I thought I blew it in a job interview

Found yourself off track during a job interview? It’s ok to stop and ask for directions.

Sweaty and Stammering aren’t words you want to use when describing your interview. We’ve all been there – or at least I have!

Here’s what happened to me

I’m trying to make a great impression.   I’m a little nervous.  I put my hands in my pocket to make sure they aren’t moist.  I remember to offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. 

My interviewer greets me with a smile.  No issues with the handshake.  I breathe.

She asks me some questions – they start out easy – typical get to know you ones.  She nods as I speak.  Things are going well.

But then she asks me for a specific example of something I did.  I immediately jump in to share my tale. I’d prepared for this. The words are coming out.  But they don’t make any sense.  I’m mastering the use of ahs, ums and you knows.  She’s no longer nodding.  She looks confused.  She must have turned up the heat because I am sweating.  A lot.

Then I stop.  I apologize.  I acknowledge that I was not answering her question.  When I ask her to repeat the question, she did so gladly.  I listened this time.  I didn’t answer right away.  I gathered my thoughts.  The 20 seconds of silence felt like 3 minutes.  I answered the question – differently this time.  She looked engaged.  She resumed her nodding.  She must have even turned down the heat because I was no longer sweating.

Fast forward

I got the job.  The hiring manager told my recruiter that she was impressed that I had the confidence to acknowledge I was off track and asked for clarity.  And that was one of the deciding factors in offering me the job!

If you get off track in an interview, or if you don’t understand a question. It’s ok to pause. And it’s ok to ask for directions.

Here’s how to navigate the conversation smoothly:

  • Apologize and acknowledge that you aren’t doing a good job answering the question
  • Ask for a mulligan and provide a clearer response or answer with a different example
  • Request that the interviewer clarifies a question
  • Take off your jacket, loosen your tie and pretend it didn’t happen (ok, just kidding, I don’t recommend this approach!)
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Scott-White-e1591034364754.jpg

Scott White specializes in recruiting communications and marketing professionals for Boston area life sciences companies. Find Scott on LinkedIn here or email him at scott@hireminds.com.