Recovery Tips: When a Job Interview Gets Awkward

We’ve all been there in life – an awkward moment that makes you want to turn and run for the hills. One place you wouldn’t want to experience this is an interview for your dream job. There are lots of things that can happen during an interview to make the situation uncomfortable.

Here are a few situations that you might encounter and ways to turn the awkwardness into success.

You Forget Their Name

It has been said that the sweetest sounds to a person’s ear is their own name. People love to know that you’re focused on what they are saying, their thoughts and them as a person. Saying things like, “Mr Smith, I totally understand,” is a great way to charm the interviewer and stay on their good side. It also brings their focus back to what you are saying if you name them in mid-sentence or idea. The awkward problem in an interview would be if you begin to say their name and forget it, or even worse, call them by the wrong name. That alone can make an interview go from good to bad in seconds.

If you can’t remember their name when you’re leaving the interview (you should know their name and contact info to send a follow up thank you!) ask them, but with a spin. Say, “What was your name again?” and they will probably tell you, but feel disappointed you couldn’t remember. So in return you emphatically reply, “Oh sorry, no, your last name”. If this doesn’t work, ask for a business card. This will give you both their first and last name, so you can address them and contact them later without looking like a dud for forgetting.

If you’re in the middle of the interview and say the wrong name, or begin to address them and forget, just try to relax. If you get flustered and they notice, it will throw you off your interview game. Stealthily look around for a name plate, degree on the wall or any sort of sign they might have. If you’ve called them by the wrong name, you’ll be able to tell by the look on their face. A good cover up line is, “I’m so sorry! You just remind me so much of my former teacher that it just came out”. It’s also okay to blame the nerves – simply explain that you were focused on doing well in the interview, and their name slipped your mind.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, repeat their name early and repeat it often. When they first introduce themselves or are introduced by others, repeat their name back to them and use it from there on out. “It’s so nice to meet you, Megan” and then “What school did you go to, Megan?” This will help you remember for later.

The Awkward Silence

You can practically hear the crickets chirping after you answered a question. Don’t sweat it if the interviewer is taking notes, because they might just be a slow writer. If they’re staring at you, you might have to be quick on your feet with some more explanation of what you meant.

Try asking, “Does that answer your question?” or “Does that make sense?” This will give them the chance to say yes or no, and depending on their response, you’ll know which direction to go.

Some interviewers do this pause on purpose, because it makes you feel nervous and chances are you will say anything to fill the gap. Be aware of this, and have something ready to talk about. It you think it through ahead of time, you won’t trip on your words and you’ll remain professional.

The Unpredictable

Anything can happen when you put two people in a room to talk. Bodily functions, interrupting phone calls, clashing of chemistry, or things outside your control such as the fire alarm sounding can happen to anyone. It’s impossible to plan for every situation, but having a carefree attitude when things get sticky is good practice.

This can be done by taking a lighthearted approach to humor when things go south. Sometimes it’s okay to bring attention to the awkwardness of the situation which will ease the tension. When the time is right, throw in a little one liner with a smile or giggle. It’s okay to laugh at yourself, but don’t overdo it because you want to remain serious. If the interviewer throws out a joke, make sure you laugh! Laughing will automatically make your body feel more relaxed, get you on their good side and fill the silence.

Another way to cope is to remain focused. Ignore the situation, and continue talking about your talents and experience. Once you talk for a few more minutes, the interviewer will probably forget too and be more interested in what you are saying. Now would be a great time to throw out the name tip from earlier, because it will ensure they are listening to what you’re saying.

No matter what life throws at you during an interview, if you remain calm and professional, you’ll be fine. Be sure to research the company and have some pre-planned talking points, so you can be quick on your feet in any situation.

Courtney Gordner is a passionate blogger who loves giving and receiving career advice that she learned while working for a personal injury lawyer.