Nobody’s perfect, especially when it comes to interviewing! Here’s how to recover from some of the most common interview mistakes.
“Uhh … I don't know?”
“What do you do here again?”
“What was your name?”
Have you ever called the interviewer by the wrong name? Or completely answered a question wrong? Or even blanked after a question was asked? You know the feeling; the anxiety and nervousness sinking in the pit of your gut while you stumble over your words trying to fix it. Your confidence is gone at this point, and you might be breaking out in a sweat.
We've all been there. Just breathe. A lot of these errors can be avoided, while others can be recovered from. With a little preparation and guidance, you can go into an interview feeling confident. Read below to find out how to avoid and recover from common interview mistakes.
The most common interview mistakes applicants make
There are quite a few common interview mistakes: not preparing properly, calling the interviewer by the wrong name, not writing down your interviewer's name, blanking on a question, not dressing appropriately, using your cellphone, forgetting to turn your cellphone off, not being punctual, leaving an important piece of information out of a response, talking too much, not paying attention, and not researching the company.
Several of the above mistakes can be avoided altogether by knowing and utilizing common interviewing practices. Dress professionally, always research the company and interviewer before you go to an interview, set all devices to silent or off, and leave early so you have plenty of time to get to your interview without being late.
How to minimize the damage of an interview mistake
When you go into an interview, your full focus should be on the interviewer and the questions being asked. Being nervous during an interview is common and can make your mind wander, but you need to focus and listen in order to accurately answer the questions. Keep your answers concise and to the point, preferably answering in under two minutes for each. This leaves ample time to complete the interview without taking too much time out of the hiring manager's day.
Yet, everyone makes mistakes and the best way to recover varies on the mistake made. For example, if you forget to turn your phone off and it makes a sound, simply apologize and turn it off without looking at it or answering. If you are going to be late because you're stuck in traffic, call the office and let the recruiter know. Apologize once you arrive and continue with the interview as planned.
If the mistake is made during the interview, such as blanking on how to respond, ask for a moment to gather your thoughts and then answer the question to the best of your ability. Did you respond, but you left out an important piece of information? Unless the information is vital, continue on without it. If you believe the information is incredibly important, simply save it for the end when there is time for questions and additional comments. You can also work this information into your interview follow-up note if necessary.
Knowing when it's time to cut your losses
While it's possible to recover from a minor slip-up during your interview — hey, recruiters are human, too, and they understand how nerve-wracking the interview process can be — there are other, more egregious mistakes from which you often can't bounce back. It all depends on the individual interviewer and how big of a mistake you made. If your interview mistake causes the hiring manager to seriously question your judgment, then it's probably time to cut your losses and move on.
Should you still follow-up after making a mistake?
Rule of thumb is it's best to always follow-up after an interview. A quick thank-you note or card makes a great impression on interviewers! If the mistake is one you can recover from, you most definitely should send a follow-up note. If you know you've completely tanked an interview, thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, send a quick, yet sincere post-interview thank-you note, and shift your focus to other job opportunities.
Recruiters spend quite a bit of time and effort on interviewing and it is always nice to be appreciated with an email, note, or letter. Sending a follow-up, even after a mistake, shows you are interested in the company and is a professional courtesy.
Overall, most mistakes can be avoided with extensive preparation and practice. Research interviewing techniques, dress and act appropriately, and keep all devices on silent. The mistakes which can't be avoided can often be recovered from. The deadly mistakes — arrogance, inappropriateness, and not being prepared — are mistakes most people cannot come back from.
Prepare. Practice. Be on time. Do your best.
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