Your interview started out strong! Or at least, it started out fine. After brief introductions and small talk, you and your interviewer started getting into the substance of the conversation and at around that point, something went wrong. Maybe you made a joke that fell flat. Or maybe your interviewer pointed out a missing or concerning detail from your resume. Maybe a misunderstanding or miscommunication has left you feeling flustered and off-center. What should you do now? If you really want to be considered for the role, here are a few moves that can help you find your bearings and bring the session back on track.
Clarify, clarify, clarify.
If you aren’t sure what happened or you don’t know exactly why your interviewer’s friendly smile turned into a frosty frown, it’s okay to ask. This is especially true if you’re sure the situation isn’t going to improve on its own. Don’t sit there floundering; just clear the air. It’s perfectly okay to ask questions like “Did I say something confusing?” or “Would you like to know more about that part of my background?” or even, “I can see you’re concerned about that part of my past. Can I answer your questions and put your concerns to rest?” Don’t become defensive; just ask questions and get your bearings.
Don’t make offers or concessions until you’re ready.
If you say you’re not interested in travel and the interviewer tells you this job will require you to be on the road, don’t just assume the interview is over. And don’t trip over yourself rushing to change your position; if you don’t like travel, you don’t like travel. Instead, move past that detail and focus on other skill areas and qualifications you have to offer. The interviewer may be willing to meet you halfway. But to find out, you’ll need to stay calm and self-possessed.
If you flubbed an answer, move on.
Your interviewer asked you a question to assess your industry knowledge, and you fumbled. Your brain and sense of recall just would cooperate, and you faceplanted in a way that made you look underqualified—or worse. This situation is more common than you might think; even experts sometimes flail when they’re on the spot and under pressure. What matters next is how you handle the next several seconds, and you need to rise to the moment. Let the question go. It’s gone. Now focus on your dignity, your self-confidence, and your ability to take yourself lightly. Don’t scramble to explain why you flubbed, or worse, claim you didn’t flub. Don’t inspire pity by dramatically beating yourself up. And certainly don’t attack or belittle the question. Just smile and ask for the next one. We all fall down. What matters is how quickly and gracefully we get back up.
For more on how to sail through a harrowing interview with your professionalism and confidence intact, turn to the career growth experts at PSU.