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Career Advice

How to recover after a bad first impression in an interview

They say that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. This is all you need if you happen to be one of those charming and delightful people who would find it impossible to make anything other than a great first impression.

But what about the rest of us mere mortals; what are the implications of this age old adage for us?

The situation becomes particularly acute in the case of job interviews. It is a well quoted ‘fact’ that an interviewer makes up their mind about a candidate within the first ten seconds of an interview, so a slip-up at this stage can theoretically spell disaster for your prospects, long before the interview has really begun.

So the question that we must answer is; what should your strategy be if you make a bad first impression in a job interview?

Many possible solutions might present themselves to you, but which should you choose in order to limit the damage done by your most untimely faux pas?

Ultimately your plan of action will be decided by the level of disapproval you have excited in your interviewer; some bad first impressions will be swiftly forgotten in the face of intelligent blogaholic2conversation and other desirable qualities, whilst others will require a somewhat more targeted approach.

There are many things that could make a bad first impression on an interviewer, of which being late, poorly presented, or underprepared are perhaps the most common. If your mistake falls into one of these categories (or on a similar level of negativity), there is a fair chance that you might still be in a position to rectify the situation; the key is to not give up hope.

By our calculation, you have 3 options on how best to deal with this situation (aside from ‘give up and go home’ of course)

  • Ignore it and move on

If you get the sense that you have somehow made a bad first impression on your interviewer, simply ignoring it will probably be your initial instinct. Of course if your transgression is that you are late, this must be apologised for and explained, but thereafter you should continue with the interview as if this early mistake has not occurred.

People tend to think that once they have made a bad impression, the interview and the job are lost to them forever, but this is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.   We guarantee there are interviewsignnot many employers out there who would reject the perfect candidate for a job on the strength that they were late for the interview.

By trying to put the early mistake out of your mind you will be able to focus entirely on the interview, giving you the best chance to perform to your full potential, and in turn make up for the initial blunder.

Giving up is never an option, and by picking yourself up and moving forward, you will demonstrate a number of very desirable qualities including determination, positivity, and endurance.

  1.  Deliver the best interview of your life

If this is a job that you really want, and you think that you have severely damaged your chances by making a bad first impression, then you are going to have to work like you have never worked before, if you are to have any chance of salvaging the interview.

This approach creates many problems in itself, because often in trying to compensate for earlier mistakes you actually make the situation worse by appearing too keen, overbearing, self-assured, or desperate.

What is needed here is a well measured and considered approach, which does not allow the rest of the interview to be driven by what went on during its opening moments. You will need to call on all of your interview skills and techniques if you are to recover well, some of these recent posts should come in rather handy.

  1.  Use the interview as a practice round

Even if you believe you’ve made a faux pas so unforgivable that there is no point in continuing the interview, this doesn’t mean that you should simply give up. There is still a lot of value that can be gleaned from this situation; you just need to take a new perspective on it.

interview feedbackTreat the interview as a learning opportunity.

Think about it, how often are you given the chance to practice your essential interview skills?  Very rarely indeed; so it would be a terrible shame if you were to let this opportunity go to waste.

In many ways your bad first impression has worked in your favour, allowing you to make the most of the situation without having to concern yourself with such things as actually getting the job. Okay perhaps that is stretching it a little, but you know what we mean!

Whether any of these approaches manages to salvage the interview, will depend on too many factors to allow for speculation here.  But suffice to say, without employing at least one of them, you will almost certainly fail, but worst of all, you risk regretting a missed opportunity and labelling yourself as a quitter.

If you found this useful, you might also like to take a look at some of these posts.


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