Seven Strategies To Salvage Your Worst Job Interview

You’re bombing the interview for your dream job. There’s no hope they’ll pick you. Or is there?

Seven Strategies To Salvage Your Worst Job Interview
[Photo: Twin Design via Shutterstock]

You’ve researched the company, worked your contacts, and finally landed that big interview for your dream job. And it’s not going well. In fact, you’re sinking fast.


While you can’t stand up and demand a do-over, there are a few tactics you can employ both during and after the interview to try to turn it around. Try these six strategies to try and salvage the exchange.

1. Stay Calm

Interviewers have different styles and it’s possible you’re misreading the situation, says interview coach Barry Drexler. Some interviewers are stoic and others might be playing it cool to try to rattle you or see how you react under pressure. “It might not be going as bad as you think it’s going,” he says. Stay calm and focus on what you can do to change the tone, he says.

2. Adapt To The Interviewer’s Style

If the interviewer speaks faster or slower than you, try to adapt your speaking style and mannerisms to match his or hers, says Laurie Berenson, president and founder of Sterling Career Concepts, LLC, a job search consulting firm. That doesn’t mean adopting his or her accent if it’s not yours, but changing your body language can make a big difference in how you are perceived.

Some people lean back when they’re nervous, which can project aloofness or disinterest, Berenson says. Be sure to lean forward slightly, which typically shows interest and ensure that you’re making appropriate eye contact, she says. Also, watch the fidgeting–a sure sign of anxiety.

3. Focus On Your Strengths

Drexler says you can also carefully redirect the interview to focus on your strengths. You don’t want to seem like you’re being pushy or dictating the subject manner, but if you feel like the interview isn’t showing you in your best light, insert some of your accomplishments into the conversation, Drexler says.


Berenson agrees. “I typically advise my clients to think of two or three points or stories that they want to make sure they convey in the interview. In that situations, you can say, ‘That reminds me of this time I . . .’ and interject your story into the conversation,” she says.

4. Take A Mulligan If You Need It

Did you stammer, ramble, or otherwise blow it when you answered a question? Admit you did so and start again. Being able to take control and show a bit of vulnerability shows maturity and makes you more human, Berenson says.

“I would never fault anyone for stopping and saying, ‘Wait, that didn’t come out correctly. I’m a little nervous. Let me try that again,’” she says. Then, take a deep breath and answer better.

5. Own Up To A Mistake And Move On

If you forgot someone’s name or showed up under- or over-dressed for the interview, acknowledge the situation and move on, says Katharine Brooks, executive director for personal and career development at Wake Forest University. Make a simple apology and, perhaps, a self-deprecating joke.

“’I know I just said Pepsi when I meant to say Coke. I think my interview nerves are showing.’ Something that shows that you realize you made a mistake and you’re trying to correct it without making too many excuses,” she says.


6. Make A Post-Interview Call

If you still feel the interview went badly after you walk out the door, call the person who helped you set up the interview, Berenson says. If you’re working with a recruiter, let him or her know. If a mutual friend or contact helped make the introduction, call and explain your side of the story. That person might be able to mitigate any damage and go to bat for you, she says. She’s even seen cases where interviewees have gotten a second-chance interview because a third-party contact was able to intervene and convince the hiring manager that the bad interview was a fluke.

7. Make Good Use Of Your Thank-You Note

Your post-interview note could be another powerful tool to help turn around a bad job interview. Thank the interviewer, then take the opportunity to reiterate key points about your accomplishments and why you’re the perfect person for the job, Berenson says. Express your interest and highlight anything you weren’t able to get across in the interview.

One thing you shouldn’t do is apologize for a bad interview. Don’t use your thank-you note to ruminate about what went wrong, or you’re just going to revive the negative associations in the interviewer’s mind, Drexler says. Be concise and upbeat in your correspondence, he says. Say you’re looking forward to the next steps, leaving the interviewer with an indication that you’re interested in working for the company.

About the author

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites