How to Overcome an Interview Error

It’s called being human. It happens to everyone. You are asked a question and blow the answer.

Now there is one answer that is always useful. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” No one is expected to know everything. According to Einstein, a clock that is moving runs slower than a clock that is at rest. Similarly, a rod is shorter when moving than when at rest. I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it. (I think it’s because the clock or rod are pushing up against gravity, but my Ph.D. is in International Relations, so what do I know? And what if the clock is digital – something that did not exist in Einstein’s day?) But if Einstein says it, it’s good enough for me.

Of course, I would never be interviewing for a job where I would have to explain the Special or General Theory of Relativity (and, I admit, I am not certain which one is relevant here, although I think it’s the Special). But what if you are interviewing for a job for which, heaven forbid, you are actually qualified?

That happened to me years ago. I was asked a very simple question. “How are your communication skills?” What’s easier to answer than a question where you can engage in self-praise and brag?

As I began to answer the question I heard myself saying what I was about to say and I could not stop myself. I actually said,

“I write good…” Luckily, I knew I had a big problem which I had to fix in a nanosecond, if not sooner.

Humor is never a good idea in a job interview. I guarantee the joke will bomb or someone will be offended. I was once asked, in an interview, to tell a joke. I chose this one (compliments of Buddy Hackett):

A duck walks into a pharmacy. The druggist asks him, “How can I help you?” “I need Chapstick.” “Will that be cash or charge?” “Put it on my bill!”

OK, it’s a terrible pun. But offensive? No. Yet, for some reason that no one could understand, one woman in the room did not react with a chuckle or a moan of feigned disgust, but almost with disdain.

But there is one type of humor that you may get away with: Self-deprecating. When you make fun of yourself, people should laugh with you, not at you. It’s also a sign that you have no ego issues.

So how did I get out of my grammatical conundrum?

“I write good…and speak even betterer.”

Everyone laughed and no one was the wiser. (And, yes, I got the job.)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

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