Most job seekers have funny stories of awkward interview moments – names mangled, drinks spilled, flubbed answers to easy questions. Jobfully team members shared a few of their favorites including accidently offering a hug instead of a handshake at the end of the interview (carried away?) and accidently walking off with the interviewer’s notebook. Knowing that these things happen, here are some graceful ways to get through those awkward moments and maybe even make yourself look good in the process.
Interviewer mispronounces your name or calls you by the wrong name. Restate it correctly, chuckling “I know it’s a tough one” or “Everyone struggles with that one”
You forget the interviewer’s name. Ask for a business card. (And write it down next time.)
Drink spilled. Laugh and help with clean-up. If you tend to be a klutz, do not have a drink during the interview or bring a water bottle with a lid.
Freezing when asked a question. Take a breath and say “Let me think about that for a minute” or “Tell me more about what you would like to know.” Clarifying the question will allow you time to formulate an answer.
Asked a question you don’t understand at all. Request clarification or try restating “Are you asking . . .?”
Need to use the restroom. Awkward, but what can you do other than say “May I take a break and freshen up a bit?” It happens.
Asked a question that feels inappropriate such as about your age or family status. Ask how the information is relevant to the job.
Unhappy with something you just said. Start over by saying “Another way to look at it is . . .” or “Let me restate that.”
Asked about a skill you don’t have. Ask how the skill would be used in the job then bring out other skills you would use to accomplish the same thing, or bring out your ability to learn new things quickly.
Asked about a former boss with whom you did not have a good relationship. Be positive. Focus on something good about the boss. Never air dirty laundry.
Interviewer takes a phone call during interview. Offer privacy by glancing away. Wait patiently. If interviewer apologizes, say you understand. The call may be an indication of how busy the interviewer is. If so, highlight ways you will ease his or her burden.
Interviewer is interrupted or ducks out during interview. Avoid the temptation to snoop around the office. Wait patiently. Don’t take it personally. Continue to be upbeat and high energy when he or she returns.
Interviewed by an internal candidate for the job. Believe it or not, this does happen and it can be VERY awkward. Use this person’s inside knowledge to learn all you can about the position. Show yourself to be a match. Bring out how easy you are to work with. Use knowledge gained in this interview to help you in other interviews for this position.
Told you are probably not right for the job. Ask for concerns and answer them. View this as an invitation to deal directly with the interviewers hesitations. Do not give up.
Don’t let an awkward moment throw you off. Grace, humor and the ability to turn a negative into a positive are all ways to get through it and come out looking good. And if you think your moment was awkward, this story floating around the internet is sure to top it: “Today, I had a job interview. When I got there, the lady interviewing me shook my hand and said, ‘Hello, I’m gay.’ I found this strange and I didn’t know what to say, so I stated, ‘Aw, it’s OK, I support you.’ She looked pretty offended, and I realized why when I found out that her name was Gaye.”
What’s your awkward interview story? Share what happened and how you handled it.