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"That Didn't Go So Well." How to Avoid or Recover from Awkward Job Search Moments

We have all had at least one—an awkward job search moment that makes you panic even more than you already were.  While I maintain that preparation is key to success, I also understand that sometimes we cannot anticipate situations. And other times (let’s be honest) we just weren’t prepared. Here are a few job search concerns I’ve heard from students and ways to recover or respond.

You can’t think of a response to the behavioral interview question:

First of all, brief silence is OK. If you take a moment to gather your thoughts, you will likely be able to come up with a response. What happens if you can’t? Stay calm, cool, and collected. Let the interviewer know that you are unable to think of a response at the moment and ask if you can come back to the question.

“That’s a great question. I know I have an example, but can’t recall it at this moment. Could we move onto the next question and come back to this one so I have some time to think?”

You don’t know the answer to a technical question:

If after asking clarifying questions, you are still unable to arrive at a response, admit it—but don’t stop there. Follow up with related information that you do know. Explain the steps you would take in order to acquire the additional information you need. This will still show the interviewer your ability to problem solve and demonstrate your related technical knowledge. In the workplace it is important that you utilize resources while troubleshooting. If you make up an answer to a technical question, the interviewer will likely question your ability to make informed decisions.

You are not connecting well with the interviewer(s):

Mimic the interviewer—not in a creepy way. If your usual approach isn’t working, then this is a great opportunity for you to use your interpersonal skills to find the right way to connect with this person. Don’t panic! Some interviewers try not to show emotion while asking questions. Prepare in advance and be confident in your responses, which will make it much easier to continue.

You updated your resume since sending in the application:

Bring updated copies to your interview. You should always bring several copies of your resume to an interview, and in this case you likely have new information that may be relevant to the position.

“I brought copies of my updated resume for each of you. [Hand out resume.] I’ve included additional skills and experiences that are newly-acquired and highly relevant to this position.”

You forgot someone’s name:

Ask! In a networking situation when you are meeting new people, it is completely fine to ask a person for their name once more. Be sure to repeat their name back to them to avoid asking a third time as it may come off as disengaged.

“I apologize. Could you remind me of your name?..... Oh yes, Stacy. Thank you, Stacy.”

Remember that preparation will not only boost your confidence, but it might also reduce the chances that these awkward situations happen. Remaining calm will help ensure that you react appropriately to whatever is thrown your way.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” -Brian Tracy


About the author

Ashley Taylor

Ashley Taylor is a Career Counselor at Engineering Career Services.