The interview process can be an overwhelming experience. And no matter how much you’re prepared, it can still go off the rails. Perhaps nerves got the best of you or you were running late. Many of us have had a job interview that didn’t go well. Here’s how to spot when your interview isn’t going as you planned and what you can do in response.

Signs your interview isn’t going well

The interviewer’s body language

If the interviewer seems disinterested, their arms are crossed, they don’t smile, or lean away from you as you speak, it could be a sign they’re just not that into you.

The interview is short

Interviews are nerve-wracking enough, so the shorter the better, right? Not necessarily. If an interviewer isn’t asking behavioural based questions or situational questions that relates to the position or give you a reason why the interview has been cut short (such as an emergency), they’re likely going through the motions.

There’s no mention of next steps

Red flags include an interviewer not bringing up a second round of interviews, asking after your references, or at the very least when you’ll hear back. If you’re not asked when you’re available to start, or how much notice you need to give, it’s likely you’re not a contender.

They offer you career advice

An interviewer offering you general advice on your career as they escort you out of the room is pretty much a death knell. Listen to what they have to say, it just may prove to be useful, and thank them for their time.

Reasons why an interview can go badly

They’ve already identified a qualified candidate

There are times when a bad interview results from circumstances outside of your control. If the hiring manager has already identified a qualified candidate for the position, they may appear disinterested or like they’re going through the motions. While some organizations are transparent about having already identified a lead candidate in the job posting, this isn’t always the case.

Your salary expectations

The hiring manager is interested in you, but can they afford you? Asking for a salary that exceeds the company’s budget can sour an otherwise great job interview. You’ll probably realize the money you’ve asked for isn’t inline with what the job pays if the interviewer’s body language quickly changes or they go from hot to lukewarm. Salary negotiation is a tricky business. Come prepared by researching the salary range for the job title and years of experience. Another tip is to offer a salary range, rather than a firm figure.

Distracted by personal events/illness

Life happens and an interview could go badly because you, or even the interviewer, is distracted by a serious life event, such as a family member’s illness, recent death, or a major transition in your personal life. You’re a human being, and it’s hardly surprising you won’t be on your A game if your thoughts are elsewhere.

Poor planning

Poor planning could cost you the job. This could be anything from showing up in jeans when the hiring manager is in a suit and tie, or following up on the question “What do you know about our company” with an awkward silence. It’s important to spend time researching the company ahead of your interview, plan your route so you don’t arrive late, and dig into the company culture, so you’re dressed appropriately. While running late may be excusable, not doing your homework isn’t.

How to turn around a bad interview

During the interview

During an interview, there’s still the opportunity to turn things around. Remain calm and maintain a positive, confident attitude. If the interviewer is trying not to stifle a yawn, it’s time to change course. If you’ve been talking about your schooling, relate your skills to your community involvement, or a previous summer job connects to this opportunity. You want to find a way to connect with the interviewer. Sometimes it’s clear you haven’t made the impression you hoped. Muster up your courage and ask the question: Do you have any concerns I can address? It’s an opportunity to address them during the interview. Even if you don’t get the job, asking for feedback will help you in the future.

After an interview

Firstly, don’t beat yourself up. A bad interview happens to the best of us and feeling deflated is a normal reaction. Take some time to reflect on the experience and ask yourself if there’s anything you can learn from your mistakes. Write them down and create an action plan so you’re better prepared next time. At the same time, recognize what you did well. Perhaps you remained unruffled or nailed some of the questions asked of you.

 Once you’ve had time to reflect on what went wrong and why, send a thank you email. Not only is it common courtesy after a job interview, it’s also an opportunity to explain your actions in the note. For instance, if you were ill on the day, let the interviewer know that was overshadowing your performance. Reaffirm your enthusiasm for the job opportunity, and explain you’d welcome the opportunity to meet again, if it’s available.

If you’re not sure where to start, Prepped has free email templates available to download. At the very least, you want to leave the interviewer with a positive impression of you, one that is polite and professional.

Many of us will experience an interview that didn’t go as well as we’d like. But you can learn from your experience and take steps to rectify the interview. Sign-up for Prepped and get help with preparing and honing your interview skills.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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