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How to Recover from a Bad Interview Answer

Despite your best efforts, preparation and practice, in a live interview scenario you just might mangle an answer to a seemingly harmless interview question. What happens next? You might find yourself scrambling to save your performance, only to then ruin your answers to the next question and the ones that follow with your lack of focus. Here are a few tips to help ease your mind should you run into this unfortunate set of events.

Bad Interview Answer (Photo: istockphoto)

Re-answer the question during the Q&A period
If you messed up the answer to a question you can salvage your response by proactively suggesting or requesting to re-answer the question with your interviewer when the conversation turns to you taking the lead. Your interviewer should be reasonable enough to give you a second chance in the spirit of clarification. Say something like “I would like to re-visit the question on [x subject] we covered earlier. What I meant to say was…”

Use the thank you letter to re-state your position
If you cannot re-answer the question during the Q&A, your next opportunity to salvage a bungled response is in the thank you letter. Summoning your better angle of tact and modesty, give yourself the opportunity to assert what you really meant to say in writing. If you go this route, make sure you are 100% clear on your answer to avoid any and all doubt. With this response now in writing, there is no going back!

Answer every following question as close to perfect as you can
With this method, you are betting on your interviewer having a very short memory. Maybe the question you thought you mangled wasn’t all that bad. If that’s the case, make sure that you knock every other question out of the park with elegant and well-constructed answers as you can conjure. Flood your interviewer with amazing responses that clearly demonstrate that you are the right fit for the job so that that is all he or she remembers.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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