Recover From a Botched Answer During a Job Interview

Every prospective job candidate goes into the interview room with the best of intentions.  As a savvy career-seeker, you’ve properly prepped, researched, read plenty of blog advice and feel confident and ready to nail the interview and land the job of your dreams.

While this is certainly the ideal scenario, sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan.  Maybe it’s a question you weren’t expecting or perhaps a last minute case of the nerves.  Whatever the cause, it’s inevitable at some point in your career that you’ll thoroughly botch a critical interview question.  What sets the average interviewee apart from those that get the callback or job offer, however, is your ability to recover from such a flub and we have the much-needed advice to help you do just that!

Keep Calm and Carry On

Remaining calm throughout the entire interview scores candidates big points with prospective employers, even when they’ve given a less-than-amazing answer to an interview question.  When you identify the flub, remember to pause, take a deep breath and assess the best path forward to maximize your ability to recover.

Take a Mulligan

Sure, your dad may have been fond of espousing that there are no do-overs in life, but this colloquialism certainly doesn’t apply to the interview table.  When you’ve misspoken, or given an obviously less than stellar response, make a statement such as “sorry, I should rephrase that” or “that answer may need more context.”

This approach comes in especially handy when dealing with administrative type questions.  If you mentioned that you dislike commuting just as you remember the job position will require a great deal of travel, try adding on “and that’s why I’ve developed a great system for staying productive in the car/train/plane.”  Restating answers entirely is rarely needed.  Instead, try adding a bit of color or explanation in order to flush out a more in-depth response.  Nail this approach and the interviewer will probably find themselves forgetting your poor, initial response entirely.

Thank You Emails are Great for Mea Culpa’s

If during your after-interview mental recap you are questioning a response or think you may have botched a question without thoroughly explaining away, remember that your opportunity to shine isn’t over once you’ve left the interview room. Those all-important follow up thank you emails are great opportunities to explain or backtrack on a poor interview answer.

Identify the interview question where you believe you could have done better and either outright identify it and offer additional insight or address casually in your follow up email.  Approaches such as, “I enjoyed speaking with you about X and, after additional thought, have this piece of info to add” will help overrule any uncertainties on the part of yourself and your interviewer.

Final Thoughts on That “Botched” Question

Finally, remember not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to your interview performance.  Sure, there are some answers that probably could have been phrased better, but your imagination can often make these scenarios much worse than their actual impact.  Post-gaming an interview too much can lead to unnecessary worry, stress and second-guessing.  If you went into the interview as a strong candidate with solid skills and qualifications, savvy employers will be able to acknowledge this, even in the face of a flub or two.

Article Updated from the Original on October 13, 2017