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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

How to Recover—and Follow Up—After You Bomb an Interview

So you just left a job interview (for a position you are very interested in)—and you’re sure you bombed it.

Maybe you started off feeling nervous and never quite got into a good, relaxed rhythm. You blanked when asked what kinds of news sources you like to read, and you flat-out froze when given the chance to answer why you should be hired over all the other candidates. Now, post-interview, you’re scrambling to figure out how to fix the situation because you know your sub-par performance with the hiring manager isn’t going to get you hired.

This scenario is classic. Job interviews can be really tricky, and it’s impossible to knock every single one out of the park. Fortunately, a bad one doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get the job. It just means that your thank you note is going to have to do double-duty: express your gratitude while also making a strong case for why you deserve to be hired (or, at least, get another interview).

1. Be Honest

It’s important to let the hiring manager know you’re aware that the interview was not representative of your ability to perform in the role. Rather than harping on what you did wrong, however, make a point of expressing some specific things you wish you had conveyed more clearly. When you send your note that day, end with a convincing line about why you’re the right person for the job. If you’re worried something you said reflects poorly on you or your competence level, don’t be afraid of calling attention to it and restating what it is you really meant to say.

2. Share Concrete Examples of Your Work

Mention the specific part of the interview that you struggled with and share what you wish you had gotten across. For example, you could acknowledge that you had a hard time selecting a story to discuss about working with a difficult co-worker, but that as soon as you left the office, it came to you. Maybe you talk about the time that you successfully partnered with someone who had a different working style and the steps you took to overcome the dissimilarities. Give specific details, but avoid being too wordy. This is your chance to deliver a stronger answer than the one you offered in the interview—not an opportunity to share all of your greatest hits.

3. Request Another Conversation

In your thank you, you might also want to inquire about another brief meeting. You’ll need to balance your ask with being respectful of the interviewer’s time; suggest a short call or offer numerous times that work for you. Do this if you feel that the post-interview note isn’t enough to right the situation. And, if you are granted 10 or 15 minutes of your interviewer’s time, make certain that you are prepared, relaxed, and confident.

4. Close Out Graciously—No Matter What Happens

As you know, it’s important to be gracious and a good sport during this process. Professional networks last a long time, and even if you don’t get hired right now, it’s possible that you could find yourself pursuing an offer with the company down the line. Or you could come across the interviewer at another company that you apply to in the distant future. So, always be considerate and appreciative of the person’s time.

If you put all of the above together, it will look something like the following:

Dear [Name of Interviewer],

Thank you for taking the time to speak today. As I mentioned, I am extremely interested in the role and am excited about the opportunity to work with you at your company.

I also wanted to follow up with you about a specific part of our conversation. I know that I had a bit of a hard time selecting a story to share when you asked me about a time I led a team. After I left your office, I realized that I should've told you about the marketing committee I managed during my previous role. I oversaw six people in different departments to ensure that all materials throughout the company were well-designed and on brand. Through the team’s work, we were able to raise employee satisfaction with internal materials by 50%.

If possible, I would love the opportunity to speak with you again briefly so that we can further discuss my leadership position in my current company. Are you available for 10 minutes sometime during the next couple of weeks? I would be happy to meet whenever is most convenient for you. I could also hop on a call if that's preferable.

Thank you again for meeting with me. I really enjoyed speaking with you, and I am looking forward to keeping in touch.

[Your Name]

No matter how well you promote and sell yourself after a botched interview, you won’t always redeem yourself and get another chance. If you have a terrible interview and don't get the position, make a learning experience out of it. Politely request feedback on the meeting, and take notes on how you can do better next time. And trust me, the more you interview during any job search, the better you’ll get at it.

Photo of woman interviewing courtesy of Shutterstock.

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