Nobody's perfect. Here's the right way to recover from an interview mistake.
Spending hours in front of the mirror preparing for an interview doesn’t always prepare you for every contingency. Hiring managers love to throw a few weird questions, quirky comments and outright absurd statements out there to catch us unaware. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there.
Rest assured, the hiring manager knows you can – and probably will – stumble at the awkward questions and maybe even make some interview mistakes. It’s not the mistake that marks you for doom however, it’s your rebuttal and recovery. Compare interview mistakes to sporting events. Players fumble, trip and fall in every game. They never cry and run off the court. No, they stand up and keep playing.
Fortunately, there are several options and recovery techniques to help you stay in the game. Don’t let your interview fumbles and fouls send you packing. Try these top ways to recover from a job interview stumble. It's all a part of preparing for an interview.
1. Unanswered questions.
If you make the fatal interview mistake of telling a hiring manager you don’t know the answer to their question, make a quick recovery. Tell them “That’s an interesting question and one I haven’t considered. May I take a few days to consider it and send my answer then?” If they accept your offer, be sure to follow up within the stated timeframe and research the question on a professional level.
Yes, hiring managers know you don’t hold the answer to every problem. They aren’t looking for know-it-alls who have a quick answer to every question. Instead, they want candidates who take the time to think about the question and answer with a little wisdom.
2. Wasted time.
Potential employers who ask about your typical day and hobbies outside of work aren’t looking for wasted time. They're checking to see if you manage your time effectively. Even if you use your free time to search the Internet and peruse social media, don’t admit to it. Make it sound professional: “Communicating with new people and connecting with friends and family is important to me.” Or connect your free time and interests to industry topics. Try to steer the conversation towards professional development.
On the other hand, in this day and age employers prefer candidates who maintain a familiarity with social media. “Social media always has intrigued me. It’s fascinating how people from around the globe break down barriers and connect on a more personal level. I’m very active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I like to keep up with new and exciting platforms and communication arenas.” Is a fine answer to include. Relating your social media activity to your industry and industry influencers is even better.
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3. Bad experiences.
We have all had bad experiences at previous positions. A major interview mistake is to complain to the hiring manager about it. For those who can’t help themselves, there’s still time to recover. Tell the hiring manager: “I apologize for that. What I was trying to say is, I currently feel underutilized. Being productive and helping clients grow is my main goal. I don’t feel like this is happening to its full potential right now.”
No one wants to hear someone cry about their bad work experiences – especially the hiring manager. Telling them you don’t like your former or current boss sends red flags, correction, emergency flares telling them you aren’t loyal to your company. Don’t let this happen to you. Apologize for the blunder. This tells the hiring manager you recognize your mistake and are willing to correct it.
4. Lack of future plans.
Graduates and new hires often start their venture with little idea of future plans. Even seasoned veterans often lack a solid growth outline. Just don’t advertise it. Telling the interview team you have no idea where you’re headed is like saying “I don’t care about myself so you shouldn’t expect me to care about your company.” Who wants to give that impression?
Should you make an interview mistake and accidentally convey your lack of plans, recover with a simple explanation. “Before advancing in the industry, I want to learn valuable skills and experience working with clients. Updating my industry knowledge helps place [company’s name] ahead of the competition.” Or tell them your “core commitment is to [company’s name] at this time.” The point is to let them know you want to advance but that you aren’t planning to abandon them within the next few years.
5. Complacent careers.
Change is inevitable. Companies have learned the hard way that they need to follow the employee's’ wishes and compete with current trends. They want like-minded candidates who are versatile and can handle change. Should you tell them change is not up your alley, don’t give up. There’s still a chance to recover from this interview mistake. Let them know change isn’t good or bad, but, rather, it is something we all must accept and learn to handle.
You may not like change, but you should be “open to the unknown and comfortable working with teams that endure change and fast-paced environments.” This tells employers you are able to go with the flow and help deliver client needs in an ever-changing environment. Once you make the blunder, try to follow up with examples of a major change and how you helped the company endure.
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6. Making due.
Sometimes we are forced to apply for positions that may not be ideal. If you’re interviewing for a job that you know isn’t your dream job, bite your tongue, press forward and don’t hint at this. Hiring managers know which positions in their company are generally known as the “plague” of the company. Chances are they’ve been in your shoes and may be empathetic.
While you may not love the job, be sure to tell them you love the company and what it stands for. Give a few examples of engagement and service you admire. Just explain why you want the job, make them feel like you have something to offer and hope for the best. Be sure to provide real examples for your motivation. Tell them how you will benefit the company.
7. Resume mistakes.
Wise job applicants who seek professional advice realize customized resumes win more interviews than a standard one-size-fits-all template. Chances are you’ve made one common mistake – sending the wrong resume to the wrong employer. Hiring managers may call you on the irreverent information. Should you slip and say “I have no idea why that is on there.” Please be sure to follow up with an explanation. Be honest. Tell them you customize your resume to fit each opportunity. “I apologize. I customize each resume so it helps the recruiter determine my skills. I must have left that part in there by mistake.”
First, explaining that you customize each resume you submit demonstrates your attention to detail, versatility and your ability to create unique ideas. Admitting your mistake shows a willingness to own up to your errors and take action to correct them. This also presents you with the chance to display additional, supplemental skills not relevant to the position.
8. Work style preferences.
In the new, virtual age, companies have increasingly started offering remote, work-from-home positions. While there are pros and cons to this opportunity, don’t make the mistake of telling the interviewer “I prefer to work from home.” Unless the position listing specifically lists the opportunity to telecommute, assume it is an in-house position.
Making the interview mistake of telling the hiring manager you prefer at-home work doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Follow up to the statement by asking if they offer any opportunities to telecommute. “I was just curious. Does [company’s name] offer remote or telecommuting opportunities?”
How to avoid the common interview mistakes.
Cleaning up our interview mistakes never is easy. The best way to clean up a mistake is by preventing it in the first place. Though this isn’t always possible, interview preparation helps reduce anxiety, accommodates potential problems and makes the interview smoother. Practice your techniques with friends and colleagues. Visit career blogs to develop a list of the most common interview questions asked by hiring managers. Then, practice until you can answer the questions in your sleep.
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