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Rescue A Sinking Interview

Articles > Job Interview Tips

This career article by Nathan Newberger gives job seekers some important pointers to save a sinking interview.

You're 10 minutes late, you spilled coffee on your shirt, and your ice breaking joke only created an awkward silence. You say to yourself, "I am doomed," and give up before the interview has even started. Confidence, charm, and honesty can still salvage this train-wreck of an interview. Instead of getting beaten by bad luck, take a deep breath, relax, and smile.

This month's newsletter addresses 5 methods for turning an interview around. So don't panic, there is still hope.

These following topics will be covered:

1. Be Upfront
2. Ask Questions
3. Get Feedback
4. Try Flattery
5. Move On



The last thing an interviewer wants to hear is a list of excuses he has heard a thousand times before. Trying to cover your tracks like this is just a waste of breath and could potentially insult your interviewer's intelligence.

Take a different approach. Replace a list of excuses with the following sequence of events.

  • Identify the Problem First - tell the interviewer about the mistake before he can address it.
  • Admit fault - apologize for the problem and recognize your shortcomings as the cause.
  • Explain Typical Behavior - let the interview know that mistakes, like being late, are freak occurrences and that you normally don't make them.


Occasionally, you may start to feel uncomfortable during an interview. If you do not manage to regain composure, the interview will only go downhill. Taking focus away from you buys time. Sometimes turning the tables can also turn the interview around.

Asking questions will force the interviewer to talk and possibly mention characteristics he is looking for. In keeping questions as a back up plan, be sure to:

  • Prepare - come up with some questions ahead of time and make sure they are appropriate to the particular company and position.
  • Pay Attention - don't just ask a question and then zone out as you regroup. The interviewer could be giving you valuable information or ask you a question in response.


One easy way to lose your cool is to get halfway through answering a question only to discover that the interviewer is bored beyond belief. There is no need to be scared…yet. This is another place where questions can help.

Instead of using questions to get comfortable, use questions to get information. Your response may not be answering the right question, the question may have been unclear, or you may be spouting an incoherent nonsense. If you are caught in this situation:

  • Stop - Do not be afraid to break mid-answer to ask a clarification question.
  • Be Direct - if clarification does not put you at ease, ask the interviewer if he has any concerns about you as a candidate for the position.


A good mood is contagious. If you can get the interviewer into a happier state of mind, you may manage to give the mood of the entire interview a boost. Plus, nobody minds the occasional compliment. Whether it's a nice word about the company, the office, or the culture, a compliment can go a long way in a rough interview.

Choosing which compliments to pay, however, is not a simple task. Take to heart these suggestions before you start dropping kind words:

  • Show Preparation - consider paying a compliment that shows you have done research on the company, such as commenting on a shift in strategy or other recent business decision.
  • Be sincere - a compliment has the ability to make you appear to be an upbeat person; do not let a poor attitude offset that.
  • Don't Push It - compliments should not be too numerous, too personal, or too emphatic; eventually an interviewer will see through your ploy.


Sometimes you can be fully qualified, answer every question perfectly, and make all the right decisions, but still get a cold shoulder from an interviewer. At these times, you have to remember: it's not your fault.

No matter how confident and qualified you are, you are not in complete control of the interview. You have bad days from time to time. Interviewers can have bad days too, and that can affect your interview. It's not fair, but it's the truth. An interview could be going badly due to no fault of your own.

This is when your best bet is to just keep trying and move on. Maintain your composure and continue with the interview as if nothing is wrong. You may be able to pull the interviewer out of his rut; at the very least, you will still appear confident and professional. That never hurts.


You win some and you lose some, not every interview will be flawless. Learning to stop an interview from being a disaster can put you far ahead of the competition. So the next time you are in an interview, remember: if it feels like things can't get any worse, it means things can get better.

About The Author

Nathan Newberger is the job and career expert at Nathan has over 10 years of experience in staffing and human resources. He has worked both as a recruiter and career counselor. Mr. Newberger has been the Managing Editor at for the past 5 years and his articles have helped thousands of job seekers.

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