3 Ways to Turn Around an Interview That’s Going Poorly

Although every element in a job search contributes toward getting the job, your performance at an interview is a crucial make-or-break moment. If you do well, you advance to the next round (a job offer!). If you don’t do well, you’ll be thanked and probably never hear from the company again.

What do you do if you feel the interview isn’t going well? Sometimes, the interviewer can seem distracted, or as if they are just going through the motions. While there are no hard-and-fast rules to indicate when an interview is sinking your chances, lack of momentum in the interview might be one negative sign. (Good interviews leave plenty of time for questions and sometimes lead to meeting other people in the company.) Another might be veiled or overt advice, such as information that other places are hiring or advice to take additional classes.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to turn around an interview that isn’t going well.

Stay calm

Successful interviewees have a calm demeanor. Don’t betray any signs of nervousness or failure, such as avoiding eye contact, mumbling or confessing to inadequacy in the interview! Treat it like a sport you want to win. If you whiffed on a goal (hit, kick, whatever), get up and do the best you can on the next shot. It’s the same here.

Revisit your answer

If you feel the interview is going poorly because you gave an answer the interviewer didn’t respond well too, revisit the answer in a different way. Say, for example, she asked what your worst quality at work was. This is, in fact, a standard interview question. What prospective employers should say is something that seems negative, but is in fact positive. One standard answer: “I work too hard, because I like to see that my projects are completed on deadline with time to check them over.” From an employer’s perspective, that’s a good quality. You work hard!

But suppose you answered with a genuine negative, like “I have trouble getting up in the morning and sometimes it makes me late to work.” Employers are not likely to look kindly upon a potential late employee, because it cuts into the productivity of the organization. If you said something like that, revisit it. If a later question talks about your computer skills, for example, say something like “I know that other departments need timely reports from this position, which is why I would always be punctual and turn them in on time.”

Develop examples of past achievements

It’s a good idea to go into interviews with examples of your past achievements in mind. If you were part of a team that led to a 12% increase in production, or know a software and are certified in it, develop ways to talk about these achievements that will make it clear you have a contribution to make.

Then, if you feel your interview has started to go south, work these into the interview. Many interview questions are open-ended (“tell me what makes you happy in a job,” for example). Work those examples in (“I’m happy if I make a solid contribution to productivity, as I did as part of the X team at Company Y rolling out new product Z…”).


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