By Guest Blogger Shelly Goldman, CPCC; CEIP; Founder, Goldman Group Advantage; Career Coach; Executive Recruiter; and Co-Author of “An Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job”
Have you ever gotten tongue-tied answering a critical question in a job interview? Tripped over your feet as you walked into the room? Shown up to the interview 15 minutes late, wearing a quarter-sized coffee stain on your shirt? Or maybe referred to the company by the wrong name? Let’s face it, mistakes and accidents happen – and during a job interview is no exception.
For every mistake, there’s usually a reason. There was a traffic jam, you got a flat tire, there was a leprechaun standing in the elevator who dumped his latte on you…. Wait a second -this is no time for excuses. Job interviews are make-or-break situations!
Whether you run into bad luck or bad timing, is it possible – in a situation where first impressions are everything – to remedy the situation and get the interview back on track? The answer is yes. Employers expect job applicants to have a few pre-interview jitters and hiring managers expect people to make mistakes.
According to a survey conducted by Accountemps, interviews are the number one place that job candidates make mistakes during their search (cited by 32 percent of the chief financial officers interviewed). The resume was a close second.
When you make a mistake in the interview, it doesn’t necessarily squelch your chances for getting hired. Whether you choose to address a shirt stain with a self-deprecating joke or take a moment to re-group and circle back to the “questionable” question, demonstrating your ability to recover from an awkward situation just might impress and help you build a rapport with your interviewer. However, don’t just take my word for it!
In researching and writing the book Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job (co-authored by Wendy Enelow), I interviewed Katherine Virdi, who at the time, was the Director of Human Resources for IntelliDyne, a large, technology consulting firm headquartered in Falls Church, VA. An experienced and esteemed HR professional, she has interviewed thousands of job candidates at every possible level.
I asked Katherine, “Can a candidate recover from an interview faux pas?” Her response was so memorable that over the years I have shared it with many of my coaching clients. Now I’d like to share it with you:
Yes, a candidate can recover from an interview mistake! If a candidate makes a mistake, acknowledge the error, apologize, if appropriate, and move on. If it is just one mistake, it might not be a factor in the final decision-making process.
Everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. If a candidate deals with the mistake well, it demonstrates his or her ability to handle a stressful situation and can leave the interviewer with a positive impression.
Since talking with Katherine about this topic, I have gone on to ask the same question to other hiring authorities. I am happy to report, everyone I spoke with shares a similar opinion. We all make mistakes. The most important factor in surviving a slip-up is how the job candidate bounces back and whether or not he or she can build a rapport, is likable and can demonstrate how he or she would be a great addition to the team.
So go wipe that stain off your shirt, tie those shoelaces, learn a few jokes and win them over with that charming personality of yours! And good luck with the interview!
Shelly Goldman has more than 20 years of successful, diverse experience as a career coach, career management agent and executive search consultant offering guidance and support services customized to each client. She is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). Prior to founding The Goldman Group, Shelly served as a Vice President of Training and Recruiting for a national food service organization.