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Irregular interviews
Getting past the oops moment: Acing the interview
By Donna Rosato, MONEY Magazine staff writer

NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - In the middle of conducting an important interview, you fall out of your chair in spectacular fashion.

Take notes (after you recover). Some tricky interviewers have been known to do this kind of thing on purpose in order to gauge a candidate's reaction.

"How the other person responds gives you good insight into what that person will be like to work with," says psychologist and HR consultant Barbara Moses.

On his first day on the job at a national insurance company in Helena, Mont., John Graveley had to interview a job candidate. Graveley ushered the candidate in, sat down and promptly fell flat on his back with his feet over his head. It took him several tries to get up, and he finally somersaulted his way upright.

As for the candidate: Was she concerned? Quick-witted? Helpful? Nope.

"She just sat there as if nothing had happened," says Graveley. Needless to say, she didn't get the job.

On the way to a big job interview, you cut someone off to get a good parking space. Guess who ends up across the interview table?

Bring it up before he does. Shrug and say, "I'm really sorry about that. Can we count it as evidence that I'm a go-getter?"

Plead excitement. Say you were so excited about the interview that your courtesy took a back seat and you didn't want to keep him waiting.

"I would give the person a break -- though I might add a few questions to the interview to see if they are a team player," says Sickel.

The interviewer asks about your age or kids.

Ask for clarification. Most interviewers know it's illegal to ask your age, nationality, marital status, sexual preference or religion. But once in a while, one asks.

Don't invoke the law or act self-righteous, especially if you want the job. Debbie Shotwell, group vice president of HR at software maker Taleo, suggests responding with "Can you tell me why you need to know?"

This gives the interviewer the opportunity to explain why she's asking -- or to move on.

Address the underlying issue. Someone asking about your age might be wondering if you're past your prime. Say, "I'm old enough to have the kind of hard-won experience that makes me perfect for this job."

To an inquiry about the demands of kids, reply, "I'm close with my family, but I keep my private and work lives separate."

How to deal with:

Public speaking gaffes, the boss factor, interview irregularities, adventures in e-mail and eating on the jobTop of page

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