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How to Save an Interview Turned Sour


Kristine Penning, Creative Marketing Specialist –



Nerves and lack of preparation can easily steer an interview in a direction you hadn’t planned. Maybe an answer to a question led in a direction you didn’t plan on or said something that doesn’t represent your true self (i.e. completely missing the point of the question and trailing into a pointless story). Worse, maybe the entire interview got off on the wrong foot with awkward or negative small talk (i.e. saying you hate dogs before realizing that your interviewer has three). Relax; not all hope is lost. Here are a few tricks to turn around an interview turned sour.


Stop & Start Over


If an answer has led in a direction you hadn’t planned or you find yourself getting off-topic, pause, take a breath, and ask your interviewer if you could start over on that question. It’s better to do this than to derail the entire interview. Take cues from your interviewer’s body language and expressions. If they are confused and not looking impressed or intrigued, if you can feel the discomfort mounting, stop and refresh.


Admit You’re Nervous


Pause and say, “I’m sorry, I’m nervous.” Just admitting that you are nervous is okay. It eases the tension within yourself and between yourself and the interviewer. Everyone’s human—your interviewer should know and sympathize with that. They will likely allow you some time to gather your thoughts if needed and extend kindness to help ease your nervousness. If they don’t, is this really the kind of employer you want to work for in the first place?


Laugh It Off


Again, you’re human. If an answer came out awkwardly or not on track, smile and laugh a little, then say, “I’m sorry, let me start over.” You may even play it off with a joke if you’re a clever person.




When it’s your turn to speak or ask questions following the interview, apologize for something you said that has been bothering you throughout the interview or an answer that didn’t quite hit the mark. If you feel you botched an answer, perhaps ask if you could return to that question to rephrase it.


Remain Confident


Following a mistake or an answer that didn’t go as planned, just focus on doing better for the next question and maintaining a confident exterior. It goes a long way and can make up for a previous weak answer. Really compensate for anything that didn’t go well by asking excellent questions, being extremely cordial, and leaning forward slightly.


Follow Up


You should do this with any interview, but if you leave still feeling like things did not go as planned, send a kind email or handwritten note apologizing and explaining yourself. Let them know that you are available for a follow-up phone call if necessary and reiterate your interest in the job.


Just remember not to beat yourself up and to proceed with confidence. If you do these two things, you’re likely to save the interview regardless of anything else.