How to Recover From an Interview Gone Wrong

Posted by Rob Riggins
interview mistake

You polished your resume, donned your best outfit, and arrived in-person or virtually right on time – and then you said absolutely the wrong thing. You flubbed an answer. You used an inappropriate example. You forgot a basic fact. You bombed. You put your foot in it.

You end the interview, certain that the damage is irreparable. The dream of winning the job is over, right? Maybe not.

No, you can’t erase the interviewers’ memories or jump in a time machine and redo the interview, but you can recover from a bad interview and go on to success. And yes, a major flub can unravel your chances to land the cleared job for which you applied, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to salvage the relationship or at least learn from the experience and win a similar position.

Consider these ideas to analyze your performance, regain your footing, and flourish after a less-than-stellar interview:

Don’t overanalyze. It’s natural to mentally review every word you said in an interview and dwell on perceived missteps. Did you laugh too much? Did you forget to thank the interviewer? Did you ramble on too much when you answered certain questions? Or did the doorbell catch you off guard in a virtual interview scenario? Everyone is hypercritical of their own performances. Don’t dwell on minor errors. No one is perfect.

Think twice about damage control. You likely put much more emphasis on errors – perceived or real – than others do. It’s often better to just accept the interview as it went than to try to reverse any damage. Doing so may possibly be more damaging than anything you said in the original interview. Are you sure what you said or did made you look bad?

If you forgot to mention you would make a killer addition to the company softball team, let it go. If the position requires extensive hours and you forgot to mention you would have no problem working extra hours, you may want to address that in a thank you note. But if you accidentally called someone by an incorrect name, you may want to ignore it. Any perceived misunderstandings about your education, experience or interest in the position should also be addressed – briefly – in a thank you note.

But if you think you made a slip that may have gone undetected, let it go. You don’t want to bring a mistake to an interviewer’s attention.

Don’t apologize. Some people try to correct such minor misunderstandings or errors by going overboard on their explanations in a follow-up note or conversation and apologizing after the interview. Don’t allow yourself to write something like, “You probably think I’m not friendly because I forgot to thank you, but I really appreciate your time” or “I hope you don’t think I’m a slacker, because I forgot to mention I’d have no problem with required travel.” Instead, supply information in a positive way.

For example, if you forgot to thank the interviewer for the meeting, write something such as, “I know your time is valuable and want to sincerely thank you for the meeting.” If you want to stress you’re available for OCONUS travel, say something like, “I look forward to contributing to the team and am flexible for overseas travel as needed.” Supply information, not apologies.

Explain major missteps. If you are certain you flubbed – you didn’t answer questions appropriately or were unduly distracted – consider writing a follow-up letter that explains the reasons for your missteps. Perhaps you misunderstood the question. Or maybe a major life issue distracted you. In such cases, a short explanation may prompt the interviewer to give you the benefit of the doubt. But you should only mention notable errors. Again, you don’t want to bring a flub that previously went unnoticed to light.

Ask your references for support. Remember to tell your references about your interview and ask them to highlight any specific information you want to reinforce. For example, if you believe you didn’t point out that you’re skilled in leading project teams, ask a reference to recount successes that show you excel in that arena. Of course, you’ll want the reference to mention such success in the natural flow of conversation. Offer the reference an example so they don’t struggle to unearth one.

Learn from the experience. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to right a wrong. But that doesn’t mean you need to repeat it. Analyze your interview responses and consider what led to the specific misstep. Almost immediately forgot the interviewer’s name? Next time, repeat it as soon as you meet the person by saying something like, “Nice to meet you, Bill.” That way, if Bill is really Bob you will discover that right away. If your misstep was more serious – you flubbed a critical answer – consider spending more time prepping to ace your next interview.

Wrapping up and feeling that you have messed up an interview, especially if it’s a position you’re interested in, is a sinking feeling. But before you start explaining yourself, realize it’s likely not as bad as you think.


This entry was posted on Monday, June 14, 2021 11:49 am

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