Ideally, let’s not make mistakes on an interview. However, job seekers are human. Humans make mistakes. So mistakes will happen. I think an interview mistake can be an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
When I recruited for my team and for the clients for whom I found talent as a search firm recruiter, I would actually welcome the mistakes made by candidates. I did not automatically weed out those candidates that made errors and I did not immediately move on those that interviewed without a misstep. How candidates handled the mistake, the type of mistake they made and the level of perfection achieved on the interview by candidates factored into my decision to advance a candidate to the next round of interviews. What should you do if it happens to you?
(1) Own it, address it and move on. If you do run late to an interview or misspeak about a specific topic, own it and apologize. Do not blame others or make excuses. If you do, it can demonstrate that you will make excuses or blame your co-workers for errors you actually make or for situations beyond your control. I once had a leading candidate not call me on a mutually-agreed upon specified date—but three days after the date, she called without a real viable excuse for missing the deadline. However, she still made the call three days later to apologize and stated she understood that I would probably remove her from the process. But she still wanted to call and thank me for my time and consideration—and if there was any room for reconsideration, she was still very interested in the role, despite what her actions may show. I thought that type of call took a lot of guts. There were no excuses (‘I misunderstood’), she did not pretend it never happened (crazy to me that people actually do that!), she did not blame anyone (‘my co-workers screwed up their work and I have been working like crazy to meet a deadline for them’) and she did not avoid the call by never making it. She made the call, owned her responsibility and was gracious and humble. I gave her another chance figuring she would handle mistakes on the job in that same graceful way.
(2) Don’t keep bringing it up. Nothing annoys me more than the overcompensating candidate. Over apologizing and revisiting the error repeatedly is a bigger interview crime in my opinion than most actual interview mistakes. It shows a lack of self-confidence, a certain level of immaturity and a tad bit of self-centered drama that most employers just don’t want to contend with on a daily basis. This behavior is a precursor to when the candidate makes mistakes at work, the management can expect several apologies throughout the day as the candidate attempts to redeem themselves in their own mind.
(3) Have a sense of humor about it. Show that you can think on your feet. If the candidate can make the interviewer laugh, the job seeker may actually score some points. Handling awkward situations with humble humor is evidence to the interviewer that you let mistakes roll off your back, are not easily distracted and don’t take yourself too seriously.
(4) If it is technology-related, have backups and/or be ready to present old school—without the tech. Your laptop decides not to work on the interview? Have handouts of your presentation ready. Email yourself a copy of your presentation to your Gmail account to pull up on another computer, if offered. Bring a thumb drive with the materials you need. Show that you will be ready no matter what!
(5) If an interview is perfect, it did not guarantee a candidate was advanced. Hearing this may make some job seekers crazy, but if a job seeker is too rehearsed and too perfect, it just left me wondering, “what flaw was I not seeing?” After all, we all have flaws. Be yourself. Be genuine. Show humility and strength—showing strength only is a one-dimensional presentation.
(6) Accept that the job was not for you to have…own it, apologize and move on to the next opportunity. OK. I get it. Sometimes you make a mistake that you cannot recover from: Did not know a key piece of information. Said the wrong comment. Offended someone inadvertently. Missed the interview time. If that is the case, accept it was not your fate to have that job. The powers of the universe kept you available for the right job to come along. Focus on the positive.
For thorough interview preparation, get your copy of my ebook, Interview Confidently, Get Hired & Don’t Sell Out, or review the personalized interview coaching services provided by Chameleon Resumes.
Written by Lisa Rangel, Executive Resume Writer
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