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Mar. 02, 2018

Awkward Interview Moments and How to Save Yourself

Awkward interview moments are bound to happen. But with a little preparation, humility, and humor, you can turn any situation into a positive one.

Here are some potentially awkward interview situations you may encounter and tips for bouncing back.

You suffer a wardrobe malfunction

On your way to the interview, you spill your Grande, non-fat soy latte all over your white shirt. And in the process of cleaning yourself up, lose a shirt button—leaving yourself more exposed than you’d like! The interview starts in 15 minutes and you don’t have time to run back home to change.

Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life. First impressions are important, but at the end of the day remind yourself that you’re only human.

How to save yourself:  Do what you can to remedy your fashion snafu in the little time you have. Is there a scarf or jacket in the car? Do you have a safety pin handy? No luck? Then you might just have to show up with a smile and sense of humor and graciously ask the hiring manager to disregard your appearance.  Next time: bring a spare change of interview clothes, just in case.

You and the hiring manager have a not-so-great mutual connection

You thought the hiring manager’s name sounded familiar and now you know—the person who’s about to interview for the next hour is your cousin’s ex-girlfriend! Side note: their relationship did not end well. Awkward!

When it comes to building professional networks, Hawaii’s close knit community often works in our favor. Until it means crossing paths with someone you’re not on great terms with.

While you don’t want your mutual connection to hurt your chances of landing the job, pretending you don’t know her won’t help either. So what do you do?

How to save yourself: Definitely acknowledge that you know each other, but leave any negative memories at the door—don’t mention your cousin or the breakup. If it does comes up, steer the conversation back to why you’re there in the first place: the job.

If she’s a professional, your personal connection (and subsequent fallout) shouldn’t play a factor in the hiring decision. If it does, ask yourself if you really want to work at that company.

You completely blank on a question

Oh no, what were you going to say was your greatest strength again? You practiced this question 100 times, but you’re completely blanking right now! Beads of sweat start to collect on your forehead and panic sets in with each passing moment. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

When the pressure is on, it’s easy to let your nerves get the best of you. Though it’s completely normal to get stumped by a question, don’t let it throw your composure or rattle your confidence.

How to save yourself: Relax, take a deep breath, and then say something. Prolonged silence can make the already awkward situation even more uncomfortable.

Ask for a moment to collect your thoughts, repeat the question back to yourself, or ask the interviewer to rephrase the question. Talking can often help you get your train of thought back on track.

See also: Don’t Get Stumped by Behavioral Interview Questions

Your phone rings mid-interview

The interview started off great, you’re knocking the questions out of the park, and then your phone rings. What’s worse, your ringtone is belting out Lil Wayne’s new single—profanities and all.

It might be a great ringtone, but nothing is going to convince the interviewer that taking that call will be worth their time. Forgetting to turn off your phone is a common mistake, but it should be second nature by now.

How to save yourself: Avoiding this awkward situation is simple: turn off your phone! This doesn’t mean put it on silent or vibrate.

If for some reason your phone does ring, politely apologize for the interruption and then turn it off. Don’t look to see who called and definitely don’t answer the call. Same goes for text messages.

You call the hiring manager by the wrong name

“Thank you for your time today Casey!” you say as you shake the hiring manager’s hand after a seemingly awesome interview. Upon writing your thank you note, you realize the hiring manager’s name is actually Lacey! You were calling her by the wrong name the entire time!

This is a flub, no doubt. But the interview isn’t a lost cause. The question now is whether to acknowledge (and apologize for) your mistake or ignore it altogether? She didn’t correct you, so why draw attention if there’s a chance she didn’t hear you mispronounce her name.

How to save yourself: Address it right away—preferably in your follow-up email. Better to err on the side of caution and assume she heard. Apologize and thank her, using her correct name, for her understanding. You could explain that you were so focused on preparing for the interview that the wrong name just slipped out.

Other Helpful Interview Tips:

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