What can be more nerve-wracking than a job interview? Even first dates don’t have such high stakes. You’re at an interview for a job you really want, or really need, and you can tell you’re floundering. The interviewer doesn’t seem impressed by you, or you keep putting your foot in your mouth when asked to explain why you left a previous job, or you can’t come up with any words at all. Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us! These tips will help you learn how to turn the tide for a bad job interview.

1. Recover from a terrible answer by rephrasing it.

Your brain is going a million miles an hour, and you’re trying to focus on the interviewer so you can form an intelligent answer for each question. But sometimes your brain trips up and picks the wrong words, or you use a negative tone when talking about a past job. Don’t let a disaster answer hang in the air. As soon as you realize your mistake, pause and state that you want to clarify what you meant. Rephrase the answer in positive, intelligent terms and elaborate a bit more, so the interviewer sees you’re not just covering yourself, but actually giving a clarifying explanation.

2. Ask questions if the interviewer seems bored.

Interviewers take notes while you’re talking, but that’s definitely a flower doodle in the corner of the notepad, and it looks like they’re starting in on the rest of the landscape. Don’t keep talking while your interviewer spaces out. Make sure they’re engaged the entire time. Instead of the never-ending monologue you’re giving, start asking questions. Ask about the company, the specific positions, the duties each job will include. Not only will this pull the interviewer from their daydream, they’ll see that you’re actually interested in learning about the job.

3. Change the topic.

The interviewer might find a subject you don’t know much about – maybe the specific lesson you never really understood in college, or a job duty you couldn’t really master at your last job. Don’t just sit back and admit you don’t know what you’re talking about. Change the topic to highlight your strengths and share your knowledge.

4. Deal with the claim that you’re under or over qualified.

If you’re over qualified for a job, you will be called out on it. Employers don’t want to hire someone who will leave for something better in a month. Stress why you’re taking a job you might be over qualified for: because it interests you, because you want to break into a new field, because you want to take on different responsibilities. Make every aspect sound positive.

And if you’re told you’re under qualified, never fear! Make it clear that you’re aware of what the job is asking for, so the employer won’t think you applied just to waste their time. Tell them you want hands-on experience and that you’re a quick, eager learner. Again, make each point seem positive.

5. Ask for a short break.

If you’re really fumbling, don’t be afraid to ask for a bathroom break. Walking around a more open space will help get oxygen to your brain. Splash some cold water on your face, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror, and get back out there feeling refreshed.

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6. Show how interested you are in the job.

When all else seems to fail, just be honest – show the interviewer how interested you are in the job. Let your passion come out as you explain how much you’ve always wanted to work for this company, or how eager you are to get into a new field or a different position. Don’t be afraid to be the one showing how much you want it – this isn’t a first date, so you don’t have to play it cool or risk scaring someone away.

7. Email a note clarifying any problems.

Sometimes you don’t think of a mistake until you’re replaying the interview in your mind for the fifteenth time. Don’t beat yourself up about something you can’t correct in person. When you email a thank you note after the interview (you do that, right? You should!), include a brief paragraph explaining what you feel like you messed up on. In a worst case scenario, the interviewer has already made up their mind, but you’ll feel better explaining yourself, and they might really respect that you came forward to clarify, instead of just shrugging it off as a lost cause.

8. Request a second interview.

Either in your thank you email or a phone call, don’t be afraid to ask for a second interview. Be honest and say you were nervous and felt like you flubbed the first one. First impressions will stick in people’s minds, but calling about a second interview will show how much you really want the job, and how much effort you’re already putting into it.

9. Accept it as a funny story to tell.

Ok, so this “trick” won’t really turn the tide for a bad job interview, but it can make you feel better after the fact! Keep in mind that this interview was an experience. Maybe it seemed awkward and intolerable at the time, but you made it through. Whether you get the job or not, you now have a funny story to tell. I know tons of people who have humorous stories about bad job interviews, either self-deprecatingly or at the expense of a bad interviewer. Everyone loves hearing these stories, because everyone can relate. Don’t beat yourself up about what you should have done – just start crafting your story!

Featured photo credit: Alan Cleaver via flickr.com

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