How to Avoid an Interview Massacre


From first impression faux pas to bombing in the soft skills department, we’ve all had our share of interview horror stories. It’s not just the landing of interviews that can have you beat. How do you make it a success when you finally get one?

Our Twitter #careerchat discussed how to stop the self-sabotage at the door and turn even the stickiest situations around.

Here are a few quick takeaways:

  • @YouTernMark: You can recover from tripping on a rug, or saying something strange. You can’t recover from being a bad fit, or a bad personality.
  • @JenGresham: You may think you made a fool of yourself when you didn’t. I once couldn’t answer a question and said so. Got the job.
  • @TyUnglebower: The key is to just remember it’s two people, not two machines. Stuff happens and it’s okay.

Chat recap:

Q1: What’s the worst interview blooper you’ve made or heard about?

  • myFootpath: Smoking is a personal choice, but don’t come to an interview reeking like cigarettes!
  • marnysmith: I asked how much the job paid on an interview not realizing I shouldn’t mention money until I had an offer – oops!
  • LesleyMWeiss: I have twice (twice!) missed interviews because recruiters didn’t give me enough location information
  • TyUnglebower: It wasn’t a blooper, but I wasn’t as well versed early on with the illegal questions as I am now.
  • PaigeHolden: I asked someone what publications they read (B2B PR firm) and they told me USWeekly because the WSJ was too boring
  • SaleStart: Actually have had interviewees bring food/drinks to an interview
  • davecarhart: When I was a recruiter I once had someone take a sippee cup out of their bag and start to drink from it
  • bizMebizgal: I can’t stand when interns show up in jeans and a hat to an interview. Who do they think is going to hire them.
  • myFootpath: I helped HR interview someone for my position. I asked her what she wanted to know; she said: “nothing.”  I also asked an intern what she thought of our website; she said she couldn’t remember it.
  • JKTaylorMia: A young lady being dressed completely inappropriate. Super short, tight dress. Very embarrassing for her!
  • JenGresham: Had a parent interfering once. Very embarassing & almost cost the girl the job. I had to intervene on both sides.

Q2: Is there any way to save an interview after you just completely made a fool out of yourself?

  • davidgaspin: Whether there’s a chance for redemption depends on how you made a fool of yourself in the first place.
  • bbenishek: One of my friends had a bad interview day and asked if he could schedule another. They did and he got the job!
  • TyUnglebower: Depends on what you did, but I think apologizing, and confessing your nervousness can go a long way.
  • PaigeHolden: Showed up hour late once, drenched w/ rain. So frazzled. I apologized, moved on mentally and got the job.
  • davecarhart: Just keep rolling–the manager might not think it’s a huge deal
  • WomensAlly:  I worked w/someone who cut the interview off if wasn’t going well. 30 minutes scheduled, out in 10. Left candidate sitting ~awkward
  • PaigeHolden: The most important thing is to catch yourself, move past the awkwardness and nail the rest of the interview.
  • DavidGaspin: If you make a fool of yourself b/c you just don’t know your stuff, no chance of making up for it. Nerves can be another story.
  • demilove: Once I forgot once to button my suit and straighten my tie before arriving in the lobby! Major fashion mistake!
  • JKTaylorMia: Yes! Just be honest, say you’re nervous, laugh it off. Everyone should have a sense of humor!

@bbenishek: What if you forget the question halfway through your answer?

  • WomensAlly:Ask if what you said answered their questions, and ask them to repeat it.
    SaleStart: I think it’s best to ask them to repeat question. Say want to be sure you adequately answered
  • myFootpath: It’s tempting to rush to an answer. Pause, take your time … the interviewer will appreciate it!

@cggnad: Are there signs that your interview went well? If so, what are they?

  • bbenishek: If they bring up the salary range/benefits without even asking what your expectations are first!
  • myFootpath: If it goes for an hour or more and/or they bring others in to meet you
  • bizMebizgal: If they give you a tour!
  • DavidGaspin: Sign that the interview went well – they don’t want you to leave.
  • dianaantholis: I think power of visualization too – Let them picture you IN the job.
  • bbenishek: When they make “we” statements and you’re part of the we!
    • SaleStart I like when candidates do this – make “we” statements. See it as a positive thing
    • dianaantholis: WE it up! But not in a creepy way.
    • AnneMessenger: WE statements could be great or backfire. Depends on chemistry, timing in interview. Too early = presumptuous.
    • SeanMMasters I find speaking as “we” to be incredibly powerful in interviews. Assumes teamwork, ownership, etc.\
  • WomensAlly: The more senior you get the harder it is to tell. Poker face.
  • JenGresham: Signs an interview went well? They try to sell you on the job. Strong candidates have multiple options.

Q3: Has anyone been hired even though the interview was horrible?

  • myFootpath: I interviewed in a room once that I swear was 95 degrees. I almost died.
  • PaigeHolden: I was really late and a mess, but I was able to recover during the actual interview. Hired.
  • WomensAlly: I hired someone after bad interview.They crumbled w/nerves when realized (over)confidence didn’t match experience (saw potential)
  • YouTernMark: Readily apparent soft skills, passion and potential trump a bad interview, every time.
  • olivia67rae: I thought my 2nd interview went so bad, I cried on my way home. Didnt articulate myself well, but was hired!

@JenGresham: Big things employers want: confidence, likability, ability to see big picture, resourceful. What else?

  • SaleStart: Communications skills are key – both written & verbal.
  • TyUnglebower: I’d rather deal with someone who slouched in his chair and wore an old shirt, but was brilliant and energetic, then vice versa.
  • DaveYouTern: Some recruiters consciously use the receptionist as a second pair of eyes.
    • synxiec: Be sweet to the receptionist. They often get you your job.
  • CareerAction: State that you really want the job–many candidates are blasé
  • SaleStart: A good interviewer can see beyond faux pas to candidate potential
  • DavidGaspin: And a prepared candidate won’t test this theory.
  • JenGresham: Wish employers would stop focusing on hard skills. Hard=trainable. Soft skills aren’t.
  • DavidGaspin: Can’t stop focusing on hard skills. Someone needs to actually do the job! Agree that soft skills are just as vital.
  • DavidGaspin: If I have a choice between 2 candidates. Both are great “fit.” One has directly related hard skills. Who’s the choice? Easy call

Want more? Here’s the full transcript.


Job seeker? Just want to get ahead in your career?

Join our Twitter #careerchat Tuesdays @ 12 PM CT to talk about everything from friending your boss on Facebook to personal branding to how to get a call back from recruiter.

How to join: Go to and follow the hashtag “careerchat” at noon CT every Tuesday!

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