Positive visualization is important before heading into any job interview. Mentally running through the ideal series of perfect interactions, friendly greetings and spot-on responses can help build confidence.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned.
As a job seeker, there are any number of factors to consider before interview day; from wardrobes to resumes, there’s only so much you can control! Let’s face it, things go wrong in real life. While it’s vital to be prepared, resiliency in the face of catastrophe is equally important for job candidates.
With that in mind, here are some top awkward situations job seekers can find themselves in when applying and interviewing for a new job. By addressing them head-on, it’s easy to find ways to recover from these surprisingly common blunders:
Speel Chex
With more companies than ever using online application systems, keeping track of multiple versions of your resume, cover letter and other application materials can be confusing. What do you do if you’ve accidentally sent a document in error?
In any number of these electronic error situations, such as sending an outdated resume or mislabeled document, the best course of action is to send a follow-up email as quickly as possible, with the correct document attached. On interview day, cover your bases by bringing in printed hard copies of the correct materials as well, just in case your interviewer is working off of the incorrect file.
“Who are you, again?”
Even before the first handshake, job seekers can be introduced to a staggering amount of names and titles. Recruiters, interviewers, managers, potential coworkers and everyone in between can all be introduced on the way to a new position; what are you to do if you can’t remember them all?
If you suddenly blank during an interview situation, don’t panic! Address the momentary lapse immediately, and do your best to move past it. Keep in mind that you have context clues to use to your advantage, including desk name tags and office items. If possible, keep notes somewhere close to reference names and avoid this problem all together. Another handy trick is to repeat names as much as possible in order to commit them to memory.
“Why did you leave your last job?”
Emotions can be hard to hide. If an interviewer brings up a past employer, giving a negative response can be devastating to your chances for success. How can you recover from referring to bosses, coworkers and companies from your past in rude, dismissive ways?
You never want your employer to see you as a negative person. Instead, try to flip the situation into a positive light. If you notice an interviewer recoiling from your negative phrasing about a past employer, try a phrase such as, “But, thankfully, the experience taught me,” or “However, when looking back on the situation, I can see why the manager,” in order to turn the tone around. The goal is to show that you can positively impact a team, so always focus on the bright side.
Oh fudge…
Most of us talk differently around friends and family then we might feel comfortable speaking in a professional setting. We can do our best to remain formal in appropriate situations, but sometimes, things just slip out. From the profane to the perplexing, we’ve all said something we wish we can take back at one time or another.
Take a breath, mentally reset and rephrase your response. In fact, it is not inappropriate to explicitly state, “I’m sorry, can I explain that a little differently?” Showing grace in your recovery is key.
Will they, won’t they
Even if you think you nailed the interview, the time spent waiting for a response can be even more stressful. How awkward is it to feel like everything went well, only to hear nothing back for days, weeks or even months?
One way to avoid this ahead of time is to strongly communicate your interest in the position during your interview, and work to establish a clear schedule of follow-ups for both you and the employer to stick to. If you find yourself in a situation where an employer has gone silent, even after establishing a timeline, the best thing to do is to remain confident and available for communication. Obsessively checking-in or giving up out of frustration are equally dangerous!
Finding a new job can be awkward. The most important thing to remember as a job applicant there is hope after a mistake. Do you have an awkward interview stories? We’d love to hear them below!

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