3 Ways to Get Your Job Interview Back on Track
A successful, effective job interview is one that focuses on clear communication and gives both parties involved enough information about each other so they can make an informed decision. It can give you, as the interviewee, a glimpse into life at the company and help you assess whether it’s a good fit for you. Of course, what’s most important is that the interviewer wants to determine whether you’re the right person for the job, and you only have a short time to convince them of it.
That can put a lot of pressure on you, which is why it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, unsure of yourself, or even intimidated before a job interview—after all, you’re about to be asked a series of questions by a stranger who’s being paid to determine whether your skills and experience are good enough for their company. A job interview has the power to change your life, either by propelling you on a new, exciting, and fruitful career path or by crushing your dreams of landing a particular position. That’s daunting enough, but have you ever considered that the interviewer might also be nervous or, worse, unprepared?
The person before you might not feel very confident in their interviewing skills—maybe they’re new on the job or are simply not prepared to conduct the interview. The stakes are high enough for you, but the pressure of having such power over someone else’s career can also be terrifying. There’s an infinite number of reasons why the interviewer might lose control of the situation, which isn’t good for anyone.
What can you do about it? There are a few ways you can regain control of your job interview—just remember to be kind, courteous, and professional. You can’t control the interviewer, but you can control yourself and, through that, the interview itself to some degree.
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1. Highlight your professional experiences
One way an interviewer can lose control of a job interview is through lack of preparation. Whether they lose sight of the objective or time, get a sudden bout of verbal diarrhea (a common symptom of overactive nerves), or neglect to read through your resume and cover letter, they will waste the time of everyone involved. Instead of following them down their chaotic path, you can gently nudge them back to the relevant topic.
If the interviewer is meandering or going off on a tangent, a good way to get them back on track is to draw attention to your previous work experience and explain how it relates to the position you’re interviewing for. For instance, mention a skill or share an anecdote that strongly links to your prospective role, which should put the interview back on track organically. Maintain a polite, professional, and confident demeanor, and definitely refrain from saying anything that could make the interviewer feel embarrassed for getting off track.
Also, remember that this may be a professional setting, but in the most basic terms, you’re the main subject of a conversation between two people who want to get to know each other better, so don’t be afraid to talk about yourself—just be mindful not to cross the line into arrogance. You want to come across as confident and aware of your strengths but not smug and conceited.
Stories are also an effective way to keep the interviewer engaged and intrigued while divulging all the information you want them to know, so shaping your answers as simple narratives can be a great strategy to get the interviewer to stay on track.
2. Draw attention to the time limit
People tend to leave a lot of crucial information until the very end of a meeting, but job interviews are short, and there isn’t a lot of time to pack in all the info you might want to share. So, if you’re anxiously watching the minutes tick by, waiting for the chance to highlight your skills and previous work experience while the interviewer is rambling, don’t just passively let the time run out—this is your only chance to convince the person in front of you that you’re the right choice for the position.
Find a moment to politely mention how much you would love to tell them about your qualifications before they have to end the interview. Even if you’re feeling annoyed or frustrated, don’t let it show as negative emotions will overshadow whatever brilliant accomplishments you’re presenting—if you make the interviewer feel bad for wasting your precious time, they’ll instantly come to resent you, albeit subconsciously.
Instead, acknowledge how busy they are and note that you’re aware there are other candidates to interview, which is why you want to get to the heart of the issue before your limited time runs out. This will also demonstrate confidence and might help you stand out as long as you remain polite. After all, job interviews are about so much more than your skills and achievements—the way you comport yourself is just as key a factor in whether you get the job.
3. Ask questions
Even though you’re there to answer questions, it’s always a good idea to have a few of your own prepared before your job interview. Near the end of the conversation, most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them, and it’s best not to draw a blank, so whatever position you’re applying for, brainstorm a few meaningful questions about the company’s values, goals, or culture before you go in.
If the interviewer goes off track, it might fall on you to bring up any questions you’ve thought of beforehand. Asking about the specifics of the position, the office culture, the company’s long-term goals, and the ways you can grow within the organization are all great ways to bring the focus back to your qualifications for the job.
Moreover, it shows initiative and proves you did your research. In many ways, the questions you ask in a job interview are less about obtaining information and more about demonstrating interest, enthusiasm, professionalism, and other positive traits that employers look for in an applicant, so think about your questions carefully.
Taking control of a job interview when you’re the interviewee isn’t easy and must be handled with tact and care—you don’t want to offend the interviewer or come across as condescending, but you do want to make the most of the opportunity and show your drive and confidence. By assuredly and professionally taking control of the interview, not only can you guide it in a direction that allows you to present as much relevant information as possible, but you can also impress the interviewer with your calm, confident, and professional demeanor.
Walking the line between condescending and confident can be a challenge, but if you find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to regain control of your job interview, remember to be conscious of your tone and body language, stay humble, rein in your emotions, and keep your opinions about politics and religion to yourself. Also, avoid sarcasm or dark humor, don’t overshare, and definitely don’t complain. All of these demonstrate immaturity and a lack of professionalism, and they can cost you the job even if your skills perfectly match the company’s requirements.
If you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming job interview and would like help from professionals, set up a mock interview with our team so you can wow when the big day comes.