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4 Ways to Recover from a Bad Interview Answer

Interviews can be nerve racking for anyone, whether you are an experienced professional, or not. You have to be able to explain why your skills, experiences, and credentials make you qualified for the position at hand, while showing how your personality jives with the company’s culture. It’s a lot of pressure, and nerves can get in the way of answering a question clearly and coherently. No matter how prepared you may be, there is the possibility that you’ll be asked a question that catches you off guard, leaving you fumbling for the right answer. Trust us, if that happens, you will not be the only person in the history of interviews to hesitate or stumble. Try to disregard your nerves, and take a few seconds to think and answer the question to the best of your ability. If you’re not satisfied with your answer or the interviewer looks at you with a confused expression, here are a few tactics to keep in mind when you need to do some damage control.

Rephrasing/Reframing

If you are asked a question that you may not know how to answer, it’s a good idea to ask the interviewer to rephrase their question. This buys you some extra time to formulate a more specific answer. If this doesn’t work for you, we suggest turning to the “reframing” tactic- something many politicians do when asked a tough question. To reframe, think about the original question, focus on the particular part of it you can answer, and express your thoughts on that specific aspect of the question. The key is to keep your answer detailed and relevant to the original inquiry.

Continue Asking Questions

If you’re still worried that your recovery wasn’t adequate enough, you can counter it with a couple of related questions of your own. For example, if the interviewer asks you to tell them about a time where you faced a challenge and how you were able to get around it, and you feel your answer wasn’t sufficient, you can ask this: “Can you tell me about a typical challenge I would face in this role?” Counter questions show you can think on your feet, project confidence, and may take the hiring manager’s mind off your weak answer. This tactic can also transition the interview into a different topic you may have more insight on.

Emphasize Your Qualifications

Don’t let one blunder lead the interview into a downward spiral. You hold the fate of the rest of the interview in your own hands. One mediocre answer, or an answer infused with nerves, is not going to ruin your chances of being considered for the job, but more than one slip-up can. Therefore, if you feel like you didn’t answer a question to the best of your ability, don’t harp on it. Move on and don’t let your disappointment in your gaffe shine through in your next answer. To do this, you should reiterate your applicable skills and experiences that gave the hiring manager a reason to consider you a suitable candidate in the first place. The goal is to show you are confident in your abilities and keep them interested.

Use Your Thank You Note

You should always send your interviewer a thank you note regardless of whether you think the interview went well or not. If you do feel that you screwed up on a particular question, or need to clarify anything, the thank you note is the perfect place to make up for it. After thanking the interviewer for their time and expressing your interest in the opportunity, you should briefly reference the question and explain whatever you wish you had said or whatever you want to clarify. Make sure this part is brief, precise, and professional; you want the hiring manager to acknowledge your explanation and consider you a candidate, not harp on it, and move on to someone else.

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