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That ‘Foot in Mouth’ Interview Moment and How to Survive It

Head in Hands ImageHave you ever had a moment when you wish you could quickly snatch the words you’ve just spoken out of the air and swallow them before they get heard? Most of us have opened our mouths just to put our foot in it and you’re very lucky if you haven’t. It’s even worse when you’re in an interview. If it happens to you here’s how to get passed it…


No matter how confident you are of getting a job the likelihood is that you will be nervous when going for an interview. The added pressure of trying to be likeable yet professional, combined with your brain working overtime to recall all the facts and figures you’ve memorised from your research, can lead us to blurt out things we wouldn’t normally. Start asking around and you’ll hear most people have a bad interview story but not everyone will admit to a ‘FIM’ moment, probably because of the embarrassment factor. I quizzed my friends for examples and the overall message was positive; you can overcome it and in some cases use it in your favour.

I was being interviewed by two fairly cool women and we got round to talking about the culture of the company.  They said that there was a high female to male ratio in the office.  Wanting to sound fine with that, I said very loudly “That’s OK, I don’t mind tampons flying around the office!”  There was a bit of an awkward silence and then I think I saw them smile and carry on with the questions.  I managed to keep it together and not say anything else too ridiculous, and I got the job.  After a few months of working there they told me in the pub that they weren’t sure if I’d be able to do the job but that they hired me because they really liked me!  Maybe it was the tampons that sealed the deal….

Unfortunately there’s no rewind or erase button when you say the wrong thing, the answer to getting passed it is your ability to rally; how you can spin the bad into the good. In the example above, my anonymous friend managed not to let what was said affect the rest of the interview. Being calm under pressure is a very marketable skill and showing that you aren’t flustered by your actions can reflect well on you.

If you’re a Friends fan you might remember the one where Chandler interviews for a new job…


The unlucky Mr Bing fell into the old trap of thinking the interview was over so relaxed and when things went bad he became rattled and lost his composure. So what should he have done? Well, he could have recognised that the interviewer didn’t understand his joke and brushed past it. “Oh, it wasn’t anything important but if I could just ask a question about the staffing of the team…” immediately deflecting away from the subject into safer territory.

  • In most cases making a joke in an interview is a risky business, try and leave it to the interviewers. If they make a joke then you will get a feeling of their sense of humour and may be able to match it. If you do crack a joke and it falls flat, just let it pass, don’t let it fluster you. You might say something like “Sorry, I’m a much better programmer than a comedian,” but then stick to the facts.
  • Remember to keep your body language in check. It’s all too easy to look like your mistake bothers you or that you were embarrassed. Mentally shake it off, literally sit up straight but relaxed, and keep your eye contact going with the interviewer. Don’t cross your arms or fiddle with your clothing. Show an outwardly calm and composed demeanour and you’ll be surprised how it effects how you feel inwardly.
    • People put their foot in it every day, often in much more embarrassing and public ways than in an interview; Politicians, TV presenters, Sports People. Often the public will forget the actual event but if the person doesn’t handle it well that they will remember.


If you’re worried about interviews, and a University of Hertfordshire student or graduate, you can visit us for help. We offer advice and resources on completing interviews and can offer you a mock interview after you have been to see us for an initial session. You can also practice your interview skills online with our practice interview service!


Book an appointment      –     See our resources      –     Practice an interview


photo credit: Alex Proimos via cc



Jerome Price Photograph

Jerome Price is the Online and Digital Content Manager in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

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