How to Recover from Answering an Interview Question Poorly

You’re in the middle of an interview, and you gave a terrible response to the last question. Oh no! Did you just destroy your chances of landing this job? Probably not. Here’s how to recover from answering an interview question poorly.

Tips for Overcoming a Poor Interview Answer

Stay Calm

When you respond to an interview question poorly, your first reaction may be to PANIC. However, take a deep breath and put everything in perspective. Pretend you’re back in school and the hiring manager is grading you. If you answered 16 questions total with 1 wrong and 15 right, you would score 16 ÷ 15 or 94%. That’s not bad! Usually, a missed response (or two or three) won’t make or break the outcome.

Apologize If Necessary

If you accidentally said something inappropriate or offensive, a quick apology is fine. Just remember to keep your statement brief and to the point. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Let me try again.” Don’t attempt to explain yourself as this often only leads to more trouble. Also, if you got confused or lost your train of thought, the best strategy is to simply move on. Attempting to revisit a question when you are flustered is likely to do more harm than good.


Ok. The last question went badly. You can’t change it. What you CAN control is your answer to the next question and the one after that. If you’re having a “What was I thinking?” conversation with yourself, you’re missing what the interviewer is currently asking. And this quickly leads to a downward spiral of more poorly answered questions. So, put your mistake in the past and forget about it for now. There’s always time to revisit (and think about how to improve) your responses once the interview is over.

Bounce Back

It’s a fact. Everybody makes mistakes. Hiring managers know this. That’s why they’re searching for resilient employees who have a talent for overcoming setbacks. Surprisingly, bombing an interview question could work to your advantage. Showing you can recover from a poor response (in real life) may be more impressive than answering every question perfectly.

Finish Strong

Even if you make a misstep along the way, you still can leave the hiring manager with a positive final impression. At the end of the interview, ask insightful questions, express gratitude for the opportunity and say a polite goodbye. And finally, remember to follow up with a post-interview thank-you note. This is a wonderful way to stand out from the other candidates. Plus, within the note, you may have a chance to cleverly re-address that missed question.

Are You Looking for More Interview Advice?

FirstStaff publishes weekly blog posts on a variety of topics ranging from red flags in an interview to common interview questions. And if you’re having trouble landing a job, our recruiters can help with that too! We place light industrial workers, administrative staff and other professionals in Little Rock, Arkansas and beyond. Learn more about the advantage of job hunting through FirstStaff today!

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