5 Tips to Save an Interview from a Nosedive

Just because you’ve made a mistake, doesn’t mean your chances are over. Here’s how to pull out of that nosedive.

Have you ever opened your mouth and inserted both feet during a job interview? Right at that moment, you want to slink out and pretend like the interview never happened. The only problem is, you might really want that job. Is there any way to save a bad interview?

Jesse Siegal, Senior Managing Director at recruitment firm The Execu|Search Group, says it’s not the end of the world and not even the end of that job opportunity. Here are his suggestions for saving that interview after you’ve messed up.

Don’t assume the worst: You will be your own toughest critic. Stay positive and put your best foot forward all the way through because chances are, you aren’t doing as badly as you think. Employers know that interviews are taxing on the nerves, so they tend to give you a bit of leeway in your performance to account for that.

Show flexibility: if your interviewer doesn’t seem to like your response, instead of getting defensive, acknowledge the other point of view and show you are capable of thinking through opposing perspectives.

Smile: You want to look comfortable and confident–even if you don’t fully feel that way. It will convince the employer that you are happy to be there and even trick yourself into feeling more relaxed.

Listen: While you should be prepared with examples and anecdotes that show your strengths, do not let a script overshadow what the interviewer is actually asking for. Listen to the line of questions instead of silently going through a checklist in your head.

Ask questions: Especially for those new to the workforce, a company won’t expect you to have refined skills and experience just yet. They are looking to invest and train you, so genuine interest in the company can go a long way.

Have you ever salvaged an interview? I once showed up an hour late for an interview-because I got lost. I had done the proper thing and had gone to the site the day before so I wouldn’t get lost. The only problem was, I had gone to the wrong spot. I thought I knew where the corporate offices were, but it turned out they had built a new headquarters 5 miles down the road-an unnamed road at that.

When I finally arrived I apologized profusely, and I was rattled, but I actually used many of these techniques. I tried to remain positive and I acknowledged my error. I really wanted that job, and I wasn’t going to let bad directions stop me. The hiring manager ended up apologizing to me for not giving directions since he knew that the street sign was missing. I got the job, which just goes to show that sometimes even a big mistake can be overcome.

As Siegal says, don’t assume the worst. You gain nothing by assuming that you’ve already lost the job. Instead, assume that you can overcome the mistake and go forward. If necessary, apologize, but never give up.

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