A job interview can be a pretty terrifying experience…
No matter how much you prepare, there’s always the possibility that things won’t go to plan – whether it’s due to an awkward handshake, an accidental slip of the tongue, or a stress-induced mind blank. So what do you do when the worst happens?
Here are eight of the most awkward interview moments, and our advice on how to deal with them:
You badmouth your previous employer
So you’re asked to talk about dealing with a difficult situation at work, but you somehow end up talking about how your old boss always cracked under pressure…with a special reference to that one time where he smashed your favourite mug.
True? Probably. Interview-appropriate? Nope.
How to save yourself: If you notice yourself veering into ‘I hate my boss’ territory, there’s always a way to bring it back. Change the tone of the conversation by referring back to your own actions, being positive, and apologising for going off topic.
You can’t answer a question
Some interview questions will catch you off guard – no matter how long you prepared.
Luckily, the interviewer probably knows which questions are likely to have this effect, so don’t feel like you’ve failed if you can’t answer a question straight away.
How to save yourself: Instead of accepting your fate – give the question a chance. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a few moments to think about it. It might be enough to turn your blank stare into a great answer.
You go off on a tangent
Explained how you delivered excellent customer service: tick. Provided real-life examples: tick. Talked about what you had for lunch that day: oh wait.
Remember: It’s easy to over-share under pressure, but try to stay on topic. No recruiter needs your entire autobiography.
How to save yourself: As soon as you notice you’re going off track, bring it back with ‘to go back to the question’, drawing the interviewer’s attention back to your skills and abilities. If in doubt, always wrap it up with results.
The heat of the moment is a dangerous place; often featuring body language disasters, slurred words, and even worse – the odd accidental profanity.
Although it may be acceptable whilst talking about something you’re passionate about, not all employers will be on board (N.B. this may also depend on the size of your vocabulary).
How to save yourself: Don’t ignore it, but don’t let it bring on total silence (cue: all of the crickets) either. Instead, apologise and move on – it should be enough to confirm you’re not a serial swearer.
Your phone rings
There’s nothing more awkward than the loud buzz of your phone echoing through an interview room – especially if your ringtone is particularly questionable.
But even if you do convince yourself that the Spice Girls are still cool, nothing’s going to convince the interviewer that this phone call is worth their time.
How to save yourself: Whatever you do, don’t answer it. Instead, apologise for the interruption, switch it off (or on silent), and pick up where you left off. And yes, answering IMs also counts as poor form…
You have a wardrobe malfunction
So you’ve planned your outfit in advance, ironed it, and even checked for stains. What could go wrong? Apparently, a number of things.
Whether you spill coffee down your shirt on the way in, rip your tights, or experience any other clothing-related mishap, even the most perfect outfit has the potential to get ruined once you leave the house.
How to save yourself: Unless this happens near your house/a clothes shop/a super-speed dry cleaners – you’re probably stuck like this. Luckily, a light hearted apology (and, if appropriate, a joke) is often enough to let the interviewer know it was just a one-off accident.
You give a nervous handshake
Sometimes it seems like interview handshakes only have one purpose: to reveal just how nervous you are in a total of three seconds.
Because even if you manage to disguise your fear with a confident front, sweaty palms, shakey fingers, and a handshake that’s either too firm or too limp can completely blow your cover – not to mention throw you off before you’ve even started.
How to save yourself: Whilst you can’t turn back time – you can stop a bad handshake from affecting your entire interview. Avoid dwelling on the situation, and focus on carrying out the interview professionally with clear and accurate answers. Just make sure you prepare for next time…
You become painfully aware of your limbs
Normally, you aren’t overly conscious of your voice, limbs, or level of eye contact – but suddenly, it’s all you can think about.
Are you moving your arms too much? Should you be speaking louder? What do you usually do with your hands? Instead of focusing on the interview, this is all you can think about. Over. And. Over. And. Over.
How to save yourself: Practice your body language before the interview, and go in with the key dos and don’ts in the back of your mind. Avoid fidgeting, slouching, or playing with your pen – and focus on being professional. And always take notes. It’s a great way to keep them occupied (and help reinforce your interest in the role).
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