What to Do After a Bad Job Interview

How to Follow Up When the Interview Goes Wrong

Businesswoman at table with head resting on hand
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Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put into preparing for an interview, something goes wrong. Maybe you woke up with a splitting headache or can't take your mind off a pressing personal matter. Whatever it is, circumstances may throw you off your "A game" and result in a poor performance during your interview. 

Here are three strategies you can use to recover from a bad job interview. 

1. Give Yourself Some Time 

A bad interview can leave you feeling frustrated and upset. Take some time (whether it's ten minutes or an hour) to reflect on the experience, but don't dwell on it for too long. It's easy to spiral and become convinced that the interview went even worse than it actually did. Remember, this is only one opportunity, and there will be many more. 

2. Look for Lessons

Once you've spent some time reviewing the interview, ask yourself if there is anything you can learn from your mistakes. Did the interview go poorly because you were late? Did you flub an answer to a common interview question? Did you fail to demonstrate your passion for the position? If you can identify the exact reason the interview went poorly, it can help you fix the problem, either with this position or by preparing differently for your next interview. 

3. Request a Second Chance

No one wants to flub an interview, but employers are humans too and understand that people have bad days. If you think you've blown an interview, don't just give up. Although there's no sure-fire fix, it's always a good idea to send a thank you email after your interview, and it can't hurt to explain in the note why you were off your game. 

For instance, if you were feeling under the weather, you can send a thank you note saying you were feeling ill, and that it led to a poor performance that didn't demonstrate your qualifications and full interest in the position. Then, ask if there is any way you can meet a second time. Who knows, the employer may be impressed with your initiative and respect your desire to turn around a negative situation. 

Asking for a Second Chance

Although not all employers have the time or resources for a "do-over," if you think you flunked an interview, take the time to email the interviewer explaining your circumstances and thanking him or her for the opportunity to interview.

You don't want to overdo your excuses, but make sure you:

  • Briefly, explain what went wrong. For example, "I was feeling under the weather" or "I'm not typically late, but I had an unexpected childcare emergency." Keep your explanation simple and short.
  • Emphasize your interest in the job. You can also mention the particular skills you'd bring to the position. 
  • Offer to meet a second time. Or, ask if it's an option to arrange a phone interview. 
  • Reiterate the option to contact your referencesStrong references can reassure interviewers that your poor performance was atypical, and attest to your job abilities. 

    Here's a sample email that you might send if you find yourself in this situation.

    Sample Email to Ask for Another Interview

    Subject: Jane Doe Interview

    Dear Mrs. Jones,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. I enjoyed speaking with you, and I feel that the position would be a great match for my academic and professional background and make use of my skill set.

    However, I am not sure my interest and enthusiasm for the job came across in our interview. I have been feeling under the weather this week and don't think I was able to express my aptitude for the position.

    If these things did not come across during the interview, I want to assure you that I believe my sense of initiative, high level of motivation, and positive attitude make me a prime candidate for this position.

    If you have the time, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you again.

    Also, please don't hesitate to contact my references should you have any questions or concerns about my professional performance.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to interview with XYZ Company. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Jane Doe
    Email
    Phone

    Preparing for the Next Time

    Even if you can't salvage an interview that went awry, there are things you can do to help alleviate the stress and worry about performing poorly again. Here's how to minimize job interview stress, along with tips for acing a job interview.