Bridge Insights

Made a Mistake in an Interview? Here’s How to Recover

Sep 14, 2021

Interviews can be extremely stressful. It’s hard to know how to prepare; it’s even harder to know what to say and do. It’s no wonder why so many job seekers feel like they’ve tanked a job interview over a simple mistake.

As a recruiter, I can tell you mistakes are common during an interview, and most recruiters will give you some leeway if you said something you wish you hadn’t. We get it. You’re nervous (and so were the interviewees that came before you).

Even though mistakes in an interview are more common than you might think, they can, ultimately, cause you to lose out on landing your dream job. But interview mistakes aren’t deal-breakers. It’s what you do to recover that determines if you get a job or not. If anything, your ability to recover shows your adaptability –a quality a lot of hiring managers value in their employees.

Here are 5 commonly made interview mistakes and how you can recover from them to get your interview back on track.

[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Premium_Widget_Mirror_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

Showing up Late

Being punctual and showing up on time to your interview is always a great way to get your interview off on the right foot. But sometimes things out of your control happen that can make you late. Maybe you got stuck in traffic or there was a power outage.

If you find yourself a victim of Murphy’s Law and know you’re going to be late, do your best to give your interviewer a heads up as early as possible and explain the situation.

When you do arrive, apologize and acknowledge how important it is to be punctual. Express remorse for the situation. Most importantly, don’t let getting off on the wrong foot derail the rest of your interview. Do your best to have an interview that’s so strong your rocky start isn’t the lasting impression that’s made.

Forgetting Extra Copies of Your Resume

While you always want to bring extra copies of your resume, sometimes things move so fast you don’t have time to get to a printer, or you simply run out of time. While this may be a deal-breaker for some, some employers are more forgiving of candidates not bringing a paper resume, in an increasingly paperless world.

If you find yourself without a resume at interview time, be sure to apologize and address the error. Explicitly state that you should have brought copies and set the expectation that you will be following up with your resume once the interview is over. Make good on your commitment!

Following up in this way won’t always excuse the fact you didn’t have a resume at the time of your interview, but doing your best after the fact – acknowledging your error, setting expectations, and following through – displays a lot of positive traits that, in conjunction with a strong interview, might be enough for an employer to overlook the oversight.

Swearing or Using Unprofessional Language:

From time to time, we all get excited, our emotions get the best of us, and we may let an unprofessional word slip out during our interview. While this is bad form, if you catch your mistake quickly enough, apologize for the slip of the tongue, and don’t let it happen again, most hiring managers will be forgiving of this faux pas.

[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Premium_Widget_Mirror_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

Didn’t Answer a Question Well Enough

Sometimes our anxieties of interviewing make the whole situation seem like a blur. If your nerves are getting the best of you, it can be difficult to remember to say everything you wanted to say in response to an employer’s questions.

If you find you missed your opportunity to say what you wanted, or feel like you didn’t answer an employer’s question well enough, you can always recover by asking for clarification at a later point in time in your interview. Saying something like, “I’m not sure I understood what you meant when you asked X, can you please rephrase?” or even saying something like, “When I said X in response to your question, I wanted to elaborate on what I meant.”

If you’re having a fluid dialogue with your interviewer, the spaces to redirect back to an old topic should come about organically, but if they don’t, don’t worry. You can always circle back at the end when it’s your turn to interview your interviewer.

Do you Have any Questions for me?

For some people, once you find the groove of your interview, those interview nerves will go away. For others, they last right up until you say your final thankyous. When this happens, it can be easy to completely skip over the “Do you have any questions for me?” part of the interview. Employers rely on this section of the interview to gauge how interested and serious you are about being the next member of their team.

If you forget to ask your questions during this time, this is where a follow-up/thank you letter can be your lifesaver.

In addition to expressing your gratitude, use some of your letter to ask the questions you forgot in the moment. Don’t forget to reiterate your interest in the position and working for their company.

As an example, you might say something like, “I’m interested in your position/company, but I would like further clarification on X.”

The Interview Mistakes You Can’t Come Back From

Even though most interview mistakes can be redeemed with a strong enough overall professional presence, there are certain things that no amount of course correction can save.

  • Not doing research.
  • Not being respectful of your interviewer.
  • Speaking negatively about a past employer.
  • Body language that shows you don’t care/are uninterested.


[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Premium_Widget_Mirror_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

Brining it All Together

As always, the best way to avoid interview mistakes is to be proactive and try to prevent them from happening in the first place. Things like mock interviews, doing company research, and thinking of interview questions to ask a prospective employer beforehand can do wonders in helping you prepare and calm your nerves, too.

But despite our best efforts, even the best of us can have things fall through the cracks sometimes. When these do come up, keep these tips in mind so that you’re able to course correct, pivot from your mistake, and navigate through the rest of your interview with ease.