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How to Handle Awkward Job Interview Moments

by | Dec 13, 2018 | career advice, how to answer interview questions, interview tips, job interview answers

You can’t possibly predict every question or potentially awkward job interview moment. But you can be aware of some sticky situations and how to be quick on your feet if these things happen to you.

Recently, I fielded some job seekers’ questions about how to address some of those uncomfortable moments. Here’s a snapshot of the Q & A:

When You Can’t Quantify Your Achievements

Q: What do I do if I can’t substantiate my responses with hard data?

It’s best to enliven your responses and stories with facts and figures. But maybe the nature of your work isn’t easily tied to the bottom line. Or a strategy changed and your project didn’t get off the ground (but you still did some great work).

There are still ways to make things more interesting. For example, instead of saying that your nonprofit served families in the Western U.S., say, “My organization improved the lives of 100,000 families in 5 Western States.”

Using strong action words such as “improved,” “resolved,” “strengthened,” “created,” “achieved,” and “orchestrated” show that you made an impact even if you don’t have hard data to back up your statement.

When You Haven’t Experienced a Situation the Interviewer Conjures Up

Q: What do you do if you’re asked a behavioral question in the interview when you haven’t experienced the situation the interviewer is describing?

Here’s an example:

“Tell me about a time when you had to manage a conflict between your employees and how you resolved it.”

Since this hasn’t happened to you, say something like this:

“I’ve been very lucky to have a high-performing, cohesive group of people with no real conflicts. However, as part of my job, I manage an outside CRM vendor for software and support, and we were having some issues. Their sales and service teams were blaming each other for the problems we were experiencing. This tool is integral to our business, so I called a meeting with the key people so we could get on the same page with their deliverables. We had a productive conversation and got right on track within a couple of business days.”

When You Get Tongue-Tied

Q: What do you do if you get tongue-tied?

We all fumble our words from time to time–this is entirely normal and human. Use some levity, laugh at yourself, then wait a beat before starting again. If you have a beverage nearby, pause and take a drink while you regroup. You’ll recover!

When You’re Juggling Outerwear, Bags, and Accessories

Q: I never know what to do with my coat when I’m getting ready to meet someone. Do I put it on my left arm so I can shake hands with my right and carry it? Do I leave it on until just before I’m seated?

In the colder months and climates, you may be schlepping a heavy coat, an umbrella, and a bag or briefcase.

To be hands-free and comfortable when you’re meeting your interviewer, take off your coat and fold up your umbrella, then set them aside as you’re waiting. This way you can be completely present during the introduction and once you’ve met, gather up your things and take them to the next location.

Remember: Don’t set anything down on the interviewer’s desk or on the conference table. Opt for the chair back for your coat and the floor or a vacant chair for everything else.

Have you ever experienced an awkward interview moment? How did you get back on track? To learn how to finesse other job interview nuances, see more job seeker FAQs.


dalena bradley job interview coach career coach

I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.

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