How to End a Bad Interview (Without ending your chances to get hired)

You can’t outrun a bad interview.

It’s happened to me.

I’m sure it’s happened to you too.

A bad interview.

You’ve been looking forward to this conversation

You’ve prepped your questions

Did your research

Anchored yourself in your previous successes

And in a flash, you can see all the promise of this position crumbling before your eyes.

At least that’s how it feels.

We all have bad days

But bad interviews, nah.

No one wants to deal with those.

When you show up to a phone, Zoom or in person interview, you’re ready.

And, it’s fair to expect the interviewer to be ready.

You made it this far in the process already,

And you think, “surely, they wouldn’t waste their time or mine”….

If that thought crosses your mind, you may be facing a bad interview.

If you’ve been around for a bit you may have heard me say this and if you haven’t, I’m glad you’re here to hear it:

Solve the right problems in the right order.

Solving the right problems in the right order is a powerful principle for many situations in our professional and personal lives.

It requires us to look more objectively and consider what would give us the best possible results.

And, it the case of more complex situations, it builds momentum and fuels our motivation.

In the case of a bad interview, there are a couple things you can do.

Is it a technical or human problem?

If it’s a technical problem, solve that first.

If it’s something you can turn off and turn back on – thanks to Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper for making it universally acceptable to solve technical glitches with the click of a button.

If it’s a human problem…thaaat’s a little tricker.

Bad interview signals (Zoom version)

  • A person who keeps looking down (presumably at their phone)
  • A person who glances off to the side (presumably at another screen with their emails)
  • A person who turns their camera off and on or just remains off screen

Bad interview signals (all interviews):

  • A person who shows up late and looks distracted
  • A person who shows up disgruntled
  • A distracted or disengaged interviewer even after the first couple of minutes
  • Attitude that creeps into their voice or shows up on their face

There isn’t enough sparkle in your personality or power in your story to adjust something you can’t control.

All of these are show stoppers.

How to Take control of a Bad Interview

First, take the focus off yourself.

That may sound counterintuitive.

You may be thinking that if you keep talking then you are taking the pressure off the other person to have to do anything except listen.

But listening is the MOST important thing for an interviewer to do.

And if they aren’t doing that, what’s the point?

There are two things you can do instead.

Now that you’ve taken the focus off yourself, there are two simple ways you can address the current situation without blowing your chances at the company.

Option 1: pause

The power of the pause is real.

Seriously, just stop talking.

It’s going to be uncomfortable.

You can handle being uncomfortable for a few seconds.

Then, offer to give them a few minutes to take care of something:

  • Answer the text
  • Respond to the email

Whatever IT is that’s causing them to be distracted in the moment.

Option 2: offer to reschedule and get the date

If you’ve tried the pause or if it’s so distracting that your ability to concentrate is suffering, offer to reschedule gracefully and with kindness.

“I noticed that I may have lost your attention for a minute. Is there something specific you’d like me to clarify or would you prefer to reschedule this conversation at better time?  I’m available on…”


It’s not you, but it’s about you.

As a leader, you have been able to develop high performing teams, right?

And one of the most critical aspects of leadership is interpersonal skills.

And one of the most critical aspects of interpersonal skills is authenticity.

You are authentically gracious and empathetic, tap into those traits and take control of a bad interview.

Get out there.

You’ve got this.


P.S.  Please take a few minutes to acknowledge that it’s disappointing and frustrating, but don’t bad mouth the interviewer.  You may be surprised how quickly those off-hand comments can travel to the person/people you don’t want them to.