Recovery Tips: When a Job Interview Gets Awkward

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or a well-seasoned veteran of the job-search game, you probably have an idea of how the ideal job interview is “supposed” to go.  You walk in the room, give a firm handshake, and proceed to answer questions you’re well-prepared for, just like the rockstar candidate you envision yourself to be.  

Before you give yourself a hypothetical pat on the back, however, you should also know that it’s entirely possible for an interview to go horribly, awfully, awkwardly wrong, many times through no fault of your own.  Preparation, though, is the key to success.  Instead of running home and crying into a bowl of ice cream over an interview gone bad, take a few minutes to read along as we help you prep for the worst case scenario and show that you can master whatever the job search throws at you.

What’s in a Name

Forgetting the name of your dinner companion on that all-important first date is awkward enough.  Now imagine raising the stakes and completely blanking on the identity of your interviewer, mid career-making interview.  In either situation, your conversation counterparty will appreciate and respect a personal address.  If you’ve got rico-suave level skills, you can probably get by with a pet name or two for personal interactions, but using the tagline of “honey” or “gorgeous” with a prospective employer probably isn’t going to get you very far.  On the other hand, calling someone by the wrong name can make you seem forgetful at best and straight out inattentive at worst.  Neither quality is going to score you many bonus points towards that offer or call back.

All that being said, there are solid approaches to help avoid lapses in salutations.  Before your interview, ask for the names of the various individuals you’ll be meeting with.  Study these and even try writing them down a few times to commit the titles to memory.  Similarly, practice reciting the names to yourself in realistic scenarios.  Simple statements like “thank you, Mr. Smith,” or “Mrs. Jones, I appreciated your time,” will help prepare you for the interview while also familiarizing yourself to your interviewers’ identities.

When all else fails, ask for a business card or contact info towards the end of your interview.  This will be a helpful cheat sheet for both social niceties on your way out and for those all-important follow up thank you emails.

Hearing Crickets

Another surefire cringe-worthy moment for any conversation setting is the awkward pause.  You know the scenario we’re talking about here.  Conversation is going well, perhaps stilted, but at least you’re forming syllables and vowels into some form of a coherent sentence.  Then, all of a sudden, either yourself or the interviewer will make an open-ended statement.  Maybe you’re not sure whether something was a question or a declaration.  Maybe they don’t know how to reply to your unexpected answer.  Whatever the case, few things can blast a hole through your interview confidence like an awkward pause in the conversation.

If this is the stuff that gives you nightmares, never fear.  There are a few easy and productive ways to handle a break in conversation.  To get things back on track, when the conversation breaks, try asking the interviewer if your answer made sense, or if they felt you’d fully answered their question.  Whatever their reply, talking will commence and you’ll both have an opening to get out of a stagnant pause.  If you’re the one who is blanking, try asking the interviewer to repeat or rephrase the question, giving yourself time to collect thoughts and formulate a stellar reply.

The Unpredictable

No matter how much you prep for your all-important job interview, it’s inevitable that there will be questions or scenarios that catch you unaware.  From your interviewer pausing to take a personal call to a fire alarm or drill, unexpected events can put a damper on your otherwise impeccably planned interview style.  For the unwary, this can lead to flubbed answers or an overall poor performance.

The best way to deal with the awkward or unexpected moments during an interview is typically with humor.  The ability to go with the flow, take a few unexpected punches, and continue to shine demonstrates adaptability that is often highly desirable for an employer.  Showcase your flexibility by laughing off surprises and picking right back up where the interview left off.  In the real world, this is a much more accurate depiction of what it means to work in a high pressure, ever-changing company and you’ll score big bonus points.  As a plus, these events can often make you more memorable to an interviewer or potential employer, lessening the likelihood that your candidacy will get lost in the crowd.  

While we all strive for structure and perfection in our interview, from time to time things are going to get a bit awkward.  For individual candidates, the way you address these pressures will speak volumes about your potential skill set in a position and handling these situations well will increase your chances of landing a gig exponentially.  Have a horror story or other tip?  Feel free to drop us a line so that we can share with fellow job seekers who may end up where you’ve been at some point in their job-seeking future.

Article Updated from the Original on January 28, 2018