Job interviews are tricky things. Like a balancing act combined with a first date, there are plenty of pitfalls you can tumble into if you haven't done your homework. Just when you are starting to feel confident, along comes a curly question that you answer badly, and out the door you go! However there are ways to turn things around when it all starts to go "pear-shaped".

The salary question
Millions of interviews throughout time have suddenly pitched to a halt when the gap between what the company is paying and what the candidate is seeking seems too large. Pitch too high, and you price yourself out of the market. Pitch too low, and you are seen as a "lightweight", no matter how good you are.

Before you randomly pick a figure out of the air, however, try to do some research about what the role is paying. Alternatively, respond with a band - eg, "late $80s to mid-$90s, depending on the package". That way there is a bit of "leeway" for the employer if they are only looking at paying $80k, or are happy to part with the thick end of $100k.

Not showing enthusiasm
This can be a real turnoff for many recruiters.Interviewing a technically great candidate can quickly descend into a total farce if they show no desire for the role or the company. If you feel the interview is turning this way, quickly turn on the charm. People like people who are both nice and enthusiastic. You will massively improve your chances of success if you turn this into an opportunity to practically demonstrate your outstanding communication skills.


Sounding bitter
No matter what happens, never make bitter or negative statements about previous employers. No matter what they have done to you in the past, remember your job interview is about the future and moving forward. If you find you are starting to "death spiral" into criticism, pull out immediately and talk instead about the vibrant new challenges ahead and what you are hoping to learn in their exciting new role.

The "no" phone call
Sometimes no matter what you do, other candidates are more qualified or experienced. If you receive a phone call saying you won't be going to the second round, take it gracefully and positively. This is especially important when dealing with recruiters, as if you "throw your toys out of the cot" you will miss out on any further opportunities coming through their doors.

A friend of mine on receiving the ill-fated "no" call turned it around completely. He thanked the employer for their time, and asked what he could have done to improve his chances if he was ever again to be interviewed by the business.

In the ensuing discussion, he talked about his passion for the company and industry, and was then told he could come in for a second interview after all. At the next meeting he went on a charm offensive and later that week was offered the job!

The Scouts are right
To stand out and be at your best you must be prepared! Knowing the prospective employer's expectations of the ideal candidate before the interview can really put you in the driving seat. Almost all advertisements and job descriptions have a section focused on what the ideal candidate will have in terms of skills, experience and qualifications. Make sure you study this, then "mirror" these key points back to the interviewer during your meeting. That works very well.

Tom O'Neil is international author of Selling Yourself to Employers, award-winning speaker and CEO of both and CV.CO.NZ. You can contact Tom at