You Bombed the Job Interview. Now What?

A step-by-step guide that could put you back in the running

Sep 04, 2019
Management

SMITH BRAIN TRUST  Well, that didn’t go well. You bombed the interview for a position you really wanted and dashed your hopes of getting the job. Now what?

Don’t give up, says Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Figure out what went wrong and fix it to be ready for future opportunities. There’s likely still a chance at landing a job with the organization.

“Take a cold hard look at what happened and how you could improve,” says Loock. “Did you get nervous? Did you talk too much? Did you not have enough relevant examples? Did you not research the company enough? Did you say something that should have been obvious? How were you lacking in your preparation, and how could you fix that moving forward?”

Find the words

Your first step, post-interview, is to send a thank-you note or email, acknowledging that the meeting wasn’t your best.

Loock suggests a message like this one: “I look forward to continuing the conversation. It might have been obvious I was a little bit nervous during the interview, but I remain very interested in the opportunity. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information.”

“That would be a way of showing you have the self-awareness to recognize that maybe you didn’t do as well as you could have, but you’re not asking for a new interview and you’re offering to make yourself available in the future,” she says.

If there was an extenuating circumstance – you’re just getting over the flu or were dealing with an ailing family member – consider sharing that, but be careful not to sound like you’re making excuses, Loock says.

Of course, sometimes the opposite can be true – candidates may feel certain that they’ve nailed the interview and then are puzzled when they don’t get the offer.

If that happens to you, try asking your interviewer for feedback, with a note that says, “I’m always looking to improve. Would you be able to provide any feedback about my interview?” But keep in mind, you might not get a response, Loock says.

Apply, apply again

Don’t let one bad interview keep you from applying to other open positions at the organization. But don’t apply to every open position. Loock refers to people who apply to any and every open position at a company “frequent fliers,” and she advises against that strategy.

“If there are no rules prohibiting you from reapplying, the second time or the third time might be the charm,” she says. “I’ve known students who applied to one company, weren’t selected the first time around, and then were selected the second time around.”

Follow these steps to a better interview

The key is to make sure a bad interview doesn’t happen again, says Loock, and that’s something you can work on:

Prepare. Put in the time to prepare for the next interview. Review the company’s website again and tailor your resume to the new position when you apply. “Just don’t address the fact that you bombed the first interview,” says Loock.

Practice. If you have the ability to do a mock interview at your university’s career center or even with a trusted friend, do so. Go get that practice to improve your delivery. Some universities offer that service to students and alumni. If you don’t have access to a university’s career services, practice with a trusted friend or mentor.

Manage your nerves. “Everybody gets nervous in interviews,” says Loock. “Figure out how to manage that nervousness or you’ll never do well in interviews.” She recommends arriving a few minutes early to collect your thoughts and do some deep breathing in the lobby before heading into the interview. Remember to smile and make eye contact during the interview.

“It’s like anything else in life,” says Loock about interviewing. “The more you do it, the better you get at it. So if you’re just starting to look for a new job and you haven’t interviewed in 10 years, be kind to yourself. The first interview won’t be perfect. Know that the more you do it, the better you will get.”

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