“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” – Murphy’s Law
A successful interview event requires three vital activities: adequate preparation, mutual conversation and a generous dose of composure when things go south.
They say that prevention is better than cure and granted, the more effort you put into the preparation phase before a job interview goes wrong, the better the odds are of a positive outcome when things actually go wrong. Life happens during interviews too, and no amount of prep work can ringfence you from a mishap or two transpiring during your appointment with the hiring manager. Showing how you act upon the unexpected, can turn things in your favor.
Fortunately, the way in which you handle these hiccups may actually improve your chances of landing the job.
The scenarios described below are real-life examples of events transpiring during interviews. The idea here is to guide you with a few tactics to regain composure when the situation turns pear-shaped.
You are late
- Apologize, don’t rationalize.
- A simple “I am sorry, there were circumstances beyond my control,” would suffice.
- Refrain from trying to explain the intricacies of your vehicle not starting or using the standard traffic excuse.
You forget their names
- Own up, move on and cover the blunder slightly by asking for the individual’s surname too.
- For example: “My apologies, I guess my nerves influenced my memory a little, what is your name and surname again?” Then ensure to call the interviewee by their first name a few times.
- Alternatively, if the interviewee is much older than you, don’t ask their name again and call them sir or mam, until they repeat their first name.
You strike a blank
- When a problematic interview question is thrown at you during an interview, the brain can sometimes switch off, usually as a response to increased anxiety levels.
- A trick to alleviate the awkwardness is to take a sip of water. This simple gesture would jump start your train of thought and enable you to answer the question.
- If that does not help, politely asking the individual to repeat the question or requesting 30 seconds to think about the answer will do the trick.
You burst into tears
- Yup, believe it, or not, this may happen. As a start, immediately try to disrupt your emotional thought process.
- Envisioning bright colors like yellow and orange, changing your seating stance by crossing one leg over the over or even sitting in a more upright position may help. These actions will immediately force you to concentrate on something else, and the tears will vanish quickly.
- If however, if it is a situation that could be in line for an Oscar nomination, rather ask to be excused for a minute to get your composure back. Under no circumstances should you continue crying in a heap, while the poor interviewer has to watch awkwardly from across the boardroom table.
You spill your drink
- Probably one of the most common occurrences during interviews.
- Don’t freak out and calmly remove all electronic devices from the scene of the spill.
- Then, respectfully request a cloth if you don’t have a Kleenex on hand to contain the damage.
You are shaking like a leaf
- Shake rattle and roll, looks cool on the dancefloor, not so much in the interview room though.
- Again, distracting your mind from the situation will stop the shaking antics. If you are wearing a jacket or scarf, remove it or if taken off before the meeting, put it back on.
- Do not ask them to switch off the aircon, because this will draw unnecessary attention to your predicament.
You are sweating profusely
- A very uncomfortable reaction often caused by emotion rather than external temperature.
- Relax your shoulders and position your arms away from your body which would automatically increase the airflow around you.
- Continue to ask one of your prepared interview questions to divert the focus away from yourself and onto the interviewer.
Your body rebels
- Yes, if you are thinking what I’m guessing, no need for further explanation.
- Forget your ego, acknowledge with a “pardon me” and then engage further on the topic of the moment.
You have a wardrobe malfunction
- There are two courses of action here, either removing or clinching.
- If your stiletto just broke remove BOTH shoes, you are not auditioning for a Hop Along Cassidy movie.
- Should the garment piece be more (uh) crucial to ensure public decency, clinch what you can and excuse yourself for a few minutes.
Your cell phone starts ringing
- Moreover, as the universe will have it, the ringtone is something really sexy or ear deafening heavy metal.
- The usual reaction is fiddling around in your bag (still engaging in conversation) while trying to find the volume button. All while half of you is visible above the table, and the other half is making awkward shuffling noises below. A maneuver which rarely works.
- The quickest way to silence your phone is to stop talking to the interviewer, take the phone out first pressing the reject (red) or accept (green) button, and secondly the off switch. Then apologize and continue the conversation.
You forget your handbag/keys in the boardroom
- “A great interview,” you think, “where nothing went wrong,” as you walk out of the building, only to realize that you have left your keys/handbag/laptop in the interview room.
- Put on your most sincere smile and ask the receptionist or personal assistant to fetch it on your behalf.
- Don’t risk the chance of getting lost in the building or worse, walking into the room where another meeting has commenced already.
Handle with C.A.R.E
Interview disasters are prone to happen, sometimes regardless of the preparation, you have done beforehand.
Ensure that you exit the interview with your dignity still intact by following the CARE approach:
- C – Compose
Stay calm and poised
- A – Acknowledge
Own up to the situation. Name it.
- R – Rectify
Apologise for it without being defensive
- E – Engage
Continue with the interview conversation
The key trait of emotionally intelligent individuals is their ability to remain comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
In the case of an interview catastrophe, all you can really do is to wing it while you’re in it.