Graduate Coach Blog

The 1 thing NOT to do if your mind goes blank during an interview

Posted: May 11, 2015 at 10:11 am | Author: Chris Davies

Do you worry your mind will go blank during an interview?

What do you do when your mind suddenly goes blank during the middle of answering interview questions? We’ve all been there – in the middle of speaking, you lose your train of thought, information at the tip of your tongue vanishes from your brain and your mind is completely blank. You are not alone. It has even happened to famous actors – remember the tongue-tied Sally Field during her 2007 Emmys acceptance speech?

While this may be no big deal when chatting with friends, it can feel like a catastrophe when it happens during a job interview. Unless you have a medical issue, the cause of your blank mind is likely to be due to you becoming distracted. You have more than one thing on your mind and you are likely trying to remember them all at once. During an interview scenario the added stress of wanting to come across well to others can make us forget what we want to say because we’re juggling so many points.

Worrying over your interview increases the risk of your mind going blank

The cruel irony is that the more you worry about coming up blank during an interview, the more likely it is to happen. Chartered psychologist Bev Stone did some work on people who experience blank minds while presenting and says that it is better to be ‘distracted in that you’re not that bothered whether you win or lose’. This is easier said than done during an interview when you want the job really badly but you will find that you will relax physically and mentally and therefore perform far better.

The one thing you should not do if your mind suddenly goes blank during an interview is to sit there with an equally blank expression on your face! The very best way to assuage these fears is to review a set of strategies that you can employ when and if the dreaded blank mind strikes you during an interview or other important speaking engagement. Here are a few ideas.

Strategies to help if your mind goes blank during an interview

  1. Silence can be golden – When you are in the middle of a brain gap, the seconds can feel like hours and you can become positive that everyone around you is scrutinising your silence. In reality, long pauses can actually be used to make your words more effective and can give you a few precious moments to collect your thoughts.Try practising in front of a friend and forcing yourself to pause for longer than you think feels comfortable. You may find that a strategic series of pauses can emphasise your points and drive home the message that you are thoughtful, well-spoken and level-headed. Use it in your favour.
  1. Be honest and ask for help – There is nothing wrong in saying that your mind has gone blank. If you find yourself struggling to remember what you were saying, try gently asking for help from your interviewer. Something along the lines of, “I’m afraid I got so caught up in what I was talking about that I seem to have lost my place. Where was I?” Your listener should have no problem prompting you to help you get back to your original point.
  1. Don’t be afraid of notes – Depending on the position for which you are interviewing, a small notebook that enables to you take notes during the meeting can make you seem like a smart candidate who plans ahead. Your small notebook will enable you to make brief notes as you go, or to bring in a general outline of what you plan to talk about. If during the interview you feel you want to digress in order to illustrate a point, you can jot down the original point you want to return to for when you need it, or vice versa.
  1. Say something – anything! Finally, and perhaps the most importantly – say something! If you remain silent with a panicked expression on your face, your anxiety and your interviewer’s trepidation will grow and grow. While you may feel a bit off-topic or rambling, saying anything relevant to your topic can kick start your brain back into high gear and get your interview back on track.

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