How to Survive a Bad Interview

by Ellie Williams

    Interviews are rarely fun, but a bad one can feel downright traumatic. In fact, you may want nothing more than to cut your losses and get out of there as fast as you can. If you stick it out, however, you often can redeem yourself and leave your interviewer with a positive last impression.

    Put It Into Perspective

    When you sense that an interview’s going downhill, it’s only natural to panic. You start to envision a string of failed interviews leading to perpetual unemployment. One disastrous interview isn’t a death sentence for your career, but if you let your anxiety get the better of you you’ll make an even worse impression on the interviewer. Remind yourself that you’ve gotten hired before and will again. Then, calm down so you can focus on salvaging the rest of the interview. Even if you don’t get the job, you’ve gained experience you can use to prepare for your next interview.

    Clear the Air

    Addressing the problem shows the interviewer you’re not afraid to confront an awkward situation. It also gives you an opportunity to determine why and where the interview went wrong and how you can fix it. If you’re so nervous you’re shaking or if you’re distracted by external factors, tell the interviewer and apologize for your lack of focus. Stress that you’re eager to learn more about the job. If he seems dissatisfied with your answers, ask if he has any concerns about hiring you. This allows you to address his doubts point by point.

    Turn the Tables

    If you’ve flubbed several questions or feel like the interviewer is giving you the third degree, shift the direction of the interview. At the end of the conversation, the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions. Connect with him on a personal level by inquiring about his experience at the company. Ask him what attracted him to the company, what he likes most about working there and what he’s learned during his tenure. This will help you focus less on any mistakes you made and more on getting to know the interviewer. It will shift the interviewer’s focus as well, and he’ll likely see your questions as proof you’re seriously interested in the position.

    Change Your Approach

    If you aren’t hitting it off with the interviewer, change how you interact with him or answer his questions. Let down your guard a little and let your personality shine through. Even though an interview is a formal meeting, it doesn’t have to be somber. If the interviewer seems bored, liven up your answers with anecdotes and examples. Watch the interviewer’s body language for clues about what impresses him and what turns him off. If he’s sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed, he may have mentally crossed you off the list. However, if he leans forward, relaxes and increases his eye contact, you must have said or done something to get through to him.

    About the Author

    Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

    Photo Credits

    • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images