Common Interview Mistakes and How to Recover!

There can be so much pressure to make a good first impression in a job interview that sometimes we make mistakes…

Fortunately, there are several options and recovery tips to help you stay in the game ensuring the mistake doesn’t cost you an entire interview.

It’s also important to know what mistakes can look like – employers understand humans aren’t faultless, and often how you respond in the face of distress can say more about you than you think.

Let’s have a look at some common interview mistakes, and how to recover from them:

Arriving Late

If you arrive late to an interview, you’ll automatically send a red flag to an employer. From not valuing their time to poor communication skills through to your own time management abilities – especially if you’re late without any form of pre-communication warning them.

Obviously you should always plan to arrive early, ideally 15 mins before the interview, factoring in time for commuter issues like traffic, parking and detours.

However, should you find yourself late – due to unforeseen circumstances or an emergency outside of your control – the key to recover is communication with the interviewer and/or company.

It will be crucial you have the interviewers contact details handy before leaving for the interview and you should contact them ASAP to advise of a situation if it’s likely to prevent you being on time. The ability to proactively communicate on the go, consider others and think on your feet will go a long way to how they view you.

Even if you’re only a little bit late (within 5-10 minutes) – still let them know of the situation and respectfully check they have extra time to meet with you. If it’s likely you’ll be longer than 10-15 minutes late, or you can’t be sure on timings, we’d suggest asking to reschedule to ensure you don’t waste their time, explaining what has happened.

Additionally, on both the call and when you arrive, make sure you offer your sincere apologies for the inconvenience – it will not only showcase professionalism but that you value their time and truly are apologetic for any issue it may have caused.

Sometimes an emergency is completely out of your power, but how you handle it is within your control and will be the key factor in recovering!

Outfit Issues

Looking professional and meeting a company’s dress code is an important part of a job interview. Wearing the right sort of attire shows potential employees you are serious about the role, have a sense of professionalism and will make the required effort for their company.

If you run into outfit trouble on the way to or even at an interview, communication and honesty will be key.

We will flag there is a clear difference between honesty and simply being under prepared – and it’s easy to spot. Bad hygiene, messy hair or a crumpled outfit are classic signs of someone who isn’t organised, not someone who ran into bad luck. Outfit trouble might mean a coffee spill on your shirt from someone bumping into you on the train, a tear in your pants or a shoe breaking – which are all things you can and should explain.

Perhaps you simply underestimated the dress code – be it being overdressed or too casual with your attire. If this is the case, we suggest addressing it up front. Let the employer know you wanted to make the effort to show how serious you are about the role but now feel very overdressed, or on the flip side, flag you’ve clearly missed the mark with your outfit and acknowledge it’s a more corporate role and you know you need to dress up should you be successful. 

You Can’t Answer a Question

An interviewer will likely ask you questions with the expectation you have done some research on the topic, industry, role or company. That said, most know and understand if you can’t answer everything instantly – and will appreciate someone considering their answer.

If you find you don’t know the answer to a question – stay calm – don’t let yourself panic. Take a deep breath, make eye contact, and continue with your interview with confidence. Consider responding with ‘’That’s an interesting question and one I haven’t contemplated before in detail” or ask for further clarification on the question, outcome or for more context.

You can also respond with a question to a question i.e., “Tell me about yourself” You could narrow it down with a response such as “That’s a very broad topic, do you want me to start with my interest outside of work, education or experience?!” to ensure you answer clearly.

If it’s a technical skills-based question, consider talking about the skills you have/can offer and show your enthusiasm to learn if you don’t believe you have the exact skills they are asking you to talk about. Every negative can be turned into a positive!

Lack of Plans

A common question often asked in interviews is ‘’Where do you see yourself in five years?’’. Telling the interviewer, you have no idea where you’re headed is like saying you don’t care about the company or your personal growth.

Even if you’re not sure of where you want to be specifically, we suggest you don’t articulate it literally. However, should you accidentally convey a lack of direction, recover by talking about what valuable skills and experience you would like to improve and how you see their organisation helping you achieve that. More importantly, equally let them know your focus is to master skills to grow within the company and contribute to their overall success.

You Don’t Have Questions

Interviews are a two-way process in terms of conversation. It’s not just about a company seeking your suitability for the role, but also you are quizzing an employer to ascertain if that company is the right fit for you.

When an interviewer asks, ‘’Do you have any questions for us?’’ often at the end, they are ultimately observing your level of preparedness and interest in the job & company. By not having questions prepared you risk appearing lazy, unorganised, or worse still uninterested.

We strongly suggest having some basic prepared questions to ask at your interview, along with adding any specific ones about the role you think of during the interview based on information you uncover.

Should you forget to prepare or are having trouble thinking of suitable questions before the interview, jot some down as you go during the interview based on what they tell you about the role, as well as ask if it would be okay to send a list via email after the interview. This will help convey your interest.

Ultimately, remember mistakes happen! If you do, use them as a learning curve to make future interviews even more productive. Some great advice is to aim to never make the same mistake, twice!

Also, not every employer will have the time, but should you be unsuccessful don’t be shy in asking for feedback on your interview – used correctly, this information will help you improve in the future.

Good luck!

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