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You can feel the sweat pooling near your hairline. You’re trying to feign a smile, but your lips are quivering. Wait, your mouth’s not just trembling – it’s speaking. Like a pull-string doll, you’re spewing out words uncontrollably. Tuning back into the conversation now could be terrifying, but you’ll give it a shot anyways…
Crap. You’re talking about your fantasy football team.
That can’t be good.
Step one: shut up. Immediately. Step two: save your interview from this nine-foot hole you’ve dug yourself into. But how? You can’t wait until afterwards to send a “thank you” email and fruit basket. You need to bounce back from that interview-killing response right now.
Luckily, there’s a way resurrect yourself. With the following tips in mind, you’ll be back in contention for the job.
Read the interviewer. Good interviews often boil down to building a solid rapport with the person sitting across from you. Once you establish some chemistry with the interviewer and the hot seat cools down a bit, your conversation will become far more relaxed and coherent.
So if you fumble a question, reading your interviewer’s body language and temperament might help you dodge a disaster. Are you talking to a recruiter who’s witty and laid-back? Then use your charm, admit you need a mulligan and start from the top. Is the person grilling you an executive who’s squirming in her chair to get back to work? Then put the question behind you, finish strong and…
Don’t apologize. Never show weakness, never surrender, interview like a Spartan soldier. Okay, not exactly. Shave the beard and sheath your battle sword. But don’t plead for a second chance. Bad answers happen. Move on.
Apologizing only draws more attention to your slip-up. The interviewer will likely disregard one rambling response, but don’t throw fuel into the inferno by coming across as insecure and apologetic. Brush it off, shift your focus to the next question and no matter what you do…
Don’t let the response spill over. The worst thing you can do is let one sub-par answer derail your next response, and then the next one like a stack of dominos.
Sure, you’re nervous. It’s been weeks since your last interview, and you were already imagining life outside your parents’ guestroom. After one silly mistake, you can feel the job slipping away like a fish on a waterslide.
But before that waterslide turns into a tsunami, redirect the conversation to your strengths. Discuss how your skills will carry over to the job, and highlight what you do best. And, if given the chance, try to…
Make up for the botched response. A good interview is fluid. The conversation flows smoothly, with questions, answers and comments being volleyed back and forth like an Olympic Ping-Pong match…but in slow motion. Otherwise interviews would be terrifying.
This fluidity gives you a chance to revisit previously discussed topics. For example, let’s say you just butchered a question about your greatest career accomplishment. You couldn’t think of an example on the spot, and you’re worried drawing a blank made you seem unambitious.
Later in the interview, you’re asked about a time you managed to reach your goals. If you’re quick, you could tie your response back to your greatest achievement, like so:
“My college roommate and I started a company that re-sold college textbooks. The quarter was winding down, and we had less than two weeks to get the website up and running. I designed and scripted the three main pages just in time for launch, and we had over 600 subscribers within the first three weeks.”
This response effectively reframes the question to discuss perhaps your most impressive accomplishment, while also touching on how you’re goal-driven.
However, don’t force your response to make up for a previous blunder. Your answer could come across as irrelevant, and you might miss the mark on the question at hand. While you might be itching to make up for that earlier mistake, try to…
Think about the big picture. It’s only one response. Hopefully the mistake isn’t a deal-breaker, and hopefully you’re slip-up is forgivable. One poor response shouldn’t derail your entire interview. If you show up on time, dress appropriately, ace most of the questions and highlight your skills, you should be a strong candidate for the job.
LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers across experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Check us out on Facebook and Google+ for advice and tips on all things career and resume-related.