How to Answer Job Interview Questions if the Interview Is Going Badly

Many job seekers have experienced that awful, sinking feeling when a job interview isn't going as planned. You may have blanked on a question, or stumbled your way through an answer; whatever the problem, things seem to be going from bad to worse. Despite what you might think, all is not lost. If you can recover from a bad start, you still have a chance to impress your interviewers.

Take a Mental Time Out

When things are going badly, you may start to tense up, and that makes things go even worse. Take charge of that cycle. As you listen (carefully) to the next question, take positive steps to relax yourself. Roll your shoulders back, sit up a little straighter, take several slow, deep breaths, and exhale fully. Make eye contact, and if it's an appropriate moment, smile at your interviewer. All of these measures can help you relax physically and restore your confidence.

Don't Get Emotional

Try your hardest not to get rattled or provoked if your interviewer is aggressive or bad-tempered. Continue to be polite and professional, even if you're inwardly cringing. The interviewer's behavior could be a tactic to see how you respond under pressure, so don't take it as a sign that things are going badly -- just keep your cool.


When you catch yourself giving a terrible answer, don't forge ahead making things worse and worse. Stop, pause and say you'd like to rephrase -- then begin again as if your first attempt had never happened. Most interviewers will be impressed by a candidate who has the self-awareness and confidence to recover from a mistake.

Take the Initiative

Find a moment to begin asking some of your own questions. This can turn things around, and give you a breather as the interviewer has to formulate some answers. Ask about the specific responsibilities of the role, ask about the culture of the company, or ask the interviewer about his own job and responsibilities. It shows you're taking an active and thoughtful interest in the company.

Sell Yourself

If you feel you're not getting the opportunity to really show what you can do because the interviewer is disengaged or isn't asking the right questions, try pivoting the subject toward what you want to say. Briefly answer the question asked, and then use a linking phrase such as "and I'd really like to add..." or "I'd like to give you an example from my last job of..." Then you can use a few minutes to really sell yourself and your professional achievements.