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Home > Blog: Interviews > How To Recover Quickly from an Interview Mistake

How To Recover Quickly from an Interview Mistake

Stain on shirt

Job interviews can be a recipe for trouble. Any time you combine a nerve-wracking situation with high stakes, the possibility of rejection, and the need to look and act your very best, there will be blood. Hopefully not real blood, but I'm sure that's happened, too.

Want to ease your nerves before your job interview? Make sure you're well prepared to prevent as many problems as possible. Then, accept that mistakes will happen, and prepare yourself to recover as quickly and professionally as possible when they do.

Just remember these four simple steps:

  1. Acknowledge the problem.
  2. Briefly apologize or explain. (Don't overdo it.)
  3. Do what you can to fix it.
  4. Get back to business.

Here are some classic examples...

Your cell phone goes off, screaming "Back in Black," "My Humps," or whatever silly ringtone you uploaded last week.

RECOVERY: Whatever you do, DO NOT answer that phone!!! Don't even sneak a peek at who's calling. But don't ignore it like some audience member in a live Hugh Jackman play, either! A sheepish grin can be your acknowledgment. Then just silence the phone immediately, turn it off, apologize briefly but sincerely, and change the subject.

Example: "I'm sorry, I thought I had silenced this. Pardon the interruption. You were saying?"

You spill coffee on your shirt on the way to the interview. (Or your baby spits up on you, or a bird poops on your sweater....)

RECOVERY: No matter the source, when you have an obvious stain, the obvious solution is to clean it up before the interview starts. If that's not possible, just suck it up—wait, let me rephrase that—just own up to it at the start of the interview, show a little humor, and then forget about it.

Example: "True to Murphy's Law, […insert a brief explanation of what happened…], and now I have this very noticeable spot. I hope you'll be able to overlook it, because I'm really excited about this opportunity…."

In the end, you shouldn't think of your interview mistakes as problems. Think of them as opportunities to prove that you can maintain a calm and professional demeanor under trying circumstances. That's an important skill in every job!

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