save a job interview that has gone bad.

Related Article: How to Ace the Salary Question During a Job Interview

1. Laugh at Yourself

If you've just done something to make a fool of yourself, make sure to give a good laugh. So many things that are awful can be reframed as highly amusing if you're willing to laugh at yourself.

Tripped while walking in? "Just call me Grace!"

Did you call someone by the wrong name? "I'm terrible at names. Ever since I worked at McDonalds where everyone wears names tags, I can't get names right! Fortunately, accounting requires you to be good with numbers not names."

Just remember, when things go bad, you'll at least get a good story out of the whole mess and a good story is worth something.

Why This Works

The reality is, if you can laugh at your own errors, you demonstrate your ability to be flexible. It cuts out defensiveness and makes you human. It can also cause the interviewer to feel a bit of empathy for you. We've all made mistakes—even hiring managers. Being able to laugh at them is a great skill. 

2. Apologize Sincerely

I once had a job interview at a company that had it's headquarters split between two sites. The only problem was, I didn't know that, and I didn't look closely at the address.

I already knew where the company headquarters were, so I showed up there. In the wrong spot. Oops.

The nice person at the front desk gave me directions to the other location but neglected to tell me that there were no street signs (this was in the days before GPS everything). Result? I was an hour late.

I thought I should probably just turn around and go home, but I went in anyway, apologized up one side and down the other, and had the interview. I got the job.

Now, showing up an hour late for an interview is not a good thing to do. I don't recommend it. But, I overcame this huge error by being apologetic and sincerely so, and by being a quality candidate. 

Why This Works

Just like doing something stupid accidentally and laughing at it, apologizing shows your human side and your sincerity. Now, if I'd come in and yelled at the recruiter for not making it clear that there were two headquarters sites and that if it wasn't her fault, it was certainly the front desk person's fault for not telling me the street signs were down.

The reality was, they could have done a better job (and the front desk person at the other site told me I wasn't the first candidate to make this mistake), but I didn't place the blame on other people. I took the blame myself, and they forgave me.

3. Correct Yourself

Sometimes stupid things just come out of our mouths. Under the stress of a job interview, it's easy to make a mistake and answer a question incorrectly. Don't give up--all is not lost. When you figure out your mistake, bring it up, even if it's 15 minutes later. "You know, I just realized that my answer was wrong when you asked about developing business strategies. What I should have said was..."

Why This Works

The last thing you want to do is leave the impression that you didn't know what you were talking about. While it would have been better to say the correct thing first, saying it second is the next best thing.

It makes it clear that you do know what you are talking about, even if it's a bit delayed. You can even send an email after the interview and say the same thing. It's not a sure thing, but it's your best chance.

4. Stay Confident

When things haven't gone well, don't give up. Keep your head up and keep going. Try not to panic. Take a deep breath or a drink of water and answer the questions.

Why This Works

We are often our own harshest critics. You may be thinking you've totally blown it at the same time the hiring manager thinks you're doing great.

Many times people walk out of interviews thinking they've blown it and get a job, and many times people walk out thinking they've nailed it when the interviewer has just thrown the resume into the trash. You cannot truly know you've blown it until you don't get the job. So, keep going; you're probably doing just fine.

Related Article: Why You Need to Hear Out Your Job Candidates

5. Follow Up

After you finish the interview, send a thank-you note. Email is fine. Thank the hiring manager and anyone else you interviewed with for the interview. Bring up any questions you may have and correct anything you mistakenly said. 

Why This Works

Sometimes people interview 4 or 5 or even more people for a single position. If the are hiring for multiple positions at the same time (which every recruiter is), the candidates can start to blur together.

Thank you notes are always nice and polite, but they also serve to remind the interviewers who you are. If they remember you, you increase your chances.

 

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