Despite our best laid plans, sometimes you mess up during an interview. What do you do? Here are some suggestions for glossing over your interview faux pas and some scenarios in which you should probably go home and check the job boards.
If you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late, the only acceptable thing to do is to call your interviewer and explain yourself. Don’t grovel, but offer sincere apologies. Respect that your interviewer’s schedule may be tight, and ask if he or she would still like to meet with you, or if you should reschedule for another time. If you have to reschedule, be sure to travel at your own expense.
You Look Messy
Your interviewer is staring at what’s left of your jelly donut, smack dab in the middle of your shirt. What to do? Definitely don’t sit there and let it scream “I’m a slob” for 20 minutes. Try instead to point it out, laugh it off, and move on. Darin Manis suggests a great line: “I realize in hindsight the food fight I started at lunch wasn’t the best idea.” By making light of your mistake, you’ll convey an easy-going personality and good sense of humor.
First of all, if you realize beforehand that you might not be 100 percent sure about what you’re about to say, don’t say it. Avoid using phrases or facts you’re unsure about, and don’t be afraid to politely ask how to pronounce someone’s name. If you hear something come out of your mouth that you know isn’t correct, you should probably back-pedal. Try to turn your mistake into a light conversation— “I can’t believe I mispronounced your name. What nationality is that?” With that in mind, try to be as informed as possible. You can probably recover from mixing up Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds… but probably not from confusing Iran and Iraq.
Swear words slip out, or you make fun of last week’s Save the Bees protest only to find out your interviewer organized it. This is a big mistake, and something of this caliber will probably require an outright apology: “excuse me” or “I apologize for saying that.” Try to laugh it off if that seems appropriate- “I guess I should quit hanging out with sailors” or “I knew that joke would come back to sting me.” In most cases, try to move on as quickly as possible.
You Were Inarticulate
You’ve been babbling incoherently because you didn’t expect that last question. Stop. Take a deep breath. Ask your interviewer if you can begin again, and think for a moment of an intelligent answer. The silence might feel awkward, but your thoughtfulness will reflect well on you as problem solver. Even if you can’t find the perfect answer for the question, the fact that you stopped to think about it shows that you keep your cool under pressure.
Do your best to avoid these mistakes- these tips are for emergency use only. Also, if the worst does happen, read this to learn how to write an apology note.