by Tracy Cashman - Senior Vice President / Partner, Information Technology Search, WinterWyman
You got yourself an interview for an exciting job opportunity, but during the meeting you feel things aren’t going quite right. How can you quickly assess the situation and turn the interview back in your favor? Follow these three tips for saving a bad interview.
The scenario - The interviewer is unprepared or noticeably distracted. There could be many reasons for this:
• He didn’t have time to review your resume in advance of your meeting.
• There is a crisis in the office.
• He’s not really invested in hiring for the role.
• He could just be having a bad day.
The fix - Whatever the reason, take control of the interview. Bring copies of your resume and offer one, while also providing a quick verbal overview of your background. Try to get a sense of the most important aspects of the role and hopefully discover where the negativity is coming from so you can address it. If you do feel the interviewer is too distracted to have any kind of real conversation, politely acknowledge the distraction and offer to reschedule. For example, you could say, It seems like I may have arrived during a difficult time in your schedule. Is there a better time to talk with you about the role?” You have nothing to lose except a terrible interview! And, the person may appreciate your insight, honesty and flexibility.
The scenario - You don’t have some of the experience required or know the answer to a question.
The fix - When you’re nervous, you may draw a complete blank on something you actually know. If that happens, smile and acknowledge that you know it but, because you are nervous, you can’t think of the answer. Most people will be sympathetic. Talk about how you would find the answer if you ever forgot on the job. This will give the interviewer an idea of your problem-solving skills and resourcefulness. Unfortunately, there are other times when you just won’t know the answer or have the experience. Don’t BS! If you don’t know, don’t pretend. You can use the same method to describe how you might go about finding the answer or try to draw a parallel with something similar you have learned.
The scenario - The interviewer seems to have concerns about your background or one of your answers.
The fix - Sometimes the person will come out and tell you where she feels you are weak, what skills you might be lacking or that she disagrees with your opinion. More often, though, you may just get the feeling things aren’t clicking. When this happens, avoid trying to blindly sell yourself. If you are sure something is awry, ask directly. For example, “It seems like you might have a concern about something I said. May I ask you what it was?” or “I get the feeling you may think I am weak in XYZ; is that the case? If so, I’d like to tell you more about a project I worked on with XYZ.” Sometimes the concern can be nothing more than a miscommunication, but if you don’t actively address it in the interview, you usually can’t fix it later. That’s why it’s also important to ask how you did at the end of the interview. One of the most powerful questions is “What would you be looking for in someone else that you didn’t see in me?” The answer gives you one last chance to sell yourself against any concerns the interviewer might have.
If your job interview takes a negative turn, don’t give up. The art of saving a bad interview can ultimately reflect favorably on you as a job seeker; a wise hiring manager knows those think-on-your feet skills will help you be successful on the job!
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