Job interviews are stressful and when you get stressed you tend not to do your best. Lynda Spiegel, human resources professional and founder of Rising Star Resumes, a career coaching and resume service, understands. “Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare for a job interview, you slip and say the wrong thing,” she told us. But are things you can do if you say the wrong thing during an interview– and there are ways to prevent a slip from happening in the first place.
First off, prepare yourself. Try to calm your nerves before entering the room. Deep breathing and visualizing can help. “Maintaining your poise is the most important thing, said Steve Gibson, Director of JotForm. “How you respond to saying things the wrong way can be more important than anything you actually said. If you laugh it off it shows that you’re confident, cool, and collected. If you look like you want to curl up on the floor or hide under the desk, it demonstrates insecurity. Once you successfully keep your cool, simply pause and restate what you wanted to say in a better light.”
Stay away from saying the wrong thing by processing your thoughts before speaking. “Never insult or speak badly about previous managers or companies,” success coach Jennifer Braganza suggested. Also, it might sound obvious, but skip cuss words and slang–even if the interviewer has made you feel extremely comfortable.
If you say something you don’t think came out right, don’t backtrack but do explain.“I would recommend pausing and saying something like “I don’t think that came across well. Let me rephrase,” noted Braganza. Spiegel agreed with this approach, adding “The best way out is to connect with the interviewer as a former job seeker himself. Smile and own the slip. ‘I can’t believe I said that,’ is honest and relatable.”
Most of all, don’t panic. Saying the wrong thing isn’t the end of the world–or even the end of your shot at the job. “When you’re in the middle of an interview, it’s easy to lose your cool when you’ve said something that could possibly disqualify you from your dream job. And of course, there will be times when you can’t explain your way out of it… But, no matter what, don’t dodge any of the follow-up questions,” reported Muse.
Remember recruiters like honesty. “You’re smart enough to know this, but it’s still worth repeating: Lying is never a good idea. What’s more? When someone embellishes his or her qualifications during an interview, recruiters know exactly what’s going on,” reported Muse.
So what’s the best way to approach an interview from the outset? Listen, think, and answer, Braganza said: “Focus on understanding what the interviewer is looking for in their ideal candidate. That will help you share the experiences you have that are most relevant to the role.
A dress rehearsal is a good idea as well: “Write down and rehearse answers to common interview questions. I recommend identifying at least four stories (an achievement you’re most proud of, a time you overcame a challenge, a time you failed, and difficult relationship) in addition to knowing your strengths and weaknesses,” Braganza added. Also, impress with facts: “Show that you have researched the company and its culture and have reflected on how it aligns to your own values,” Braganza said. “An interview is like a first date. Most importantly, you’re trying to establish a personal connection with your hiring manager. We all want to work with people we like.”
Lastly, added Gibson, “Focus on what you can do for the company, rather than what you want from the company.”