November 16, 2009

Recovering from an interview mishap

Recently, I received the following e-mail from someone who had a question about what to do when you've made a bad impression during an interview. 

Hi Andrew,

I love your blog and I'm hoping you can help me. I have a question about interviews because last week I had one and it was bad. I stammered through a few answers and I don't know why the store manager asked them.

What can I do to make my next interview better? 


After exchanging a few e-mails, I discovered that the applicant felt flustered after being asked two common but off-beat questions during an interview at a local music store.

And so, I cannot stress enough that all job applicants, particularly those that gravitate towards the retail, restaurant, and services industry, should be prepared for one or two off-beat, ice-breaker questions, like "If you could be a fruit, which one would you be and why?" or "If you could have dinner with any two people, who would you chose and why?".

Most often, these questions are asked not only to break the ice and to gauge the potential employee's communication skills, but to see how s/he can handle sudden change and how quickly s/he can think on his/her feet.

And quite simply, the best thing to do is to be prepared, expect to be asked them, and know how to answer them.

Ironically, the e-mail I copied above (with the sender's consent of course!) relates to an article I came across this morning on Yahoo! HotJobs from Liz Seasholtz on how to recover from a bad impression made during an interview. The article is definitely worth reading because not only does Seasholtz identify the top 10 ways job applicants make a bad impression, but she also provides tips on ways you can correct the impression during the interview.

And even though the age-old cliché says that a first impression is a lasting impression, by employing the tips that Seasholtz offers, you can at least mitigate the damage of a bad first impression - and hopefully improve it quickly and easily during the course of the interview.

P.S. I also came across an interesting video clip from that describes the one common interview mistake. It's a quick 2-minute video that offers a good piece of advice.

But just remember that as with any behavioural-type interview question, you will ideally want to support your answer with references to particular work/volunteer experiences - and not general, unsubstantiated, and difficult-to-prove life experiences.

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