There are big interviewing mistakes and there are little mistakes that you can make as a candidate during the interview. Some are universal. However, some mistakes that would be a big deal at one firm might be considered a little mistake at another. Nevertheless, be mindful of not making the most common of mistakes we see a lot of interviewees make. If you find yourself making one of these following mistakes here is what I recommend for damage control.
I must interject that, of course, the best advice is to not make these mistakes. But, from time-to-time mistakes happen. Many people get nervous during an interview and make mistakes they otherwise never would. So with the spirit of knowing that mistakes happen, let’s deal with the most common ones one at a time.
1. Forgetting the name of your interviewer
There are several levels of mistakes for this one. Before the interview and during the interview of course, and then there are those panel interviews where forgetting names can really fluster you.
Before the interview
Check your notes, did you write it down anywhere? If you have a recruiter simply call and ask. If not check the online directory/contact us page. If not there call the company/receptionist/secretary and ask. You can simply tell them that you have an interview and misplaced your note with the name of the person you are interviewing with.
During the interview
This is also going to be easy because you are going to use this tip when you go into your interview. Write the name of the person and title on a note card. Keep it in your inside jacket pocket or purse. Read it before you go in for the interview (many times pending your memory). Make sure that you say their name out loud when you meet them to help sear it into your skull. If you forget their name during the interview simply pull out the card and write a pretend note (as you see the name). If the interview format allows for note taking then simply have their name and title on the note page for easy reference.
A good technique is to be prepared to start taking notes immediately when the interview starts. When you meet everyone write their first name down in the position they are in the room to you onto the paper while their names are fresh in your mind. If you did not get all their names write a line or circle in the position where the interviewer is that you have forgotten their name. Pay attention to see if one of the other interviewers use their name and if so simply write it on the line or within the circle. You can easily glance at this “chart” without anyone noticing and with confidence use each interviewer’s name as you address their questions. If you have one that you just can’t get their name overcompensate a little (not a lot) with focused eye contact with that individual.
2. Mispronouncing an important word
If you find yourself starting to say a word and it occurs to you that you have drawn a blank on the correct pronunciation of the word and you know you’re about to butcher it then stop. Don’t say the rest of the word. Act like that wasn’t actually the word you wanted to use by pausing and then using a different word that conveys as close to the meaning of the word you blanked on as you can quickly draw upon. This is much better than totally mispronouncing the word. If you were unable to stop yourself or did not realize you butchered it until after it left your mouth then simply say something along the lines of, “That did not come out right did it? What I meant to say is…” Don’t dwell on it. Don’t bring the interviewers focus anymore to it.
3. Your stain is singing
I love the commercial with Tide-to-Go of the person in the interview that has a stain on his shirt and it is so loud that it is all the interviewer can hear. I think it’s pretty funny because it is so true.
You spilled something on yourself and have a nice stain to show for it or ripped your panty hose or any other clothing disaster then try to hide it. If you can’t hide it then don’t try to hide it. What I mean by that is if the stain is obvious then make sure you acknowledge it! Don’t just act like it’s not there. Point it out by saying something like, “It figures I would spill something on myself the day of an interview”. Or, use humor and say something like, “I realize in hindsight that the food fight I started at lunch probably wasn’t the best idea.” It is better to acknowledge the spot than to pretend like it’s not there and let the interviewer think that you don’t know you have a giant coffee stain on your shirt. Smile, acknowledge and move on.
4. Using verbal crutches
It’s natural when a person gets nervous or excited to more heavily rely on verbal crutches than they normally would in just about any other conversation they have. Using words like “um” and “like” and “uh” every other word or at the beginning or end of every sentence is a mistake you need to be cognitive of because it is much more noticeable than you think. The people overly using these crutches typically don’t realize it. So pay attention. If you notice yourself making this mistake then simply slow down, regain your verbal composure and try to focus a bit more on tightening up your sentences.
5. Stepping over your words
It is easy to get tongue tied sometimes. When this happens just pause for one second, take the next sentence you want to say and articulate it and then take it sentence from sentence from there until you are back in your groove.
6. You’re late
One of the biggies. If you are going to be more than 10 minutes late call your interviewer and let them know when you are going to arrive and apologize. If you are going to be more than 10 minutes late ask if they would still like to interview you or if you should still come in or reschedule. Convey that you know their time is valuable (even though they are not going to perceive this by your actions) and give the important reason why you are late. Once you arrive apologize for being late and then let the issue subside, don’t dwell on it.
7. Can’t pronounce your interviewer’s name
Call before your interview and ask the receptionist or call the company directory to check and see if the names are verbally listed. If you are working with a recruiter, have them tell you or find out for you. A good trick is to call the person after business hours and listen to see if their name is on their voice mail. If all else fails be the first to introduce your name when you stick out your hand to shake theirs they will naturally respond with telling you their name and therefore how to pronounce it. If that doesn’t work simply ask, “Am I pronouncing your name correctly?”
8. Overreacting to your interviewer’s pessimism
Many interviewers will act like they don’t care much for you just to see how you will act in an uncomfortable situation. Depending on the kind of position you are interviewing for you might even have the interviewer try to “scare you off” by overemphasizing the negatives of the position and your qualifications for it. This is not uncommon with sales type positions. This is used as a test by some interviewers to see how much you want this job and how well you overcome objections. Their reasoning is if they can scare you away so easily you’re not the right person for the job. If you want the job don’t make the mistake of being scared off. Ask about the positive aspects of the position. Explain that you know nothing good comes easy in a career and you are willing to pay the dues to be successful.
When you send a thank you letter run damage control on any problems that occurred during your interview. Focus on major issues, not the small stuff. Simply acknowledge it and that’s it. Don’t write a paragraph explaining the details.
So we all make mistakes
The important thing to remember is to not let your interviewing mistake get to you. Keep your composure. Have a relaxed attitude and as much as possible a good sense of humor about it. It’s possible, and I have seen it happen on numerous occasions, that showing the interviewer how you handle and recover from a mistake shows them just the side of you that they are looking for and ends up playing to your advantage.