Clement May Blogs

Recovering from Interview Disasters

There’s a lot of good advice out there on how to avoid those interview disasters but they still happen.  You can take all the preventative measures you want but sometimes it all goes wrong. These are our tips for the day your dream interview turns into a nightmare.


Running late

You don’t want to be late for an interview under any circumstances.  It is a clear demonstration of your unreliability, your blasé attitude towards work and a lack of organisational skills. Sometimes, however, circumstances are genuinely beyond your control and it is worth battling your way through.  

  • Don’t create elaborate excuses (this will only add dishonesty to your list of failings!), just tell them what happened sincerely and straightforwardly.  
  • If you’re stuck in a taxi an hour from your destination and your interview is in 20 minutes you know you’re going to be late and you must call to warn the company. Keeping people informed demonstrates your sense of accountability and integrity.
  • Follow up.  If you’ve arrived late to the interview make sure you follow-up with an email apology – Thank you for your time and apologies again for arriving late.  As I explained before this was due to __________ and I hope that it will not greatly diminish my chances of selection.


Ruining your appearance

A friend of mine related the story of his last job interview the other day.  As a regular cyclist in London he was used to his suited commute every morning so didn’t think twice in using the same transport for his interview.  Of course it was the day his pedal broke and he hurtled into the pavement.  Arriving at the interview with a grazed face and torn shirt he managed to build such rapport with the slightly stunned interviewer that he secured the role that day.  Employers are normally good at distinguishing between a one-off mishap and a generally shambling demeanour.  

  • Retain your confidence.  If you got out of bed late and didn’t have time to comb your hair perhaps you should reconsider your job-hunting strategy.  If a genuine misadventure occurs use it to demonstrate your strength in adversity.
  • All is not lost! Try to remedy the situation (emergency shirt perhaps) without putting other aspects in jeopardy.  Don’t make yourself late but trying to track down a cleaner.  
  • If it’s not obvious, don’t mention it.  This is a tricky one.  It’s tempting to pre-empt and prove that you’re not generally a scruffy person, however a coffee stain on black trousers may well be invisible to anyone without knowledge of the events.  A blood stained shirt however should probably be accompanied by an explanation!


Saying something stupid

It’s happened to everyone at some point.  Nerves get the better of you and suddenly you are saying something regrettable.  

  • Don’t dwell on it.  You may think it sounded stupid or awkward but actually it may not have raised any alarm bells for the interviewer.  The best thing you can do is move on and don’t let it effect the rest of the interview – give yourself the benefit of the doubt – even if it was a proper clanger.
  • Have a prepared routine to extricate yourself if you know it’s needed.  Just having the phrase “I’m sorry I don’t think I articulated that very well….” or “I realise that didn’t come out as it should have done…” provide a rather more elegant and controlled opportunity to dig your way out of the hole.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking the interviewer to rephrase the question.  The nervous, stupid responses often come as a result of not really understanding the question or not knowing what the interviewer wants to hear.  Even if the ‘stupid’ answer has come out of your mouth you may want to say something like “I think I may have misunderstood the question.  Would you be able to clarify what you meant?”  This puts the onus on the interviewer and they may well forget the original answer you gave.


Check out these links for further tips

Rescuing job interview headed for disaster

7 Things You Can Do After A Really Bad Job Interview