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Avoiding Interview Disaster: What to do when the interview falls apart before it’s even begun

Preparing for the worst in an interview isn't always possible. Here are a few hints for those times when you just have to roll with it and think on your feet.

Preparing for the worst in an interview isn’t always possible. Here are a few hints for those times when you just have to roll with it and think on your feet.

This is the stuff of nightmares.

a)      You’ve been unemployed for six months. This job is tailor made for you. The morning of your job interview, your mother is rushed to the hospital with a heart attack.

b)      You’ve prepared for your job interview for weeks. You’re confident and ready. You arrive at the office 10 minutes early and the receptionist tells you the interviewer has not come in that day, so they’ve had to cancel your interview.

It’s tough keeping your wits about you when an opportunity as important as a job interview appears to be crumbling to the ground. Here are a few examples of bad-as-it-gets situations and some choices for your response.

Unavoidable Emergencies
Emergencies are those things that happen when we’re looking the other way. Serious illness, injury, or the  death of a loved one is not the time to tough it out and show that you can get through anything. A better choice is to ask to reschedule the interview.

You don’t have to share details if you don’t care to. “Family emergency” should be enough to let an employer know your delay was unavoidable.

Are you endangering your chances for the job? Yes, but probably not as much as if you’d show up and perform badly.

A friend kept a job interview appointment the day after her mother died. She told me later, “I could tell the interview wasn’t going well, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Normally, she is warm, articulate, and extremely knowledgeable in her field, but she felt numb and foggy during the conversation. She had suffered an emotional shock, and her mind and body were protecting her. For better or worse, that protection tends to wrap us in biochemical blanket that doesn’t present well in an interview. Better to let an interviewer know of the death and reschedule for a time when you can bring your full concentration to bear.

Surprise Endings
Employers will tell you it’s not all that uncommon for a candidate to be a no-show for a job interview. People can be irresponsible in all sorts of ways. If you can’t make it to an interview for any reason, you must notify the employer as soon as possible. It’s not fair to waste their time, and they will also be concerned about your safety. Being a no-show also damages your reputation, and don’t think they won’t remember or mention it to a colleague who says they’re considering you for a job. Word gets around.

Less common is the interviewer’s disappearance, but it happens. Ideally, the office would call before you left home and let you know of the cancellation. Sometimes, they’re caught off guard, too.

In either case, be gracious. You don’t know what happened. The interviewer may be the one with the family emergency that day. Of course, it’s inconvenient for you, but if you need to pitch a fit, wait until you’re alone in your car. At the office, express concern for the interviewer and offer to reschedule at the company’s convenience.

If your interview experience has been uncomfortable or downright disastrous, contact me to talk about some ways to be more confident about your side of the interview conversation. I offer Interview Preparation coaching that teaches you how to anticipate and answer the very questions you’re worrying about – all without memorizing answers!


Avoiding Interview Disaster: The question behind the question

Avoiding Interview Disaster: 5 steps to prepare for the question you dread 


Photo credit: Diana Robinson

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