Oh dear, something has gone just a little off – you spilled something on yourself just before the interview started, you were a tad late, you have a tickle in your throat, you suddenly blanked on what you were about to say, you have a tight schedule and the interview is running long and threatening your next appointment – on and on the list goes…
Any number of unplanned little things can attempt to derail our plans and throw off a situation. When we are with friends or family we laugh them off and go on, writing them off as part and parcel of life – but somehow in an interview we, in an attempt to be the perfect candidate, don’t quite know how to address this embarrassment. The little something can grow to be the elephant in the room that no one mentions but everyone knows is right there.
As the interviewer I have felt pained for an interviewee who is dealing with a small peccadillo of some sort and as a fellow human wanted to help them to be at ease. But part of my role as interviewer is to see how this person will handle the untoward things that happen in life. That something a little off is a boon in an interview, a real test of this person’s problem solving and life skills. Will it become the elephant, or will you call it out so that we can get past it?
As an interviewee I have experienced all of the things that I listed above and more, and dealt with them in a variety of ways – admittedly quite badly early on in my professional experience, before I sat on the other side of the table. I let them become the elephant in the room, growing more and more embarrassed until I completely lost focus on the interview and put almost all of my energy on wishing the thing would just go away.
Please keep this in mind when you are in an interview. We are all human and therefore subject to mistakes and all sorts of little issues. If something goes wrong, take a deep breath and briefly acknowledge it. Refocus your thoughts on the question at hand. If the interviewer doesn’t respond positively to your humanness that reflects more upon that person than upon you. If they cannot accept a small, unexpected issue during an interview then imagine trying to relate to them once you work together.
We don’t have to be perfect, and the interview is meant to work both ways – you are testing each other out for suitability. A little something going off gives both parties the opportunity to show their human side. It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room.
Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.
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