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What to do if you freeze during an interview

What to di if you freeze during an interview What to do if you FREEZE during an interview
What to do if you freeze during your interview

What to do if you FREEZE during your interview

THE book with everything you need to land your nursing job!!

You’re interviewing and the interviewer asks you a question you are not prepared for. Let’s say they ask  “Tell us about a time you overcame an obstacle at work”

You completely blank. You try to access your brain, but there’s only empty white space where your brain used to be.

Your eyes widen, your mouth opens….but no words come out.

Six set of eyes stare at you expectantly, and you have….nothing

It’s not pretty when it happens, and you have to be able to move quickly into Recovery and Damage Control. Here’s what to do.



Own it. Apologize. SMILE I’m sorry! I’m having a brain freeze

Sharing your embarrassment wins favor and breaks tension. Everyone has had such a moment. The interviewers will put themselves in your shoes and empathize.

They are now squarely on your side.

Ask for a favor

People like to grant favors. SMILE “Can we move on or circle back later to this question? I seem to be drawing a serious blank on this one.

By asking for a favor, you have now allowed them to be gracious and generous.

Use Humor

SMILE Humor is a two-edged sword to be used carefully and with finesse. When skillfully used, it’s a powerful tool.

To be used successfully you have to:

  • Read the vibe in the room
  • Have great timing
  • Deliver your line with confidence and without hesitation

Self effacing humor is usually the most effective.

“Oh, no! My mother told me this might happen! I hate when she’s right ”  or  “I think I need a brain reboot


Say for example the employer asked ” Tell us about a time you disagreed with a supervisor, and how you handled it.”

You blank.  SMILE  “I am temporarily drawing a blank on that one. Can I tell about you a time when  I….

Then proceed with a prepared example that highlights one of your skills- maybe conflict management, team work, ethics, patient/customer satisfaction.

Move On


Don’t shame yourself, and don’t stay in that place.

Do not let this define your interview SMILE

It is a natural human reaction to freeze when you are taken by surprise or are in danger (Freeze, Fight or Flee). The interviewers know this.

Some of the best nurses and quick thinkers in patient situations don’t have the quick thinking interview skill. It is not an indicator of being an excellent nurse.

So if that’s you, you want to be prepared by having your Move On back-up plan ready.

What I’ve Seen

One young lady froze but wasn’t able to recover. She did everything but cry. It was clear she was devastated and couldn’t move forward in the interview. All the interviewers were understanding, but feeling badly for a candidate does not mean they’ll hire that candidate.

Jason, one of the interviewers, said kindly “It’s OK. Take a moment. Shake it off ” but she wasn’t able to.

Another candidate blanked, shook his head, and SMILED ruefully. “I should have this, but I don’t!” We all laughed in relief that he broke the tension.

He shifted in his chair and asked “Would you mind if we come back to this or move on to the next question? I need some more time.

He moved past the moment smoothly, and impressed us with his poise.

Preparation is the Best Prevention

Being prepared lessens your chances of being blindsided in an interview. Be sure to read:

Everything You Need to Know to Get Hired


Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth



About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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