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You did it- you got the interview! You found the perfect attire for making a strong first impression. You’ve stayed up late researching every piece of information on the company you can find. And you’ve practiced your answers to the most common interview questions at least one hundred times. Then the big day comes….and you completely blow it.
Interviews are high pressure situations, and no matter how much we prepare, sometimes they just don’t go well. We get stuck in traffic causing us to be late, our nerves overtake us and we freeze on a question, or we just don’t connect with the interviewer.
There are so many things that can go wrong during an interview. But the good news is that, most of the time, not all is lost! Here are some of the most common mistakes made and how you can recover from them.
You Were Late
This is definitely not an ideal way to start off an interview. But if handled correctly, it’s absolutely a mistake you can recover from. To avoid this in the first place, be sure to plan your route ahead of time and give yourself a little extra time on the big day in case the unexpected happens.
But even the best laid plans can’t always get us there in time. The best way to handle being late is to be honest about what happened. Acknowledge it right off the bat. Apologize for it and take responsibility, even if you feel the situation was out of your control. But be sure to not turn it into an excuse.
Use this opportunity to demonstrate ownership to the hiring manager. It’s a chance to prove that you can handle stressful and less-than-ideal situations gracefully, accept your mistakes, and put your best foot forward to turn it around.
You Weren’t Prepared
Preparation is the key to interview success. When a candidate comes in unprepared to answer questions surrounding an opportunity, it’s a signal to the hiring manager that they aren’t truly interested in the job or perhaps aren’t even qualified.
Interview preparation should go beyond a simple google search and a glance at the company website. Time should be set aside to investigate company culture, understand the organization’s mission and values, catch up on recent news articles and press releases, and understand the job description like the back of your own hand.
But even after hours of in-depth preparation, it’s still possible to get an interview question that completely throws you off. Sometimes this is even done on purpose.
When this happens to you, the key is to stay calm and to not panic. If you get a question you’re not prepared to answer, simply ask if you can have a moment to think it through. To buy yourself some extra time, you can always ask to have the question repeated or you can ask clarifying questions. This is a great way to give the hiring manager insight into your thought process while gaining additional information that you can use to formulate your answer.
If you don’t manage to pull it together and leave the interview feeling like you missed an opportunity on a question, don’t give up yet! Follow up thank you notes are a great place to provide additional answers and a wonderful way to show the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the role and that you care about making a great impression.
Of all the mistakes made during interviews, rambling may just be the most common. It’s a habit for many people, especially during stressful situations.
Practicing your answers in the days leading up to your interview can help with this. But what if, after all that practice, your nerves still get the best of you?
The first step is to learn to recognize the signs that you’re beginning to ramble. Does your interviewer seem bored? Is your mouth a little dry from talking too much? Have you lost your train of thought? These are all signs that you’re not getting to the point quickly enough.
A good rule of thumb is that it should take you no longer than two minutes to provide a solid answer to an interview question. To ensure that you’re keeping your answers concise, be sure to practice them ahead of time, using a watch to track how long each response takes.
If you recognize that you’ve begun to ramble once you’re in the interview, don’t be afraid to stop yourself. Apologize that you’re a little nervous and that you seemed to have gotten off track. Take a deep breath, ask for a moment to gather your thoughts if you need it, and continue on with a straightforward and concise answer. Your interviewer will appreciate the fact that you stopped yourself to provide clarity.
You Appeared to Be Too Nervous
It’s completely normal to feel nervous during an interview. So there’s nothing wrong with walking into one a little jittery. But it can become a problem if your nerves completely take over, preventing you from understanding questions and providing clear answers.
The best thing you can do to avoid this is to prepare for the interview beforehand. Taking the time to practice tough questions and to plan a way to demonstrate your skills can minimize nerves. If you feel your heart starting to beat a little faster and your palms getting a little sweaty, the first step is to just simply take a few deep breaths.
The next thing is to recognize that the interviewer knows exactly how you feel. Don’t forget that they’ve been in your shoes before, interviewing with this same company! Try breaking the ice with them by having a casual conversation about their weekend plans or even about the weather. This is a great way to get things started before you dive into the interview itself.
If you’re still nervous after this initial chat, that’s okay too. Hiring managers actually appreciate when candidates are jittery because it demonstrates a passion for the role. Just don’t let it get in the way of providing strong answers.
What If You Can’t Recover?
Interview mistakes are very common and perfectly normal. And most can be recovered from. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that most hiring managers are perfectly willing to look past many of these errors listed here. But every once in awhile, an interview gone wrong just can’t be turned around and you have to move on.
But even if you can’t get a hiring manager to overlook your mistakes, there are several things you can do to help you do better next time.
Take time to reflect on the experience, focusing not only on what went wrong but also on what went right. Recognize what you did well and where you were able to successfully demonstrate your strengths. Think through the questions you struggled with. Now that you aren’t in a high pressure situation, how would you answer them? This is a great way to help you prepare yourself for next time.