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How to handle these 4 interview curveballs

Don’t let a surprise twist stand between you and your dream job.

How to handle these 4 interview curveballs

You’ve successfully made it past the first challenge of landing the job: your application got the hiring manager’s attention. Now, it’s time to do your first interview. It’s okay to feel nervous, but you don’t want to let that show.

So what happens if the hiring manager throws you a curveball? From the interview being cut short to a surprise on-the-spot interview, don’t let an unexpected detour stress you out.

“Curveballs happen every single day in the workplace,” says Kristi Jones, manager of talent acquisition at H&R Block in Kansas City, Missouri. “This is your chance to prove how agile and flexible you are, and employers like that quality.”

The more you prepare ahead of time, the better you can handle any situation. These tips will help you tackle any curveball that’s thrown your way.

Your interview’s been rescheduled

If your interviewer makes a last-minute change, Jones says it’s important to always be understanding if the employer has to reschedule. Why? This will show that you’re flexible and easy to work with.

Additionally, if you’re willing to reschedule to find a convenient time for them, it sends a message that you value the company’s time and really want to work there.

If the interview gets switched from in-person to over the phone or Skype, don’t change your game plan, says Scott Gordon, partner and national director of recruiting at Vaco, a consulting and specialized recruiting firm based in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It's critical that those be treated as an in-person meeting. That might be your only shot if the meeting was rescheduled,” says Gordon. “Accept the fact that if you've got what they want, they'll act quickly.”

Your interview’s been cut short

In some cases, the interview will end abruptly, or a new person will be sent in to finish the interview. Whatever happens, it’s important to stay confident, positive—and of course, understanding.

“The worst-case scenario is that they cancel the interview completely,” says Jones. “But if that happens, remain calm and be nice. You just need to ask when the interview will be rescheduled and thank them for their time and consideration.”

Being polite about an abrupt conclusion shows you’re professional and courteous, which are two great qualities to demonstrate to a potential employer. Your interviewer might feel bad about cutting the interview short, but how you react could leave a positive impression in their mind.

If the interview gets cut short before you can ask questions, Gordon says you follow up in an email. “Also, continue to express your interest in the job and ask more questions about it,” he says. “This shows you want it.”

You’re forced to improvise on the spot

You can spend all the time you want preparing for an interview, but you can never truly know what types of questions you’re going to be asked. Jones personally doesn’t use curveball questions but says employers who want to throw a curveball at a candidate will most likely do so during the in-person interview.

“Curveballs help test a candidate’s creativity, logical thinking skills and the ability to think on their feet,” explains Jones. “The important thing to remember is that there’s no right answer with most of these types of questions.”

What types of questions should you expect? Jones say these are the four curveball questions she sees the most:

  • If you had only one word to describe yourself, what would that be?
  • If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
  • What is your favorite website?
  • What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?

If this happens, Jones says you shouldn’t change your game plan. Rather, she suggests that you stay engaged in the conversation, make eye contact and sell yourself without being arrogant.

“As far as the curveball interview questions being asked, relax and take a minute to think about every question before answering,” Jones says. “Pauses of silence are a good thing. Ask a follow-up question for clarification if needed.”

If you feel anxious after the interview because you’re unsure of how well you improvised, take it as a learning lesson. “If you blow one or two questions, that’s okay,” says Gordon. “But learn from that and better prepare for improvising next time.”

“Do a mock interview with friends or family. If you pass that, you’ll be able to breeze through the real one,” he advises.

You’re asked, ‘Do you have any questions?’

At the end of an interview, you’re mostly likely going to be asked if you have any questions. This should not be a curveball, but it might feel like one if you don’t prepare ahead of time.

Jones suggests that, before you do the interview, do your research on the company and the position. Then, come prepared with at least three to four questions to ask.

Atlanta career coach Hallie Crawford recommends inquiring about the expectations for the first 30, 60, and 90 days. This way you get a sense of what the job is like without asking, “What’s a typical day like?” or something equally generic, she told Monster. This shows that you are prepared and are eager to learn about the role and company.

“If you’ve done your research on the company and provide detailed examples specific to situations you’ve experienced in the past, you should be able to handle any curveball,” advises Jones.

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