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When Things Go Bad During An Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

In an interview, you must be on the lookout for signs that things might be going badly—even if you think you are doing just fine.

For example, you may be in trouble if the interviewer doesn’t try to sell you on the company and how wonderful it is to work there. Or, if they stick to the script and ask no follow-up questions, you can safely assume they are just going through the motions.

Keep an eye for body language too. If the interviewer loses eye contact, stops taking notes, or starts checking their phone, you know they are losing interest.

And for sure, if the interviewer starts to offer you some friendly career advice—like what other companies you might contact—you know you won’t be working there.

What steps can you take to salvage a bad situation? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. How you respond in the moment is what counts.

Keep in mind that you can’t change what has already happened. But it does not mean you’ve lost the job opportunity.

If you gave a lousy answer to an interview question, you could make it up by elaborating when answering a later question so the information gets explained.

Or you could say “I don’t feel I answered your earlier question fully. Let me tell you more …”

Remember, hiring managers like people who respond well under pressure and who react well to difficult situations.

2. Stay upbeat throughout the interview.

Even if the interviewer’s body language screams “I’m not interested,” you should stay positive during the interview. Who knows what’s going on in their mind? It is possible that you are misinterpreting their non-verbal behaviour.

Make it your goal to turn them around with your enthusiasm and confidence.

3. Change your strategy midstream.

If it doesn’t look like you are connecting with the interviewer, you can always change your plan of attack.

Try asking frankly: “It seems like you have some concerns about my suitability for this job. Can I address those concerns?” You will be surprised how your bluntness gets issues on the table that you can then deal with. 

4. Use the thank you note intelligently.

The rarely-used thank you letter is a wonderful tool. In addition to thanking the employer for their time, it is a good opportunity to remind them of your strengths, clarify answers to questions you handled poorly, and add important information you may have omitted.

Since so few people write a thank you letter, you will immediately stand out as friendly, polite, and professional.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.