Recovering from Interview Mistakes

Recovering from interview mistakes is easier than you might think, but avoiding blunders altogether is best. Still, fumbling an interview question is a mistake anyone can make. Here are some common blunders and how to to regain your footing after you make them.

An Example of an Interview Answer Gone Bad

An interviewer lobs an unexpected question. Suddenly the candidate is babbling about the time their boss banned them from eating sardines at their desk and how they filed a grievance with their union rep because of the incident. It’s easy to get derailed when you’re nervous or to get negative about perceived slights by former bosses.

Prevent Interview Mistakes Before they Happen

The best way to prevent moments like those is by not letting them happen in the first place. And the key to not letting them happen is to practice, plan and prepare. But nobody’s perfect, and sometimes your mistake is made before you know it.

Common job interview mistakes:

  • Boss-bashing
  • Going blank
  • Flubbing the dreaded Where-Do-You-Want-to-Be-in-Five-Years question
  • Leaving out crucial information about your qualifications


So, you’ve slipped and made a negative remark about your boss. It’s okay to look your interviewer in the eye and say, “I’m sorry. It’s not like me to talk that way about a boss, but I feel passionate about what we were trying to accomplish. He wasn’t necessarily wrong; I think we just saw the situation differently. Again, my apologies.”

Going Blank

The interviewer asks a question and you have no answer. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you just need a moment to regroup, ask your interviewer for clarification.
  • You need a bit more time than that? Say something like, “Do you mind if we come back to that question later? I’d like a bit more time to consider my response.”
  • The answer to a question is totally beyond your grasp at the moment: “I must admit, I haven’t come across that situation before. May I take a few days to consider your question and send you my answer by email?”

Employers don’t expect you to know everything, but they do want to to hire someone capable of well-considered responses within a reasonable time-frame. If your interviewer grants an extension, make sure you answer within the agreed-upon window.

Related: Video Interviews Dos and Don’ts

Flubbing the Dreaded Where-Do-You-Want-to-Be-in-Five-Years Question

Face it, you’re not likely to flub this one if you’re prepared. If you do slip, and your first response is something in the neighborhood of, “I’d like to have your job,” catch your breath, smile and clarify. “I’m joking, but only a little. In five years I’d like to have made considerable strides here at ABC Company. My goal would be to do that while helping you and others to excel as well.”

Related: Interview Techniques That Will Land You the Job

Leaving Out Crucial Information about Your Qualifications

Consider the following scenario: You’re transitioning into the field of public relations. This job you’ve just interviewed for would be the perfect start. You forgot to mention that in your last position as a communications specialist, you managed media relations in your boss’ absence, scoring high marks for manning the helm when she was on maternity leave. Adding the missed information to your thank-you email would be wise. Start your email as planned (it should be no more than a couple of paragraphs or so, total) and in that second paragraph say something like, “I wanted to add that . . .” Then wind your statement up by expressing how well that experience has prepared you to excel in this new position.

Related: The Art of Saying “Thank You”

When You Feel You Really Need to Fix It

Fixing a mistake is a mistake in its own right if:

  1. the mistake is so minor, you’re probably the only one who noticed
  2. the interviewer noticed the mistake and didn’t give it a second thought – until you brought it up again
  3. fixing the mistake sounds like an apology

Related: How to Ace Your Competency Based Interviews

The Take Away

There’s not much you can do wrong on an interview that can’t be mitigated by using your head. After all, employers aren’t interested in hiring you because you’re perfect; they’re interested in hiring you because you’re smart.

Happy Hunting! We are here for you!

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