We’ve all been there, somehow muddling through the most important interview of your life, just about holding it together, question after question and then…. nothing. The interviewer starts to talk in slow motion (blah, blah, blah…. blah), your mind goes all hazy, and your future on the employment scrap heap flashes before your eyes. You can’t answer the simplest of questions that you would normally answer in your sleep. Beads of sweat start to appear on your forehead, you play with your collar and laugh nervously. The interviewer looks at you like a small child who doesn’t understand why he can’t be given a sweetie. Up to now he thought that you were great….. but why can’t you answer this one? Maybe he was wrong?
We’ve all been there – in an interview, in a meeting, even when your son asks you what 6 times 8 is….. um, err…. well, yes. Normally it is “just one of those things”, but in an interview, when the pressure is on, it could be the difference between you getting the job or not. You have to tell yourself before the interview that this happens to everyone. If you think about how you would handle it in advance, then you can turn a potential banana skin into a study of composure and calmness. So, if your mind ever does go blank, here are the 5 Cs of how to handle it.
COMPOSE YOURSELF – If you are prepared for the possibility of it happening, then it won’t be quite a shock. Making a little joke at your own expense…. “do you know what, I forgot to have my coffee this morning” (or something similar) always helps lighten the mood and free you from anxiety. Whether this joke is to yourself or with the interviewer will depend on the nature of the interview itself and your rapport with the interviewer.
CLARIFY – Clarifying the question with the interviewer allows you precious seconds to find a suitable response, and it is often the case that the interviewer will rephrase the question in a slightly different way, which can jog your memory and allows you to answer.
CLEAR YOUR MIND – Take a deep breath (which releases oxygen to the brain) and tell yourself that this situation is perfectly normal. You are not a computer – everyone is prone to these issues. Once you have overcome your worry about your hesitation, it is often the case that the answer pops up of its own accord. Let your memory do its job without your anxious brain getting in the way.
CONTEMPLATE – Ask to have a think about it. This is an assertive tactic which always comes across well in any interview. A compassionate interviewer who is interested in your candidacy will always allow you to think and compose yourself. If they insist on you answering immediately, then maybe they aren’t the sort of people you would want to work with anyway.
CHAT – There is nothing worse than a prolonged silence in an interview, so once you have Composed, Clarified, Cleared and Contemplated – then Chat! This should be a measured response, focusing on the parts of the question that you do understand. In the process of talking, the true answer often becomes clear.
If after the five steps you realize that you have not given a sufficiently coherent answer, you might decide to ask the interviewer to come back to it later or maybe even give them an answer after the interview (follow-up emails are great for providing additional information).
Don’t be like Homer – engage your brain before you open your mouth…….
Image: Fox (www.thesimpsons.com)
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