Job Interview Going Badly? 5 No-Fail Ways To Fix It

Last Updated Oct 20, 2011 6:08 PM EDT

Job interviews are, generally, not fun. You're trying to prove your worth as quickly and efficiently as you can -- sometimes in 20 minutes or less. If things don't go quite right, before you know it you may find yourself getting the "Don't call us..." line and a limp handshake.

But there are ways to turn around a tough interview -- if you act quickly. "The true test of a candidate is not whether they can do things perfectly but more how they respond when things don't go as planned," says Lynne Sarikas, Director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University.

Here are five problems that can occur during an interview, and how to deal with them.

1. The Problem: You're So Nervous You're Shaking
The Solution: Acknowledge It
Sometimes, despite your best preparation, your nerves get the best of you. Unfortunately, this is more likely to happen when the stakes are higher -- say, if you're interviewing for a job you're dying to get. But if you feel your pulse quickening, try to be in the moment.

"Establish and maintain strong eye contact," says Sarikas. If you're worried your shaking will make your potential employer as nervous as you are, point it out. "Let them know it is because you are so enthusiastic about the position and move on. Don't draw more attention to it," says Sarikas.

2. The Problem: They Say You're Overqualified
The Solution: Ask Them Why
This happens a lot when unemployment is high -- there are more qualified candidates interviewing for jobs they might not normally be interested in, simply because they need a job.

If you're in that position, you may need to convince your interviewer you'd be happy with -- and committed to -- the current position. "Do some probing. Are you [really] over-qualified or are they worried that you are overpriced?" says Sarikas. If you're able to alleviate their financial concerns, you may keep yourself in the game.

3. The Problem: They Think You're Under-Qualified
The Solution: Fill in the Blanks
If you really are less experienced than the job requires, you can always ask what skills you would need to develop for the future -- or ask about other positions that you would be better suited for.

But if you think your interviewer just isn't seeing your real qualifications, address any concerns upfront. "Calmly look at them, and tell them, 'I understand how it can appear that way and it makes sense. However, I'm not sure I adequately explained that area of experience. Would you mind if I elaborated a bit?'" says career expert Jeff Gordon.

4. The Problem: They Seem Bored
The Solution: Connect on a Human Level
Any sign of boredom could signal that they're tuning you out as a candidate, so it's imperative to catch your interviewer's attention. "Stop talking, take a breath and smile. Try [to] make them feel important with a question like, 'What do you like about working here?'" suggests Gordon. People love talking about themselves -- and by responding directly, your interviewer will be forced to focus on you.

5. The Problem: You Draw a Blank
The Solution: Say Something
If you're stumped, you can ask them to repeat the question or explain it a bit more. "Otherwise, take a deep breath and answer honestly. Some answer is better than deafening silence," says Sarikas.

You can massage the answer as you go, she adds: "Often once you get started, the rest of the answer flows."

Have you turned a bad interview around? How? Please share in the comments section below.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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