Five Worst-Case Interview Scenarios

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Five Worst-Case Interview Scenarios

By Kate Lorenz, Editor

You thought you were prepared for that interview. But sometimes even the best laid plans can't ward off unexpected disaster. Besides having a getaway car waiting to quickly whisk you away from an awkward situation, there are ways to overcome even the most embarrassing interview situations.

Certified career counselor Susan Guarneri says to keep in mind that you are only human, as are your interviewers, and everyone knows that stuff happens. When the unthinkable happens in an interview, what's most important is how you manage the situation.

Here are some suggestions on how to handle unforeseen interview mishaps.

You're Late.

Whether you overslept or your train stalled on the tracks, either way, you know you're going to be late for your interview.

Solution: "If you can see you're going to be late, immediately call ahead and let them know," Guarneri advises. That way you won't keep your interviewer waiting and you give them the chance to call the shots -- squeeze you in for a later appointment or reschedule for another day.

You Forgot Your Résumé Materials.

You grabbed your briefcase, but left your portfolio stuffed with your beautifully printed résumés, letters of recommendation and work examples sitting on your kitchen table.

Solution: "This can be easily handled if you planned ahead properly," Guarneri suggests. "Don't rely on just a paper résumé. Have your résumé available online somewhere, such as a blog, personal Web site or in your e-mail. Then it can be instantly retrieved from the interviewer's office."

You Have a Wardrobe Malfunction.

Somewhere between your house and the interviewer's office your smartly pressed suit ends up looking stupid. This happened to one of Guarneri's clients who was splashed by a passing cab right outside the building of the company with which he was going to interview.

Solution: Guarneri recommends continuing to your interview and briefly explaining what happened. Almost everyone has had a wardrobe malfunction occur at an inopportune time -- your interviewer will likely be empathetic to your mud speckled trousers.

You Forget the Name of the Person You're Interviewing With.

You're nervous during an interview and it's common for your mind to go blank.

Solution: If you didn't write it down on, don't see a nameplate on the desk, or can't read it off of certificates adorning the walls, don't fake it, Guarneri warns. Find an opportune time to ask the interviewer for his or her business card, by saying something like, "Before I forget, could have one of your business cards?"

The Interviewer is Distracted.

Another of Guarneri's clients entered an interview only to find the interviewer sitting with his head in his hands and didn't even look up when her client entered the room and sat down.

Solution: If they're not listening when you're talking, are they bored? Are they stressed with other projects? "Pick up on the emotional cues the interviewer is delivering," Guarneri says. "Then recognize the situation and get their attention." In this case, her client said, "If this is a really bad time, I can come back." It ended up the interviewer had just found out his dog had died. Although it wasn't the ideal situation, this gave her client, who has a dog, a chance to connect with the interviewer and they both began sharing dog stories. (He ended up getting the job with just that one interview.)

Guarneri says job seekers often stress when something goes wrong in an interview, but how you manage a challenging situation can say a lot about you. She had a client who flew to Buffalo, New York for an interview and was snowed in by a winter storm. He ended up arriving at the interview three days late, with a rumpled suit (the only clothes he had to wear for the three days) and mismatched shoes (he lost his shoes and had to buy new ones at a nearby thrift store). His perseverance and genuine interest in the position -- along with a healthy dose of humor about the whole situation -- landed him the job.