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Candidate Help & Advice

How to Salvage a Bad Interview

With job interviews, even countless hours of preparation can lead to some iffy moments when the interview takes place. It’s impossible to fully prepare for interview unless you hold a crystal ball that predicts the future. There will often be questions or statements said that can catch one off guard, as not all job interviews play it safe by the books. Some places of employment ask unique questions to gauge a candidate’s ability to think off the cuff.

Types of job interviews vary in their approach, but generally symptoms of a bad interview are universal. There are several signs that you’re in the midst of a bad interview, but the solutions below provide a quick way for you to solve them and direct the interview from bad to good, by focusing on your personal branding. In this case, that brand should be confidence and competency.

When Asked an Unexpected Question, Be Honest

Chances are, the job interview will ask a question at some point that isn’t in the “Job Interviews 101” article you read before the interview. Beyond basic questions involving experience and relevancy, they may ask outside-the-box questions like “You’ve seen the office; what would you change?” or “You wake up to find an elephant sleeping in your backyard; what do you do?”

Usually with questions like these, there is no one right answer. The interviewer is more interested in gauging your level of skill, humor and charisma in your response. By answering honestly and passionately, without over-thinking, it’s much more likely you’ll show off your real personality — which, if the job is the right fit, will hit it off well with the job interviewer.

Never Acknowledge Awkwardness

Chances are, a job interviewer has never encountered a perfect candidate during an interview. We’re all human and prone to making errors in extended conversation where we are not fully anticipating the questions being asked.

So rather than admit to a mistake, like saying “this interview isn’t getting off to a good start, I’m sorry,” keep chugging along and focus on making the most of the interview’s remainder. If you finish strongly, chances are the interviewer will focus on how you finished, chalking it up to confidently finding your comfort zone rather than penalizing you for starting out slowly.

Ask Your Own Questions

If you’ve answered a question to your full capabilities yet the interviewer is still pausing, as if they’re waiting for more, ask them a question as opposed to further answering their question with superfluous fluff. If you can’t think of a relevant question — such as, “how do you usually handle this situation?” — then ask something such as “does that answer your question, or is there anything else I can share?” Try to avoid extended silences, even if to do it you have to occasionally take the lead.

Infuse the Business’ Passionate Points

Even if you have no friends or acquaintances at the business you’re applying for, it’s possible to detect a business’ strong passionate points via their website alone. For example, most company’s missions are highly apparent on their website. Some, like Patten CAT, also list their values, making it a no-brainer to focus on showing off their listed values of integrity, customer focus, ownership and teamwork in some capacity during the interview. Business websites are a fantastic resource to use to exhibit your passion and knowledge of a business before you even get offered the position.

Using a business website’s content is also a great way to responsibly redirect the interviewer’s conversation if they are getting off-topic. By diverting the topic back to something professional and very relevant, you are exhibiting both passion for the company and overall responsibility.

Don’t Take Questions or Responses Personally

Some interviewers will be kind and charming, portraying their business as a great and happy place to work. Other interviewers will act more like a drill sergeant, with curtly complex questions and responses that make it appear as a privilege to work for them. Each business’ job interview pursues a unique method to finding its ideal candidate.

If the interviewer is more akin to the drill sergeant example, expect some bluntness and criticism on their behalf. If you show an ability to deal with this criticism without getting offended, then it will come across as a positive to them.

Oftentimes, these harsher approaches are done to detect whether a candidate is capable of receiving criticism and acting on it. If you acknowledge both your weaknesses and strengths, while providing some strategies you plan on utilizing to prevail over those weaknesses (like getting more acquainted with particular software), then it will come across as a definite positive to the interviewer.

Follow Up As Usual

Even if you think your interview went awful, continue to follow up as usual, acting as if you’re confident in the end result. Worst-case scenario they say you didn’t get the job and you move on to the next interview. But if they’re in limbo and deciding between just a few candidates and you’re one of them, showing extended confidence and passion in the post-interview process can be enough to squeak you ahead of the others who interviewed.

Stumbling during a job interview can feel grueling, but the tips above can aid you in turning from a moment of awkwardness and silence into one of great strength that exhibits your passion and knowledge. You very well may end up getting the position even after a subpar beginning to the interview.