10 ways to recover from a job interview stumble

When you say the absolute wrong thing during a job interview, these comebacks can help put you back on track.

10 ways to recover from a job interview stumble


Job interviews are nerve-racking for even the most polished candidates and it’s all too easy to succumb to foot-in-mouth disease. Among the worst job interview mistakes? When you can feel the wrong words leaving your lips while your inner voice is screaming, “No, no! Abort! Abort!” Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve totally wrecked your chances at landing the job.

We asked experts for useful phrases to help you regain your composure and recover from a mid-interview stumble.

If you say: “I have no idea how to answer your question.”

Recover with: “That’s a great question, but I'd need some time to think about it before I could give you an answer I'm satisfied with. May I send you an email with my answer?”

Because: “This makes you look thoughtful and not clueless. Do some research to properly answer the question." —Robin Ryan, career counselor and author of Over 40 & You're Hired, based in the Seattle area

If you say: “Oh, I’m online all day long, checking Facebook and Twitter and stuff.”

Recover with: “I’m really excited about social media. I’m very active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. I’ll check out any new social media platform because I love observing and thinking about how people connect to each other.”

Because: “In this [follow-up phrase], you’ve shown your prospective employer two great skills that might be attractive to them: educating yourself on the latest social media platforms and technology, and paying attention to how people connect.” —Tama Kieves, coach and author of Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work, Denver, Colorado 

If you say: “I hate the job I have now. My boss stinks.”

Recover with: “I apologize. What I meant is that I’m just very underutilized at work. I love being highly productive, and that is not the case right now. But I shouldn’t have blamed my boss.” 

Because: “Apologize for this blunder and have a specific reason for why you are job hunting. Show you want more challenging work.”  —Robin Ryan

If you say: “I have no idea where I want to be in five years.”

Recover with: “I’m passionate about honing my skill set in this industry, and I’m passionate about your company and management team. I’m not sure what role I’ll be in in five years, but I’m looking for something for the long term.”

Because: “You don’t want to say that you’re just trying them out. Show that you’re there for a reason, not to use them as a launchpad.” —Dandan Zhu, CEO and founder of Dandan Global in the New York City area

If you say: “I don’t like change.”

Recover with: “But I am open to the unknown, and I am comfortable working in an environment that can shift.”

Because: “Every company nowadays is going through some sort of change, and you need to be able to adapt. If you’re not open to possible changes, you might be a risk to hire.” —Joshua Miller, executive coach in San Francisco area

If you say: “I’m not really into the job itself, but I’d be a great cultural fit here.”

Recover with: “I love your company, I love the industry that it is in, and I love your organization’s brand and culture. I would really like the opportunity to contribute to this company, even starting on the ground floor.”

Because: “While the first slip-up makes it seem like you won’t want to do the job that you’re applying for, the follow-up reframes this in a better context, illustrating that you want to join the company and aren’t afraid to do grunt work to join the organization. This is to make sure that the interviewer doesn’t think that you believe the work would be beneath you, while still emphasizing that one of the factors that appeals to you is the organization’s culture as a whole.” —Paul Bernard, executive coach and career management consultant in the New York City area

If you say: “I’m not sure why my resume says that.”

Recover with: “I customize my resume for different employers, and I didn’t realize I left that bit there. It’s not necessarily relevant to this job, but it’s an interesting thing about me.”

Because: “You should prepare customized versions of your resume for each employer, so tell the interviewer it was just an oversight.” —Stacey A. Gordon, diversity, inclusion, and career strategist, Los Angeles

If you say: “How much time off do I get?”

Recover with: “What does this company do to help its employees achieve work-life balance?”

Because: “You should already know something about the company’s culture from your research, so turn it into a work-life balance question.” —Joshua Miller

If you say: “What does this company do?”

Recover with: “What I mean is, what strategies does this company currently employ in order to achieve its goals, and what are the results like so far?”

Because: “If you really don’t know what a company does, that’s fatal. You should be over-prepared. Do your research and know everything you can about the job.” —Stacey A. Gordon

If you say: “[Expletive!]”

Recover with: “Excuse my French.”

Because: “Never, ever swear. If you do slip up, immediately apologize and move forward.” —Paul Bernard

Say what?

Knowing what to say—and what not to say—is a key part of communicating with, well, everyone. And when you're under pressure, you might not be thinking as quickly as you're speaking. Relax. Job interview mistakes are avoidable. Could you use some help keeping your cool? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get useful career advice, job search tips, and interview insights that can help put you at ease. We know it's not the easiest thing in the world to go out there and sell yourself to hiring managers, but by getting comfortable with the process, you'll feel more confident and less prone to sticking your foot three inches into your mouth.