Have you ever had the experience in an interview where you did pretty well, but there was that one question that you weren't ready for and you stumbled for an answer? Eventually, something came out that was sort of answering it, but not really. Then, on your drive home, you think of the perfect response. You slap your head and thought to yourself, "I should have said..."
As frustrating as it is, don't worry too much about it, you're not alone. It's important to remember that very few of us have the "perfect interview." When we're on the hot-seat and under pressure, the brain has a funny way of forgetting things, mixing things up, or not being able to come up with a good response. It's normal. Don't beat yourself up over it. Instead, put your energy on what to do about it moving forward.
Prepare & Practice Before the Interview So You Don't Forget
We're not going to be ready for every possible question that could come up. That's statistically impossible. But we should at least be ready for the standard questions as well as have some examples in our pocket that are relevant for the job at hand.
The best way to have a good guess about what you'll be asked about is to read the job description several times and highlight the key things you would be doing in this role. Then look back on your work experience. What did you do that was related to what this employer needs? Write down as many examples as you can think of. We also recommend not only having a positive example, where things went well for you, but also a negative example, one where you had challenges to overcome or something you were able to learn from.
Once you've come up with your examples, practice talking through them so that it comes out of your mouth naturally. Start by saying them out loud, so you know if it sounds right. Then go in front of a mirror and incorporate gestures, facial expressions, etc. that will add more to your performance. Finally, practice them with someone. Get their advice on what was clear and what wasn't. Sometimes we miss an important detail because in our mind, this should be obvious. You have to realize though, that for the other person, it may not be obvious. This person can also give you some feedback on your voice and body language. As you know, interviews aren't just about what you say, but also about how you say it.
Keep practicing until you feel like you have it down pat. Then, in the time right before you are scheduled for your interview, do one last review of your notes, just to refresh your brain. This also helps to calm you down as it takes your mind off the stress you might be feeling.
Use It as a Subject for Your Follow-Up
The interview is not the end of the conversation. So, even if you messed up on a question in the interview, it doesn't mean you should never talk about it again. This could actually be one of the things you mention in the thank-you note you send to the interviewer.
For example, at one point in my career, I was interviewing for an assessment manager position. Things were going fine, but then they asked me some technical questions about what type of test I would use in particular situations. Now, I had some educational background in the area and had worked as a Research Analyst early in my career, but it had been a while since I'd used this knowledge. I couldn't come up with the terms immediately. I became flustered and eventually something of an answer came out, but I wasn't completely sure it was right and I knew I wasn't using the terms they were looking for.
After the interview, the Director walked me back to the entrance of the building and told me this probably wasn't the right position for me, but there would be a Data Analyst position coming in the future. I thanked her for her and everyone else's time. As soon as I got home, I cracked open the text books to find out what I should have said. Then I went about writing my thank-you notes and talked about where I went wrong and what the correct answer should have been. Did it get me the job? No. But when that other position opened up, I applied again and contacted the Director by letter. She remember me. Low and behold, I got the next job! Even though I didn't say what I should have in the first interview, I wasn't out of the running.
The lesson here is, even when you make a mistake, don't let it take you out of consideration. We're all human. We all forget things. We all have said the wrong thing at some point, even the hiring manager. They'll understand. Don't try to hide from it. Own it and live up to it by correcting it in your follow-up communication. You'll be surprised how often a flub up can be forgiven when you admit to it and correct it.
Take It as a Lesson Learned for Next Time
Once you realize that you turned left at Albuquerque, when you should have turned right, instead of rehashing the mistake over and over again, let it serve as a lesson on what not to say in your next interview. As they say, there's no use crying over spilled milk. You can't undo it, but you can definitely learn from it.
Take some time to debrief yourself after the interview and think about each question. Ask yourself "What did I say or do that I wish I had done differently?" Then, make sure you never forget this again. If you do this, the next interview will go better.
Eventually, you'll go from slapping your forehead in the car on your way back home from an interview, saying, "I should have said..." to high-fiving yourself and saying "I'm glad I said... and I think I landed the job!"
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!