How To Save A Bad Interview

recover from bad job inverview

You practiced, rehearsed typical questions and psyched yourself up for the big day. By all counts, you should ace your interview. However, things don't always go the way we plan. What can you do to rescue an interview that's spiraling out of control? Situation 1: The interviewer asked you a question you are not prepared to answer.

Do not panic or appear obviously rattled. Take a breath -- give yourself a few seconds (even if it seems like minutes to you) to formulate a reply. Feel free to ask the interviewer to clarify the question. (Don't ask him to repeat it -- that will make it seem as if you are not paying attention.)

If you still can't think of a reply, choose one aspect of the question and respond with a succinct comment. Watch any politician or political operative interviewed on television for examples of this technique. If they don't like the questions, they reframe things and tell a story that frames them in a positive way. Do not plan to use those tactics as a rule, but for the occasional question, it could help save your interview.

If your answer is short and sweet, the interviewer may recognize your subterfuge, but it's just as likely that she will just move on, and may not even notice that you were on the brink of interview disaster.

How to prevent this: You do not need to memorize 501 interview answers. Instead, craft a narrative and several talking points to prove you are a good fit for the job. Plan to tell stories where you explain problems you faced, actions you took and the results. You should be able to use these "PAR" (problem-action-results) stories to address many different types of questions and avoid situations where you don't have a good answer.

More: 6 Things NOT To Do In A Job Interview

Situation 2: Your interviewer is totally unprepared and appears hostile to the process.

Do your best to try to steer the interview in your favor. If you've prepared key talking points -- and stories -- to support your skills and accomplishments that are relevant for this job, start making a mental checklist and begin to insert those points into the conversation.

If the interviewer appears disinterested in you, try to incorporate some questions for him into your responses. Most people enjoy talking about themselves; maybe you can win the interviewer over by inviting him to engage in a discussion. Watch your body language, too. If you lean toward the interviewer, avoid crossing your arms and make friendly eye contact, it may help ease an uncomfortable situation.

How to prevent this: Obviously, you don't control the interviewer's attitude or mood. However, if you do some research about who will be questioning you, it's possible to start things off on the right foot. Use Google and LinkedIn to learn as much as you can about the interviewer in advance. Maybe you went to the same school, or share some of the same causes -- you can find this out from LinkedIn. Perhaps you know some of the same people?

Sometimes, knowing a little about the interviewer can help you overcome a testy situation; it certainly cannot hurt.

Situation 3: You are visibly nervous.

On televised reality contests, showing nerves can help humanize the candidate, but in an interview, it's less than charming. If your palms are excessively sweaty and your heart is racing so fast that you can hear it beating, you need to relax, or your interview will spiral downward quickly. If you are in the midst of the interview, it is a good idea to remember that life will go on, no matter the outcome. Take one question at a time and try to reassure yourself.

How to prevent this: It's better to try to collect yourself before heading into the meeting. Take a few deep breaths. (Be sure the receptionist doesn't think you are hyperventilating, though!) Smile, and picture yourself answering the questions confidently. If you prepared for the meeting, it shouldn't be too difficult to assume things will go well.

How to Handle Nervousness During a Job Interview

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good post

May 13 2014 at 6:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And doing all the "right" things and avoiding all the "wrong" things during an interview still won't get you the job.

August 31 2012 at 8:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is this article's author giving people false hope? It's very obvious when people don't know how to answer an interview question. These tips only insult the interviewer's intelligence, as well as those who read this article.

If any of these problems occur during your interview, then PREPARE for your next one.

August 30 2012 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BankerGolfer's comment

You cannot prepare for every question. Giving it your best shot is often the best you can do. It is not always obvious when you don't know how to answer a question. There is not just one answer to every question.

August 31 2012 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you feel the inverview is going bad, it's not a good idea to waste each other's time.. While it's not always good etiquite.. you can excuse yourself and withdraw applying for the job. Sometimes being a little pushy and arrogant about being treated properly & with RESPECT is paramount.. it's easy to hire a pushover. You really have to lead with your gut on this one, you have to stand-out.. if you have to do this by getting up & leaving... do it in a way that makes the interviewer feel they are about to lose a great commodity (like an expiration of a good sale). Being unemployed really discourages this, but you need to have done some research UPFRONT about the position and the people working there, if you go into a random situation you dont' have enough information about.. this will be a rattling process. You will have to turn over many stones to find the diamond of a job where they will offer it to you. Be prepared to ask for and if necessary demand a SHORT decision period. If there is a long process, chances are (unless it is a high paying, high skilled prof. job like a doctor). A week to 10 days is PLENTY of time.. and if it's on the high side, ask for a shorter decision time and frame it in the context of selling yourself or it will go badly.

August 30 2012 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tmc8080's comment

Just because you feel an interview did not go well doesn't mean that the interviewer feels the same way. Just as when you feel an interview went well doesn't mean the interviewer agrees. If you want to stay unemployed demand a short decision period. Remember your interview is not the only thing going on at that company. They may have many more people to interview. They may have many jobs for which to interview. They have business to conduct. Get off your high horse and remember that you aren't the most important person in the world.

August 31 2012 at 8:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every job is not for every worker.
If the interview is going badly, it maybe that there would be a conflict bwteen you and the boss, the person who is interviewing you.
A bad interview is a red flag.

August 29 2012 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ms. Salpeter writes about what to do if an interviewer "appears disinterested in you." Despite the fact that many people muddle the two words, DISINTERESTED and UNINTERESTED are not synonyms. There are interviewers out there who would know the difference and who would dislike a candidate's inability to distinguish between the two words. One's grammar in an application, an interview, and a follow-up letter could result in a job offer--or a rejection.

August 29 2012 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ljt777's comment

according to, indifferent is a synonym for both disinterested and uninterested. By the transitive property that would me disinterested and uninterested synonyms.

August 31 2012 at 8:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A great new book that discusses this whole getting-a-job process is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more." Endoresed by ambassadors, educators and editors, it has one chapter filled with tips from experts on getting a job, ranging from preparing a resume, to dressing for the interview, to sending thank-yous after the interview. Good luck.

August 29 2012 at 12:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I had an interview once with a Chinese gentleman who didn't have a very good grasp of the English language and had a very heavy accent. I could hardly make out the questions he was asking and had to ask him to please repeat almost every question. Even then I had to fake that I understood what he was saying and doubt that he really understood all that I was saying.. He took me on a short tour of the company and 90% of the employees were Chinese. I was so disgusted that they couldn't find someone that spoke English that I ended the interview myself by saying "This just isn't working out.", got up and walked out...

August 28 2012 at 2:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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