How to Recover After You Say Something That Makes You Unqualified During an Interview

Did you just totally fumble during an interview question, making you appear unqualified and unprofessional?

Here’s an example:

“I was so glad to have my old co-workers guide that he wrote for this particular job function. Without it, I would have been totally lost, since I can’t do that function on my own!”

Oops. The rest of the interview was going well, but then you made it seem like you didn’t know what you were doing. But, don’t panic! Recruiters don’t often see your folly at face value. Instead, they may ask more questions to help understand your learning process and to see what other values make you qualified for the job.

So if you accidentally messed up, here are some great ways to recover.

1. Don’t Repeat Your Qualifications

When you started the interview, one of the first things you talked about was your qualifications. Plus, most of your skillsets and experiences are already highlighted on your resume, so it’s likely that the recruiter already knows what your qualifications are.

Don’t embellish on your qualifications just to save face. You should also never lie. If someone asks you a direct question about your experience, answer it honestly. If there are certain things you truly have no experience in, it’s okay to talk about it.

It’s much better to say “I haven’t really done that specific task on my own too much” than to try and make it seem like you know what you’re doing. 

2. Answer All Questions

After your folly, the recruiter will want to ask you a lot more follow-up questions about it. Interviewers want to see you succeed, and so they will likely want to find out more about what experiences you do have. They also want to give you a chance to explain yourself.

Going back to the example discussed at the beginning, the recruiter may ask you more about your co-worker’s guide. Perhaps they will want to know what your specific role in using that guide was. How familiar were you with the guide? Could you write your own guide, now that you have familiarized yourself with the function? Perhaps you can use this as an opportunity to talk about how you needed the guide at first, but after getting your feet wet you were able to perform the function with no help at all.

The most important thing is that you don’t lose your cool. Stay calm and confident, and you can get out of this little pickle easily.

3. Discuss the Job Requirements

Another thing you can do is confirm that the job is really what you think it is. While your goal is to impress the recruiter, it can be hard when they ask you about something you didn’t know was on the list of job requirements.

Recruiters can mess up too. Perhaps they forgot to include something in the job description that would have been helpful for you to know. You can ask about this in a polite way. For example:

“I may have missed this on the job description, but can you explain in what ways I would be performing that function in this job role? What would my responsibilities be?”

Sometimes it’s really just a matter of clearing things up. You may find out that the job is perhaps too big for your wheelhouse, but that’s okay. It’s good to get the interview experience anyway.

If you’ve said something that you fear will prevent you from getting the job, don’t worry! There are many ways to recover and make it seem like it isn’t a big deal. Just remain confident and do your best.