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Three Awkward Job Interview situations… and How to Navigate Them

Posted On11/30/2015

ContributorShirin Miller


No matter how prepared you are for an interview, situations sometimes arise that throw you for a loop. Here are three of the most common reasons for awkward interviews – and tips for dealing if they happen to you!

  1. You’re over or under-dressed.
    1. The problem: You did your due diligence to investigate the company’s dress code before your in-person meeting. But whether it was the fact that you drove by on the day the company’s biggest client was onsite and everyone was dressed to the nines or because your programmer friend told you pj’s are fine because he works from home most days, you showed up for the interview completely overdressed – or, worst of all, underdressed.
    2. The solution: If you’re overdressed, don’t sweat it – literally. Humor is your friend. It’s ok to make a joke about how you take interviews VERY seriously, or ask if the company dress code allows for personalized cufflinks. If it’s 80 degrees and everyone else is in tank tops, it’s perfectly fine to take off your jacket. Go for comfort so you can concentrate on the interview – not your outfit. If you’re underdressed, well, don’t be underdressed. In this situation, humor can be taken as glib, so avoid jokes about your dress. “Dress a step nicer than the company dress code” is still the best advice. Avoid this situation at all costs.
  1. You’ve overshared.
    1. The problem: It happens to the best of us. You’re excited for an opportunity. It’s your dream job. You’ve been preparing for weeks; maybe you had an extra cup of coffee this morning. Everything is going fine, when the interviewer asks a tricky question. Instead of pausing and taking a minute to compose your thought before you start talking, words just start coming out. Before you know it, you’ve shared something that’s awkward, or said something in a way you wouldn’t normally phrase it. So you keep talking, hoping that the interviewer missed that nugget. But it happens again, because you’re paying attention to the interviewer’s response and not your answer. Before you know it, “What I meant to say was…” is the phrase of the hour.
    2. The solution: Stop talking. End your thought coherently, but stop. Once you’ve started down this road, your only hope of redemption is to cut yourself off quickly. Once you’ve stopped, take a deep breath. Interviewers experience this all the time; it doesn’t have to mean that you won’t get the job. Be self-critical, but not self-derogatory. Apologize to the interviewer, let them know that you’re nervous because of how much this position seems like exactly the right career move for you, and how much you know you could bring to the role. A good interviewer, and a good company, look past interview jitters when judging candidates. Keep that in mind as you move forward with the interview.
  1. You’re getting horrible reception for your phone or video interview.
    1. The problem: “Can you hear me now?” seems to be the motto of a generation. But in today’s wireless world, the old advice of “Use a landline for all phone interviews” just doesn’t cut it. Because you’re clearly a prepared interviewee, you’ve obviously scouted your location in advance and made sure you have exceptional reception. But even if you’ve done your due diligence, unexpected reception issues sometimes crop up – especially with video conferencing.
    2. The solution: Don’t leave it up to the interviewer to address the problem. If you’re having trouble hearing the interviewer, whether the reception issue is on your end or not, let them know. If it’s problematic enough that you can’t understand each other, suggest trying to call each other back to see if that fixes the problem. If you’re still having trouble, it’s ok to politely ask if you could reschedule. If you do this, be sure to be as open as possible with your scheduling, given that the interviewer is accommodating your request. In the meantime, follow up with a brief email thanking the interviewer for their flexibility – and try as much as you can to make sure you’re in a prime spot for reception, or your internet connection is fixed, the next time around!

If all else fails, consider your awkward interview a learning experience. If it’s really that horrible, at least you’ll end up with a good story to tell your friends!

Get ahead of the other interviewing competition and banish worries about awkward interview situations by working with a Nelson recruiter. They’ll help you get mega prepared for your next interview. New jobs are posted on our site every day! Check back often – or send us your resume so we can reach out when we come across jobs we think would be a spectacular fit.