What to do when you hit ‘the black ice’ in a job interview

Q: I froze in the job interview. There is no other word for it. I was going great guns until they threw a question at me that caught me off guard. I stumbled through that and knew from their reaction that it hadn’t gone well. For the rest of the interview, I was a mess. I couldn’t get out of the hole I had dug for myself, even though, in fairness to them, they moved on to other topics. How can I avoid this happening again in the future? (DC, email).

A: It can happen the best of candidates. In fact, rarely does an interview go as you would like. It’s a pressurised environment and there are almost inevitably times when you are struggling to fully decipher what the interview panel are getting at, or when you fail to recall information that’s somehow eluding you, or when you are asked about something you don’t know much about.

First off, you have got to do your best in those circumstances. You can do no better than that. I talk about the black ice when preparing clients for interview. Now that I think of it, that has parallels with freezing, as you describe above.

When we hit the black ice in an interview, we just need to keep going. Do the best you can with the answer even if you know it is not a particularly good response. The crucial thing is to put it behind you immediately and move on.

Face up to the next question and away you go again. It is not easy to develop this habit, particularly because we don’t tend to do many job interviews. There may be three months between one job interview and the next – or even three years – so you must learn quickly and apply the lessons for the next interview.

Keep calm and carry on

I always tell candidates to be ready to put bad moments behind them. Your rivals will have bad moments too. Very few people get everything right. The panel will see similar blips in the other candidates throughout the day and they will make allowances for them.

You owe it to yourself not to allow yourself to be submerged by one down moment. If you have played sport, you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘next ball’ or the ‘next jump’.

Golfers hit bad shots and forget about them ten seconds later; well, they do when they are properly tuned in. When they are tuned out, the bad shot haunts them for the day or the week – or maybe the rest of their careers.  After you have given the bad answer, you’ve got a decision to make: am I going to allow this to derail me completely or will I get back into my stride and make the best of the interview?

There’s only one feasible answer to that question.

I have seen candidates who had difficult interview moments still get the job. Don’t aim for perfection in interviews. It doesn’t exist.

Give yourself a break, brush it off as quickly as you can and do your best with the rest of the interview. There is no magic bullet. It all revolves around your resolution to recover as quickly as possible.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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