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How to Answer Job Interview Questions if the Interview Is Going Badly

by Ruth Mayhew

If you're at the end of the interview that you think spiraled downhill with every one of your answers, you might be able to salvage the interview at the end of the meeting. Ask if you can follow up with additional information if something comes to mind later. This leaves the door open to revise one or two of your answers. But if you sense things aren't going right during the interview, there are a number of ways to salvage what time you have remaining with the recruiter or hiring manager.

Repeat the Question

When an interview is going badly because you're not answering the questions properly or because you just don't understand the questions the interviewer is asking, repeat the question in your own words. Doing so clarifies that you understand the interviewer's question, shows that you can articulate what the interviewer needs and gives you some time to think on your feet so you can provide a well thought-out response. Of course, don't repeat every question the interviewer throws at you -- just the complex ones.

Revise Your Strategy

If you've been giving short responses that you feel aren't complete enough, remember the STAR technique for answering questions. It's perfectly acceptable to switch your response technique mid-interview -- the recruiter or hiring manager will notice the change and may be impressed that the quality of your answers are improving as the interview progresses. The STAR technique is an excellent method for providing comprehensive answers to the toughest interview questions, especially behavioral interview questions. It entails describing the Situation, explaining the Task and Action and summarizing the Results of workplace issues in which you've been involved.

Personality and Demeanor

Interviews can go bad when you exhibit improper or confusing body language. In this case, look at how you're seated and the nonverbal cues that you're exhibiting that might be a turn-off. Some interviewers expect candidates to be somewhat nervous and a little on-edge because it shows they're taking the interview seriously and are conscious about how they come across to a potential employer. If your body language suggests that you're too comfortable -- for example, sitting back in your chair with your legs crossed and your suit jacket thrown across the back of the chair -- that could be perceived as a cavalier and overly confident stance. Straighten up, lean forward and look the interviewer in the eye when you provide your answers.

Engage the Interviewer

An interview is an opportunity for the company to learn more about your qualifications and whether you're a suitable candidate based on job skills and organizational fit. On the other hand, it's also a chance for you to determine whether this is the company that you really want to work for, so it's incumbent upon you to ask questions and demonstrate a genuine interest in learning more about the organization. Ask thoughtful questions based on your research, ask the interviewer about her experience and tenure with the company, and show enthusiasm. These are effective ways to engage the interviewer and draw out information from her. Otherwise, the interviewer might assume that you're really not interested in the job and that the interview is merely a waste of time.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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