How to Recover from a Really Bad Interview
Show me a person who hasn’t had a bad interview, and I’ll show you someone who is in denial. We’ve all had bad interviews. Shortly after I graduated from college I was interviewing with a variety of different companies.
It felt like I was on an interview every day. I had my fair share of interviews some good, but one really bad interview still sticks with me to this day. I won’t name the company because you never know if our paths may cross again.
For starters I had to drive two hours to some remote town that I never even heard of before, When I get there it was just the hiring manager and I. It was very awkward and very intimidating.
I couldn’t answer a question to save my life or anyone else’s for that matter. For every response I gave, he shot a hole straight through it, and what was left of my ego. It was by far the hardest interview that I’ve ever had.
After I followed up with him and he told me that I basically bombed the interview, he said that due to the line of work, they are instructed to talk people out of the job to prevent turnover. Clearly he was really good at his job. I’m still a little bitter about the wasted trip, but there were plenty of lessons to be learned.
A bad interview has happened to everyone, and if it hasn’t happened to you, it will. Whether its your cell phone that you know you put on silent accidentally going off, or you giving the most long winded irrelevant answer to a question, when things start going bad it feels like there’s no turning back.
Regardless of how bad things go, it is possible to get things back on track and erase any damage that may have been caused. There are even some follow up tricks that you can use to help you rectify the situation and move on, regardless of the outcome.
During the interview
Stay calm. Even if you are convinced that you’ve made a massive mistake, don’t panic. Just carry on. The interviewer may not have even noticed. If they did, they may give you a mulligan depending on how the rest of the interview goes.
Keep your emotions in check. Even if you feel like bursting into tears because the interview is going so badly, control your emotions. Keep things in the proper perspective. If you really are emotional, politely ask to be excused so you can take a moment to go to the restroom to gather your thoughts.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes. So what if you made a mistake. If you dwell on it the rest of the interview, you’ll get distracted and that could make matters even worse. Avoid mistakes by listening carefully to what the interviewer is asking you. Stay in the moment, and forget about what happened a few minutes ago.
Don’t try so hard. By overcompensating for a mistake you run the risk of coming across as trying too hard. Focus on staying loose and executing your original game plan for the interview.
After the interview
Vent offline. In my situation, I knew that I didn’t land the job. But I didn’t go trashing them online. Regardless of how bad you think you did in the interview, the interviewer may still be keeping you in consideration for the opportunity that you interviewed for or others that may be in their pipeline.
They may also be monitoring your social media pages, so go easy on the comments.
Send a “thank you” note. The follow up is what really separates a lot of candidates. When I worked in recruiting, candidates that followed up with me got my attention, even though someone else may have interviewed better and didn’t follow up.
No matter how bad things went or how embarrassed you are, take a few minutes to send a personal thank you note to every person that you interviewed with. Believe me, hand written thank you notes go a very long way.
Change the conversation. The last thing you want to do is email your interviewer with new thoughts about the same interview topics. What you want to do is change the conversation. With the benefit of a new day and fresh thoughts you may be able to salvage the situation.
Move on. Unfortunately there are some interviews that just aren’t salvageable. You may have caught the interviewer on a bad day, or your personalities didn’t mesh. Whatever the reason is, don’t dwell on it.
Instead, put your focus and energy into other irons that you have in the fire. Use the lessons that you learned from this interview to help you to be better prepared for the next interview.