Awkward job interview moments are common, but you can play them like a boss
By Sophia Symeou
Job interviews can be painful, so here’s your best options for keeping things on track. (Supplied: NBC)
While job interviews are a great opportunity to showcase your abilities, they can also present some pretty awkward moments.
Anticipating your response in these situations might be the difference between a great connection with an interviewer or missing out on the right role.
As a career management professional, here are six of the most common “awkward interview moments” I come across and how to nail your response.
You know someone in the job interview
There is something exciting about going for a job interview as it presents you with a new opportunity and a clean slate. But what if you know one of your interviewers?
While having a contact at a new company can put you ahead of the pack, it also relies on that contact understanding what you are capable of and letting you shine in your own right. On top of this, working with (or reporting to) someone you know may not work for you.
If you find yourself in a situation where you know your interviewer, take it as an opportunity to present yourself in a different light. Answer every question as if you are unknown to them as chances are they will learn new things about you.
If your preference is not to work with them, there may still be other opportunities within the company. It’s better to give it your best and have the choice!
It can also be tempting to relax into your social persona in this situation. Be wary of this approach.
Remain professional and always bear in mind why you are there.
You know someone else who is going for the role
If you have a long-standing career, chances are you might be up against someone you know. Word travels fast in many industries and hearing about your competition can throw you off. No matter how tempting, don’t engage in conversation with others about your competition. It can be easy to get caught up in their experience and value. At the end of the day, this will not serve your cause.
Focus on your own experience and value.
There will always be great people in the market so putting your efforts into backing yourself will take you further than trying to beat your competitors.
Be gracious and believe in your achievements.
You’re asked a question you were not ready for
Even the most prepared of us can get stumped in an interview.
Perhaps you were called in quickly without the opportunity to do proper research. Perhaps the content of the role varies from what you have done to date.
Regardless, your interviewers are a great source of information to understand what they are looking for. Ask counter questions to really understand what they want. If you still are not sure check whether your answer hit the mark and ask if they would like further information.
Remember interviews go both ways. It is an opportunity for you to sell yourself and an opportunity for the employer to sell their company, the role and how they can take your career to the next level.
Your interviewer has a poker face
Every interviewer has a different style and will look for different things, depending on the role you are going for.
It can be very reassuring to get a friendly interviewer. They can put you at ease and allow you to relax during the interview.
But as we know, this is not always the case, nor does it necessarily mean that you are acing the interview.
Interviews are meant to put you under the microscope and a blank face from your interviewer makes the situation difficult to read. While it is nice to have a warm interviewer, you must anticipate that this may not be the case.
Even if you feel your answers are fantastic, do not expect reassurance from your interviewer. This is your chance to be relatable, knowledgeable and clear — regardless of the responses you get.
You’re asked why you’re leaving your current role
This one can be tricky, especially if you are leaving your role due to difficult circumstances.
Always speak about your employers in the best possible light and focus on the positive things you learned during your time in each role.
You do not need to go into great detail here and can nail this question with something along the lines of “I feel this is a great time to take my career to the next level. I learned a lot in my previous role and am grateful for my experiences with my current employer”.
Keep your answers short and positive.
You realise mid-interview you don’t want the role
Even the best sounding opportunity can turn out to be different to what you had hoped for. Many of us have realised halfway through an interview that this is not the right fit.
While it can be tempting to cool off during the interview, there still might be hope for the company or even the contact gained through the interview.
Always aim to impress. Be authentic in your responses and make a great connection. This role might not be right for you but a good impression may get you there in the end.
Awkward points in an interview do not need to be the end of the opportunity. It is chance to remain calm, put your best foot forward and show a potential employer that you can handle any situation.
Sophia Symeou is the CEO of INS Career Management.