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Getting out of a sticky spot

Everyone makes fools of themselves in public at one time or another. But what if it happens in the middle of a job interview?

Don’t despair. One misstep doesn’t necessarily mean that your application will be rejected. It all depends on how you deal with it. Here are a few tips on how to get out of an embarrassing or ludicrous situation.

You arrive very late for the interview
If your alarm clock didn’t go off, don’t try to convince the recruiter that you narrowly escaped death in a head-on collision. Avoid long-winded justifications. Just apologize, make it clear you are still interested in doing the interview, and indicate that you would be open to postponing it if necessary.

You are visibly nervous
Your hands are moist and trembling, your voice is quavering. What should you do? Draw attention away from the signs of nervousness with positive signals such as a straight posture, a bright smile and eye contact.

You don’t understand a question
If you missed a question because your mind was wandering, politely ask the interviewer to repeat it. If the question seems vague, rephrase it to make sure you understood. For example, if you are asked, “What would you say was the most important thing about your last job?” you might say, “If I understand you correctly, you want to know how my job influenced my career.” That will show you were listening and that you want to answer the question as appropriately as possible.

You are asked about a “gap” in your resumé
If you prefer to sidestep an unpleasant parting of the ways or an episode of burnout, you can just say you went through a period when you were unable to work. But you could also decide to talk about it openly and stress what you learned about yourself during the time off.

You simply look foolish
You make a joke that falls flat or your stomach is rumbling audibly. Admit with a smile that you still have some work to do on your comedy routine or that you should have had a snack before the interview. Your humility will make a good impression.

Éveline Marcil-Denault is the author of Du CV à l’embauche [From Resumé to Hire] (Ed. Quebecor, 2005)