You can tell when an interview is going downhill. The interviewer loses interest, becomes openly hostile or tries to shut down the interview after 10 minutes. If you've got a gut feeling an interview is going terribly, trust your intuition. It probably is.
For most, the natural reaction is to lose confidence, clam up a bit and just get through it. However, you also know this approach doesn't serve your goal of advancing your career. This advice will help you handle the interview gone awry.
Confront the Obvious
In this nightmare scenario, you have nothing to lose by changing the game. When you sense disaster, the best tactic is to confront it candidly. You could say, "Excuse me, but I don't think this interview is going very well. Do you agree?"
If the interviewer says, "You're right, it's not," you are done. The interviewer will probably tell you that you will not get the job. Remain positive for the duration of this ill-fated encounter.
Often, however, the interviewer will say, "No, maybe we just got off track." You can reply, "You're right. I feel like we missed a beat on that second question. May I try that again?"
If you deal directly with an interview that's going downhill, you have a 50-50 shot at getting back on track. Some interviewers will keep a poker face, and you won't have any idea what they think. Often, however, your openness will snap interviewers out of their negative feelings. For example, an interviewer may say, "You know, you're not right for this job, but I like your experience, and maybe there's a job for you in another department." Even if it doesn't result in a job, the fact that you changed the interview from negative to positive says good things about you.
The worst tactic for dealing with disaster is to continue through a declining interview as if everything is fine. Practically speaking, you're wasting both your time and the interviewer's. Nobody wins, and more important, the interviewer's negative assessment of you won't change.
So if you feel that sense of dread that things are going very wrong, call attention to it, and ask how you can get back into a positive conversation. It's the only path back from disaster.