Fear of Imperfection
Perfection is an overrated concept. Even those who know it's unattainable try for it when they interview. What's the result? Nervousness. Fear you won't be liked. Fear you'll be unable to answer a question. Fear that you won't be asked back. Fear that you might, but they hire the other person instead.
Fear generally stems from a lack of preparation or from being too attached to the outcome. When you really want the job, but are afraid of not getting it, you try too hard and worry too much about pleasing the interviewer. Consequently, you lose touch with who you are and sabotage yourself, bringing about the opposite outcome from the one you consciously desired. A small incident can take on monumental proportions.
Scenarios and Solutions
Even when you've done your homework or aren't desperate to please, things can go amok, scattering your composure. If Murphy's Law should rear its ugly head, here are a few scenarios and how to handle them.
In the middle of a sentence, you forget what you're talking about.
Don't try to recoup by talking randomly in an attempt to get back on track. Trying to pretend it didn't happen makes it more noticeable. Instead, break the awkwardness and throw a little lightness into the situation. Smile. Say, "I'm sorry. I guess I'm a little nervous. I forgot what I was saying!" Interviewers forget what they're saying too.
An incessant tickle in your throat makes you cough continually.
The interviewer is bound to offer you a glass of water. Don't be shy, proud, or embarrassed. Take it and say, "Thank you." Then smile, pause, gather yourself. Continue where you left off. Interviewers cough too.
You burp unexpectedly.
Finesse is definitely the key with this one, along with your thought process. Look surprised and aghast; you probably are anyway. Smile gracefully and say, "Excuse me. I'm a little embarrassed by that!" Resist the urge to say anything about your lunch. Put it out of your mind, and continue with the interview. At some point in their recent life, your interviewer, too, has burped at the wrong moment.
Your cell phone rings.
Don't answer it. Turn it off, only if it's easily accessible, and if not, ignore it. Say, "I'm sorry. I thought I'd turned that off earlier." If it rings again, then turn it off. Better yet, make sure that you do that before you arrive.
You knock an item onto the floor and it breaks.
A simple "I'm so sorry," will suffice. When you begin to pick up the pieces, the interviewer should tell you not to bother. If you can replace it easily, like a coffee mug, do so. If it can be fixed, offer to take it to the best repair shop around. Otherwise send some flowers or a plant the next day with a brief, handwritten note of apology. Your thank you letter still counts and it's a separate document in a separate envelope.
Relax... Nobody's Perfect
The common thread in these instances is gracefulness. People tend to make a mistake and babble excuses, attempt to be funny, and then silently and mentally dwell on it for the remainder of the interview. And not coincidentally, they don't get the job.
Interviewers aren't perfect either. They've sneezed without a tissue, they've been fired, and they've said the wrong thing at the wrong moment. Keep your composure. It's not what you do; it's how you handle it.