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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

Here’s What’s Going Through a Hiring Manager’s Head When You Bomb an Interview

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After hours of researching the company, reviewing the top interview questions (and your own resume), and role-playing to ensure that your body language demonstrates confidence and poise, you are so ready for this. Seriously, you’ve got this.

Until you don’t. The interview starts out OK, and things are moving along. And then. The next question is a hardball—or it’s a softball, as easy as they come—but for whatever reason, your mind goes blank. Or you fumble through a barely coherent response. You mumble some nonsense that sounds absolutely ridiculous even to your own ears. You’re sure you’ve totally bombed the interview.

They’re never going to hire you now.

While it’s no doubt tempting to fall into this negative way of thinking, please don’t! It turns out that (surprise!) hiring managers are human, too, and they understand that these things happen. They know that, as Sally Bolig Head of Talent Acquisition at Yotpo, a tech company based in NYC, points out “interviews are nerve-wracking.”

In fact, she says there’ve been countless times she interviewed people who slipped up, “blanking, stumbling through a sentence, even dropping a curse word or two” and she still moved them forward to the next round when they “demonstrated self-awareness, composure and/or good humor”—either collecting themselves during the meeting or reaching out afterward to explain, clarify, or apologize.

Grace Twesigye, People Operations Recruitment Manager at One Acre Fund, also understands that people make mistakes. Everyone’s nervous in the interview process, she notes, adding that her organization’s protocol is to recognize an interview flub or poor answer with a “yellow flag.” If the interviewee makes the same or similar mistake again, she says they know it’s a pattern, which, depending on the error, could prove problematic. But the key thing is that it’s not typically the single mistake itself that knocks you out of the running.

Owning up to a mistake—or, say, completely blanking on an important question that you’re expected to have a good answer to—is a start. Taboola’s Talent Acquisition Manager, Angela Mekosh appreciates a follow-up note regardless of how the meeting goes, but she says it’s “especially important if a candidate could have answered an interview question better.” Indeed, she’s had candidates absolve themselves with a “well-written and detailed follow-up.”

This means getting to the next round is possible when you take responsibility for those ugh moments. According to Bolig, “Picking yourself back up and providing a better answer is in almost every situation enough to redeem you for the mistake.”

Take these words of wisdom to heart, dear job seeker. An interview is happening in real time. It’s live, and the pressure’s on. Responding to every single question with a perfect response is unlikely. And the hiring manager knows this! Yes, if it’s a big enough mistake that it needs to be addressed, get to it—don’t try to sweep it under the rug. But also rest assured that one bad answer, one misspoken word won’t put you out of the running.