From software crashing to breaking wind, there are more ways than ever for job interviews to go wrong. Learn how to handle them like a pro and they won’t hurt your chances of finding work.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. That’s is one of those annoyingly upbeat life quotes that do the rounds on social media, which is why you’ve probably never thought it might help you get through job interviews.
What it means is that it’s not what happens that defines who you are, it’s how you react. Resilience is a top, top skill to develop: it won’t just get you through job hunting – it makes life easier. Here are some common interview nightmares that you can walk away from stronger.
1. Technical blunders
Flat batteries and missing cables can easily wipe the polish off a presentation you’ve spent hours preparing. And with phone and Skype interviews increasingly popular, even poor reception or traffic noise can tear chunks out of your professionalism.
First check in advance you have what’s required and that it works: webcam? Flash drive? Specific software? Next, disable unnecessary programs, notifications and updates until after the interview. In some situations it may be easier to disable wifi altogether until needed.
It’s also useful to imagine the worst case scenario and plan the quickest fix. If the worst happens, you can quickly get back into your flow.
The biggest issues to plan for:
- No signal (can be a problem for phone chats or getting to your interview)
- Running out of data / can’t connect to wifi
- Flat batteries
- Files or cables not compatible with interviewer’s kit
- Friends and family calling or texting mid-interview!
2. Embarrassing bodies
If you think your body stops surprising you after puberty, we’ve got news for you: boisterous farts, excessive sweating and wardrobe malfunctions are the most dreaded interview bloopers.
While these are mortifying, letting the embarrassment take over is the real interview killer.
- Acknowledge what’s happened if it helps get your focus back: “Sorry – I’m a bit nervous” or “Oops, let me just zip that up”. Then get right back into your spiel.
- Ask for a minute if you need to fix something distracting. Otherwise, take a deep breath, forget what’s just happened, and bring your attention back to the important stuff.
- Don’t have a bean feast the night before, carry cough sweets … take simple steps to avoid disruption, especially if it’s an issue you’ve struggled with in the past.
If an embarrassing incident has you cringing, get over it. Yes, your interviewer probably chuckled about it afterwards – and you can’t change that. More importantly, even the most awkward mishaps won’t stop you getting hired if you’re the best candidate: make sure they know that’s you!
3. Going blank
Running out of steam, forgetting the question, obsessing over which Chuckle Brother the interview resembles – there are many ways to go blank during an interview, and it’s most likely because of nerves.
Practice is key: you want to get to the point where you can easily recall and adapt examples of your skills, strengths and solutions. If you lose your thread, that makes it easier to jump back in.
Staying focused or relaxed is harder to pin down, but mindfulness training is a good first step. During the interview do what you can to stay in the moment: repeat or clarify the question, take a deep breath, and speak slowly.
4. Being late
Lateness is the most damaging of interview mishaps because it’s almost always inexcusable. Harsh as it sounds, that includes if you get lost or get stuck in traffic (because, really, you should have planned ahead).
If it happens to you, however, don’t panic. Let the interviewer know as soon as you realise you’re running late. Then use your time to calm down and turn on your professional vibes – it’s far better to own the error and show you can still deliver under pressure. Turn it into a strength.
Terrifyingly, there are many other ways to torpedo an interview. That includes realising you know your interviewer from a drunken night out, or making wildly inappropriate jokes because, for some reason, you thought they might break the ice.
Stuff is always going to happen, and you might not have much control about it. What’s crucial is realising it’s not the end of the world. If anything, it’s an opportunity to show why you’re the best person to have around in a crisis.
Guest blog post: brought to you by Ruth at Save the Student.