Even before the elevator doors opened up to take me back down to the lobby, I already felt the sinking feeling of failure. It was without a doubt the single worst interview of my life, and I knew it the moment I stood up to leave the conference room. Nonetheless, I kept a brave face, thanked the three women who had conducted the interview and walked out with my head up, pretending as if I had just owned the room.
I followed up with my would-have-been boss via email the following morning, thanking her for the opportunity to come in and meet everyone. Much to my complete shock, a job offer came back attached to his reply. Excuse my language, but WTF just happened? I bombed the final interview… so why did I get the job?
Quite simply, I didn’t let my one horrible performance dominate the overall, ongoing interaction between me and my would-be employer. I didn’t burn any bridges by saying something negative as I walked out of the room. Instead, I remained respectful of the process and maintained a gracious attitude.
Hiring managers and HR professionals admit that one poor performance or a few botched answers during an interview is often not enough to seriously hurt a top candidate’s chances. Remember that next time you bomb an interview, and use these next tips to make the most out of the experience.
Reflect and Learn
It’s easy to sit back and dwell on the mistakes you made, but it’s important to also acknowledge what went well. Which questions did you really nail? Which ones tripped you up? Were you able to establish a friendly, positive rapport with those interviewing you?
After your interview, critique your performance and identify where you need work. Celebrate your successes, too, so you are able to really accentuate your strengths during your next interview. In the end, however, don’t dwell on anything and don’t overanalyze.
Utilize the Power of the Thank You Note
You can make the most out of this final touch point in a few key ways. First, you can take the opportunity to clarify any answers you gave during the interview that you felt missed the mark. However, don’t call out more than one or two, as that will send the message that you’re entirely unsure of yourself.
Second, use the thank you note to add in any bits of helpful information you may have left out of the in-person conversation. Again, don’t get too wordy—it’s supposed to be a note, not a manuscript. Finally, end your note with a short recap of your top strengths as a candidate, leaving a positive last impression.
What’s done is done, and if you learn from your experience, you still come out ahead. After reflecting on what went well and what didn’t, put what you’ve learned into action. The more interviews you get, the more comfortable you will feel… but there’s a catch.
Don’t let your poor interview sideline you for too long. You need to keep up the momentum and get right back into the job hunt while the lessons learned are still fresh in your mind. It’s good therapy, too. If you’ve prepared well, chances are good you’ll perform much better than the last time, replacing that negative memory with a new, positive experience.
A bad interview is not the end of the world. It’s also not the only deciding factor on whether or not you get the job. Thus, it’s important not only to learn from your mistakes, but also to ensure all the other pieces of your application are polished and professional. For example, are you making any of these mistakes on your resume?