What to do when something goes wrong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 May, 2005, 12:00am

NO MATTER HOW well prepared you are for your first job interview, Murphy's Law says: 'If anything can go wrong, it will.'

You are going to be nervous before an interview and one more item to panic about might send you over the edge. Use these survival tips to help prepare you for the big day.

There will be times when, no matter what you do, you're going to run late for an interview. Whether you are in traffic, stuck in an elevator, splashed by a moving bus, wrestling an alligator, whatever ... you need to call if you will not be there at the exact minute your interview starts.

Take a deep breath and concentrate on the words to use for this conversation - this is going to be a very important call because the recruiter is going to want to know why you are ringing at the last minute and will expect an apology.

The easiest way out is to tell the truth: 'A baby threw up on me on my way to the interview and I had to run to the department store to buy a new shirt. I really apologise for this and I wanted to call to inform you that I will be there in 20 minutes.'

Recruiters will be accepting if your situation falls into the 'cannot be avoided' category.

People often spend time getting their shoes polished and hair coiffed, then forget one crucial detail: to bring a crisp copy of their resume. If you do forget and the recruiter asks for a copy, say that you tried printing out a copy of it but the printer just would not co-operate and you will e-mail/fax/messenger a copy as soon as you get home.

If during the interview the recruiter catches you off guard with a question you don't know how to answer, take an approach taught in politics 101 - stall. 'That's a really good question ... can you clarify or expand on your question?' This will buy you some time to think of an appropriate response.

If you still don't know, then take a lesson from the advanced politics course: answer the question by not answering it. 'I think the contributions made by Steve Jobs have been very important to the shaping of this industry. It reminds me that I must think about the goals I would like to achieve in my career, such as ...'

There is nothing worse than calling a recruiter the wrong name. It shows that you did not come prepared or were not paying attention during the introduction. If you think this might happen to you, memorise these lines:

'Sharon, I'm really sorry. I've met many people today and I got a little mixed up placing names to everyone's faces. Sharon, I apologise.'

Use his or her name in your apology. Keep it short and move right back into the interview.