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How to Salvage a Job Interview That’s Going Downhill

from Mashable, Business News Daily

No job seeker ever wants an interview to go badly. But even the most seasoned candidates can find themselves in a situation where they know the hiring manager isn’t impressed. Whether you start talking in circles, accidentally say the wrong thing or just get nervous and blank out on a question, sometimes your interview doesn’t go the way you planned.

Getting negative reactions — or no reactions at all — from an interviewer is certainly discouraging, but it doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. In fact, making a concerted effort to turn the interview around could end up being your saving grace.

“If the candidate remains calm and confident, and approaches the remainder of the interview in a professional and congenial manner, the chances are better [he or she won’t be disqualified] than if the candidate cracks,” said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. “Leaders are determining if the candidate is a fit for the company. So, depending on how well the candidate handles the situation will be an indicator of how he or she will manage a stressful situation at work.”

Trnka shared some telltale signs that an interview is going badly, and offered advice for handling any of these scenarios like a pro.

You realize you’re not qualified for the job.

The recruiter begins to talk about the skills and experience required for a role, and you don’t have them. This may be due to poor communication regarding expectations on the employer’s part, or poor research on your part. In either situation, be honest, Trnka said. Explain that, although you thought the job was X, it is apparently Y, and then turn the conversation toward why you would like to be a part of the team in a different capacity.

The interviewer’s body language says he or she isn’t impressed.

A hiring manager often won’t outright tell you that you’re screwing up an interview. Instead, he or she will say it with body language: a concerned look on his or her face, an audible sigh, avoiding eye contact or tuning you out when you speak. If this is the case, Trnka advised asking if the interviewer desires additional information or clarification to your response. If he or she says yes, you have the opportunity to reframe your answer. If he or she says no, then at least you can say you tried. In any case, once the interview is over, be professional and polite by sending a thank-you note. This may remind the hiring manager to review your qualifications and reflect on the conversation.

The interviewer asks inappropriate questions or makes inappropriate comments.

There are at least two people involved in any job interview, and it’s not always the candidate’s fault when something goes wrong. A hiring manager may ask a non-job-related question, or make a questionable comment that throws you off. Maintaining your confidence is key in this situation, Trnka said. An appropriate response to a completely irrelevant question or comment is asking the interviewer why this would be important for the role.

You “just know” it’s going badly.

If your gut feeling tells you the interview is failing, tell the hiring manager outright that you sense the interview isn’t going well, and although you realize you may not be the right candidate for the job, ask for feedback. He or she may appreciate the boldness and provide you with constructive criticism. The interviewer may even see this boldness as a characteristic that would fit with the company culture.

The best approach, of course, is to make sure you’re ready enough for the interview so that it never starts sinking in the first place.

“The way to avoid the situation of an interview going wrong is to make sure you are prepared,” Trnka told Business News Daily. “Conduct research on the organization, review the job description or summary, and make sure you can talk to each point. Present yourself in a professional and positive manner, and follow up as appropriate.”