Interview CPR: Quick Fixes for 6 Interview Disasters (+ the #1 Interview Lifesaver)

We've all been there: you arrived late, accidentally spilled coffee on your resume or even broke a heel. Interviews gone wrong are an inevitable part of life and can happen to the best of us (even in our cutest outfits). But even when your interview seems far from being saved, here are the best tips on how to salvage any interview on the verge of disaster 

Crisis: You arrived WAYYY late.

Your alarm didn't go off on time. You had 24 notifications on Facebook that you had to check. The line at Dunkin' Donuts was especially long. There was a nuclear war on I-95 this morning. Let's face it: it doesn't take too much to craft an excuse as to why you're late for anything. One collegiette remembers, "On my very first interview, I ended up arriving exactly when they called my name because it took me 20 minutes to parallel park. I didn't know that there was only street parking, and I never learned how to parallel park in Drivers Ed!"

Crisis Averted
First of all, nobody likes or appreciates excuses. With that in mind, the worst possible thing you could do is begin your already late interview with a laundry list of excuses as to what held you up. The fact of the matter is you arrived late. The best way to handle this is simple: APOLOGIZE. Donna Goldfeder, director of career services at Lehigh University, recommends, "If you know you are going to be running late you absolutely need to call ahead and alert them to this problem. Briefly apologize when you arrive and then get right down to business." Generally speaking, if you will be more than 10 minutes late, consider asking if you should reschedule your interview for a later time out of respect for the interviewer and those interviewing after you.

Crisis: Your cell phone goes off during the interview.
Especially on those days when you have 80 million things to remember, somehow silencing your cell always falls to bottom of the list. If it happens during class, it's embarrassing. If it happens during an interview, it's just plain rude. Katie, a collegiette™ from Cornell University, remembers, "I forgot to turn my phone off during an interview, and I ended up being interrupted by my Michael Jackson ringtone... I didn't even know what to say."

Crisis Averted
First of all, DO NOT ANSWER YOUR PHONE. While this should go without saying, the inappropriate places and situations (e.g., the movie theater, church, econ class) where people will answer their phones never cease to amaze me. While your phone call may actually be important, unless you consider it to be more imperative than having a job and an income... ignore it. If your phone rings, immediately silence it. Apologize for not turning it off before your interview began, then continue with your interview. In this situation, the worst thing you can do is act like you can't hear your phone ringing. Looking around the room pretending that you can't hear "Ice Ice Baby" blasting from your purse probably won't make you look like the brightest crayon in the box.

Crisis: You have a noticeable stain on your outfit.
Isn't it always the case that your Tide® to Go pen mysteriously disappears the one time you actually need it? While you probably aren't chowing down on a BBQ ribs minutes before your interview, that Starbucks Vanilla Latte can be just as dangerous to the interview outfit you spent four hours carefully assembling the night before. Combine your nervously shaking hand with a full cup of coffee and before you know it, there's the most minute, yet completely noticeable stain on your shirt. Perfect.

Crisis Averted
When it comes to wardrobe crises, it's always best to try to head them off in advance. With that being said, you can't always be prepared (I mean, we're not Eagle Scouts here). The best thing you can do is try to cleverly disguise the problem. Goldfeder advises that you, "should rearrange clothes to hide the stain if at all possible." If you have a stain at the top of your shirt, try to sweep your hair to one side to cover it. If your tights have a run down the back, make sure you cross your legs during the interview to conceal it. Let them focus on you and your credentials, not your fashion faux pas.  And don’t bring it up!  In all likelihood, your interviewer won’t even notice it.

Crisis: You completely flubbed the answer to an important question.
"Oh yeah, Nick Carter was definitely my favorite Backstreet Boy...wait what was the question again?" Especially when your nerves or excitement distracts you, it's easy to zone out or mishear an interviewer when they're addressing you. Depending on whom you interview with, you may find yourself caught off guard by a question or two.

Crisis Averted
If you're lucky enough to realize that you flubbed an answer, you still have time to fix it! Start by apologizing and then begin to formulate your new answer. Say something along the lines of: "I apologize, that answer was poorly said. What I was trying to say was…" I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys answering rapid fire questions in a high pressure situation, and so we all know what it's like to be so nervous that we blank on what we're saying. As long as you improve upon your answer the second time around, you're good to go.

Even if you realize after the interview that you may have bombed an answer to an important question, there is still time to get it right. Goldfeder has another suggestion: "I had one student who knew she had not done a good job when she answered a question on current events. Right after the interview she did her research and emailed the interviewer with a 'this is what I should have said' message that was thorough and informative.  I wasn't sure that would work—but she got the job!"


Emily Grier is currently a sophomore at Penn State University. She loves all things Nittany Lions, however she readily admits to being a complete Connecticut girl at heart. There's nothing she enjoys more than autumn in New England, holiday lattes from Starbucks, "Gilmore Girls", and strawberry cupcakes from Crumbs bakeshop. Although she's intending on majoring in accounting with a minor in business law, writing remains a true passion of hers. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Emily has been published on the USA TODAY College Blog and is a staff writer for Valley magazine, Penn State's life and style magazine.

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