Losing your train of thought is an inevitable part of public speaking, but there are few situations as high pressure as an interview. In fact, the adrenaline rush of an interview can actually cause you to ramble and lose your point more easily when faced with a challenging question. Don’t worry, though! It’s not the end of the world if you get off track while answering a question, in fact, if you recover well it can actually set you up for success. There are a few easy ways to bounce back from losing your train of thought without losing your cool.
1. Go ahead and repeat yourself
Well, not verbatim! But if you find yourself at a loss for words you can smoothly paraphrase what you’ve said so far. This can serve the dual purpose of reminding yourself of your last thought and giving you time to decide what to say next.
2. Take a break
We’ve all seen how uncomfortable it can be when someone loses their train of thought and stumbles to recover. Every “Ummm” and “hmmm” can feel like a millennium has passed when watching someone struggle to find their place. Taking an intentional seeming pause can give you the space to get back on track and can make you look more confident rather than stumbling and filling the silence. Complimenting your interviewer can go a long way as well “that’s an excellent question that I really needed to think about”
3. Be honest!
This may be the most important tip of all, anyone who’s interviewing you has been in the exact same position before. After all, they’re only human! Choosing to acknowledge when you get off track can be far less awkward than attempting to recover by processing out loud. A quick acknowledgment can also give you an easy segue to move on and redirect back to the question. A quick, “That question was so well put, but I think I got a bit sidetracked. What I think is most important is…” can let you easily continue with your point and will put your interviewer at ease. Moments of awkwardness can be a bit of an elephant in the room, but acknowledging and redirecting after a memory lapse is a good way to demonstrate confidence and comfortability in a high-pressure situation.
4. Lighten the mood
Depending on the type of interview and company culture you’ve observed you may be able to get away with a quick joke. If your interviewer is open, casual and you’ve established a good relationship it can be a great opportunity to bond with your interviewer!
However you’re able to recover, it’s always good to remind yourself that losing your train of thought happens to everyone, take a breath, be kind to yourself and move on!