Here’s how to handle interview-day emergencies without derailing your interview.

If you’re like most people, you find interviews nerve-wracking enough. Add an unexpected emergency into the mix and things can easily go haywire — and your chances of landing your dream job could vanish.

However, emergencies happen in daily life, and occasionally, they happen on the day of an important interview. Yet, most minor emergencies can be handled with some simple preparation and a calm attitude. Here’s how to handle common interview-day emergencies and still ace the interview.

Waking up sick

We all know that feeling: The alarm goes off and you wake up with a dry, scratchy throat; a hacking cough; and a congested, stuffy head. All you want to do is the pull the covers back over your head and go back to sleep. What now?

Be proactive. If it’s morning and your interview isn’t until later in the afternoon, give yourself a couple of hours to take some medicine and see how you feel. If you don’t have much time or have a fever, it’s probably best to reschedule.

You may feel nervous about calling in to reschedule your interview, but remember that the hiring manager is human too. We’ve all been sick before and know how miserable it can be. Call as soon as you can and apologize. Make sure to try to reschedule while you’re on the phone for two to five days later so it stays on their calendar. When you do go into the interview, apologize right away and thank the interviewer for being flexible and rescheduling.

Clothing emergencies

Let’s say you’re in a hurry, and you’re eating lunch in the car on your way from one interview to another. You’re eating a hamburger and look down to notice there’s a generous blob of ketchup on your perfectly starched white blouse.

Don’t panic. Plan ahead and bring a Shout or Tide detergent pen with you. If you don’t have one and you have enough time, Google the nearest drugstore and pick one up. It’s also a good idea to keep a backup shirt in the car, just in case. If you don’t have time to stop, arrive to the interview location and ask to use the restroom. Blot the stain with paper towels, a little soap, and water. Also, see if your jacket will cover it. Try your best to conceal the stain, and whatever you do, don’t bring it up! The interviewer might not even notice.

If the interviewer does notice, leverage your sense of humor and use it as an icebreaker. Say something like “While I do feel confident I have the skills for this position, clearly one of my weaknesses is being a messy eater!” Apologize and move on. Everyone has made a mess on their clothes at one time or another.

Family emergencies

If you have children, you know that feeling when your phone rings and you see your child’s school on the Caller ID. If you have a child that needs to be picked up from school right before an interview, the timing couldn’t be worse.

If your child is sick, consider a few options. How sick are they? If they are vomiting or running a high fever, you can’t delay. If they have a stomach ache and want to go home, explain the situation and ask the school nurse if they can wait in the nurse’s office for an hour or so. Alternatively, call a family member or friend and check to see if someone else can pick your child up from school.

If your child is being sent home for a behavioral issue, talk with the principal and explain your situation. Most people will be understanding and help you out by letting them stay at school until your interview is over.

However, if you still have to pick your child up right away, see if you can get a babysitter before the interview. If your child is old enough, consider letting them stay home during the interview. If you’re out of options, call the place of your interview as soon as you know you won’t be able to make it, apologize, and try to lock in a new time for the interview before you hang up.

This advice can apply to other family emergencies as well, such as an elderly parent or spouse who needs help. See if you can find someone to assist them until you are done with your interview. If there is no one to lend a hand, then call ahead to your interviewer or the company you are interviewing with, apologize for the inconvenience, and cancel. The company should understand and help you reschedule.    

Running late to the interview

No one likes to be late, but it happens. Maybe there is a traffic accident or slowdown that seriously impacts your arrival time. Don’t show up late and assume the interviewer still has time to meet you. Make sure you are respectful of their time.

As soon as you know you’re going to be late, call the office and let them know the situation. Apologize and ask if it’s still OK for you to come at your updated estimated arrival time, or ask if they want to reschedule.

If Google Maps fails to locate the office, putting you behind, don’t panic. Call the office as soon as you realize you can’t find it and ask for specific directions. They will likely appreciate your initiative!

Controlling your nerves

Nervous feelings and anxiety are a part of the interview process for most people. If you feel nervous before the interview, take a few deep breaths, meditate, take a quick and casual walk, and pull yourself together.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. They want the interview to go well just as much as you do! They are looking for the right person for the job and hoping you are that person. Walk in with a positive attitude, smile, be confident, and showcase your best self.

Prepare for interview emergencies and put your best foot forward

Don’t let minor emergencies get in the way of landing your dream job. Everyone knows that they can sometimes happen at the most inopportune time. Emergencies happen in everyday life, and how you handle them will show your potential employer how you will handle work emergencies if you were hired.

The bottom line? Be proactive, plan ahead, and go into your interview with a smile, positive attitude, and firm handshake even if you’ve hit a little snag beforehand. We know you’ve prepared to do your best, so move forward with confidence!

Not sure if you’re ready to wow prospective employers in your interview? Let our professional TopInterview coaches lend a hand!

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