6 Signs That Your Interview is Not Going Well, and How to Save It
Job interviews can be extremely stressful, and it can be difficult to judge how well you have done after you have left the interview. Nerves can make small errors seem big but might, additionally, cause you to ignore mistakes you have made during the interview process.
As well as your own performance, the interviewer and his or her abilities and attitude affect the results of the interview. A poor interviewer could have a bad effect on your chances of being hired.
Staying aware of how an interview might go wrong can help you fix problems as they occur. You may be able to change topics, start a new line of discussion or move on from a mistake with relative ease if you are properly prepared to do so. You can keep yourself in control of the interview, maintaining the confidence required to impress the interviewer.
The Interviewer is Off-Topic or Unfocused
The time allotted for your interview is your chance to prove your suitability for the job, and every minute must count in your favor. If the interviewer appears to be unfocused, perhaps looking at a cell phone or laptop instead of listening to you, then you might be missing out on your opportunity to make a good impression.
It is worth noting an interviewer might be taking notes and may only appear to be distracted. On the other hand, if there are many applicants for the position, the interviewer may be struggling to focus after attending several interviews in one day.
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Try to judge whether the interviewer is using your answers to create follow-up questions or comments. If not, he or she may not be listening attentively. It is important to remember to be polite and courteous as you try to regain his or her attention.
If the interviewer asks an off-topic question, you can try to use it to lead back to a more appropriate subject. When trying to get the interviewer’s attention, you might ask a question linked to a statement you have just given. For example, if you had been talking about a project you led at your previous job, ask whether there have been any similar projects at the company you are interviewing for.
The Interview is One-Sided
An interview may generally be seen as a series of questions and answers. While there are many more aspects to the process, the two-way communication suggested by this format is key to a successful interview. Both you and the interviewer must be speaking at different points, and a one-sided interview can be a bad sign:
- If the interviewer speaks too much, you are unable to make any kind of impression yourself. You may become nervous waiting for an opportunity to speak, or you may be afraid you are going to miss your chance to comment. Keep listening actively and have a relevant point in mind ready to bring up when the interviewer pauses. You can ask the interviewer a question to try and lead back to your point as well.
- If you are speaking too much, perhaps having become sidetracked during an anecdote, you might only realize it after a few minutes. The interview may interrupt you, or you may need to interrupt yourself. Try to get back on track as quickly as possible, perhaps linking your anecdote back to your original point and finishing up in as few words as possible.
Otherwise, you may be able to laugh off your tangent as a small mistake. Interviewers are aware that an interview typically results in a little nervousness, and a quick apology or small joke can help fix these types of errors on your part.
You are Distracted or Unprepared
Even if you have made efforts to prepare yourself for your interview, it is possible things may still go wrong. You may have missed an area of research you may be questioned on or you might be unable to provide an answer to an important question. This could be the result of nervousness, and you might think of the answer after leaving the interview.
External events, such as an illness or family crisis, may distract you and keep you from performing well. Finding yourself unable to focus on the questions being asked, or unable to provide an answer, can make a bad impression. There are still steps you can take to remedy this situation, such as:
- A note or email is traditional after an interview as a thank-you, but you can include an explanation or apology as well.
- Be honest about the fact you performed poorly. If there is an external reason, provide it without going into too much detail.
- Keep to the specifics rather than apologizing for the entire interview. It is important for the hiring manager to see your confidence in your general suitability for the job, regardless of the mistake you made.
- Ask for another interview if appropriate.
- Information you forgot to provide due to distraction or distress can be included in your note or email if you are unable to request another interview.
The Interviewer is Underprepared
While the company ideally sets an experienced hiring manager the task of interviewing you and other candidates, this might not be the case. If you have been assigned someone new to interviewing or unfamiliar with the position for which you have applied, he or she might be underprepared.
In this situation, you need to rely on the preparations you have made for the interview. You might be able to ask questions about the company or role that illustrates your knowledge of what is required for the job. You can speak about the goals you would try to achieve within the company or your past accomplishments and refer to your resume.
Give the interviewer a chance to ask his or her own questions as you go but be ready to continue leading if he or she does not manage to come up with anything relevant. Taking control in this manner can be done subtly. If the interviewer is flustered or admits he or she is underprepared, you may be more open in suggesting topics needing to be discussed.
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