Recently, a reader shared a stressful job interview story. He was thrown a curveball when a hiring manager asked, "How many cows are there in Canada?" Sadly, his answer didn't get him the job. In fact, the question threw him off so badly, he got flustered and struggled to compose himself for the rest of the interview. If you've ever had a job interview go sideways on you, you know it can be tough to get back on track. Here's the one tip I give all job-seekers when they find themselves in that spot.

Give yourself a chance to breathe by making the hiring manager do the talking.

A great way to let yourself regain composure in an interview is to take a break from answering questions. How can you do that? By politely and enthusiastically turning the tables. If you had a tough question, and both you and the hiring manager know it, why not call out the obvious and use it to your advantage? You could say something like this,

"Wow, that question was challenging. I could use a minute to regroup. So, can I  ask you something? I'd love to hear how you came to work for the company."

First, being honest about your need for a quick break from answering questions will help you to relax. Better still, turning it around and asking the hiring manager to share her or his professional journey shifts the focus off the awkward nature of your response and onto the positive subject of them getting hired. It changes the negative dynamic and energy of the conversation. Best of all, it gives you a chance to take a breath, smile, and nod as a way to regain your composure and positive mindset. By the time the hiring manager finishes talking, you'll both be back in sync!

P.S. No need to bring it up again.

Once you've got the curveball interview question behind you, don't feel the need to re-address it. Especially in the thank-you note. Reminding a hiring manager of your mistake isn't a good idea. It can send the message you're the kind of person that obsesses over an error and can't let it go. Instead, focus your thanks on how much you enjoyed talking with them. In particular, highlight something you liked hearing about -- such as how they got hired! Letting hiring managers know you were paying attention and appreciated what they had to say is the best way to give thanks for them taking the time to meet with you.

Published on: Apr 30, 2019
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