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Interview Mistakes: What to Do if You Mess Up

Candidate being interviewed by employer.

Just because an interview doesn’t go perfectly doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. Not every mistake is make-or-break, so don’t let yourself get blind-sighted by anything once you’re in the room.

The most important thing to remember if you do make a mistake is not to panic. Mistakes are human, and it won’t be the first time someone has stumbled in an interview. How you recover is what’s more important.

When we make mistakes, especially in high-pressure situations, we tend to go into overdrive to try and make up for it. This usually doesn’t go too well, as people can tend to ramble to distract.

Take a moment before responding and really think about what you’re going to say. Avoid the temptation to rush through your response, and don’t start apologising profusely.

Remember, they’re probably meeting with a lot of people about the role, and you’re not going to be the only one who makes a mistake. Still feeling a bit panicked? Prepare the below and even if you do mess up you should be able to turn things around.

Common interview mistakes & how to avoid them

  • Turning up late or having to cancel

If you’re late for an interview, you’ll likely feel flustered and it won’t give the employer the best first impression. With that said, if you are late, or have to cancel, for a genuine reason don’t panic.

Let the interviewer know you’re running late, be apologetic and keep your cool if possible. If you’re the right person for the job a few minutes shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

To avoid putting yourself in that situation research how to get to the interview location and advance and aim to turn up a few minutes early.

  • Too nervous so you don’t answer questions correctly

If the thought of a job interview makes you nervous, don’t panic – there are ways to make the whole process more relaxing and even enjoyable. It might seem simple, but practice and preparation really are the answer to combatting nerves.

If you don’t know where to begin with preparation, competency-based questions are a reliable place to start. If you can answer these kinds of questions comfortable you have nothing to worry about.

Always research the company too, have some questions ready to ask them and some answers to soft skill questions such as ‘what do you do in your spare time’. Sometimes it’s the ‘easy’ questions like this that can catch people off guard.

Practice can help ease nerves too and ensure your body language on the day is more relaxed. If you’re working with a recruiter, they’ll usually be happy to do a mock interview with you. A friend or family member who is comfortable giving feedback can be helpful too.

  • Not following up afterwards

After a job interview, you should send a short thank-you note via email. This shows your still interest and increases your chances of getting feedback. Whether the feedback is good or bad, it’ll help you prepare for future interviews and avoid any misunderstandings.

  • Not being yourself

If you’re trying to conceal certain personality traits or over embellish your skillset things won’t go well. Even if you do get the job, you’ll be starting off your new role on the wrong foot.

If you don’t have all the skills for the job be honest and let the employer know you’re willing to upskill and have done successfully in the past. Likewise, if you don’t feel comfortable enough to show your personality in an interview it’s probably not the right company for you.

How to recover from a bad interview

If you’ve followed up from an interview and don’t hear back, it’s likely you didn’t get the job. It’s never a good feeling to not make it past interview stage but remember, there are other roles out there and you never know when the company could be hiring again.

In my previous role, I had applied for a job at the company years prior when realistically I didn’t have the right experience. I didn’t get an offer, but I did apply a year later and ended up working in that company for many years. Just cause it’s no now, doesn’t mean it will be in the future.

If you feel you messed up look back on your interview honestly. What could you have done better? Was the role really suited to your skills and personality? Did you prepare enough?

If you’re working with a recruiter, ask them if the interviewer provided any feedback. If a recruiter has a relationship with that company, they’re often more than happy to provide follow up.

You never know what valuable info you could learn from this. Overall, learn from your mistakes and don’t let one set back prevent you from continuing in your job search.

Interested in more interview advice? Download our interview handbook for free or get in touch, one of our recruiters would be delighted to advise and help you set up your next job interview.