What to Do When a Job Interview Goes Badly [8 Things]

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So, you’re here for practical advice on what to do when a job interview goes badly, thanks to a recent experience. Or perhaps you want to prepare for the worst-case scenario in an upcoming appointment. Whichever your case, please join me on an informative ride. 

It’s not always clear for interviewees how they performed. And even if everything went well, you might not get the job offer. After all, about 250 applicants are eyeing a single corporate job at any given time. 

But there are some situations when it’s evident that things went wrong. Maybe you were unprepared for some questions and stumbled over your answers. Or perhaps the interviewer seemed bored or annoyed with you.

Many, even the most seasoned professionals, have been there too. And I know what it’s like to come out of an interview feeling like you got run over by a truck. But whatever happened, don’t make things worse by doing something desperate. 

This blog post shares eight things to do after a job interview disaster. Some are quick fixes to salvage the situation; others are long-term strategies to help you develop your interviewing skills and improve your chances of landing your dream job.

How Do You Know If an Interview Went Badly?

Do you suspect that your job interview was a flop?  Below are signs that could clue you in:

  • The appointment took less time than expected. The longer the interview, the better you can impress the interviewer with your skills and knowledge. If the meeting lasts 20 minutes or less, that’s a bad sign— unless the hiring manager mentioned that it would be short.
  • If you’re not able to establish rapport with your interviewer, it could be a mismatch between your personalities. It’s unlikely they will think of you as a good fit for the company culture. 
  • The interviewer seems distracted or uninterested. That could manifest in a lack of eye contact(they barely looked up from the phone while you spoke) or endless “yeah” or “uh-huh.” 
  • They didn’t ask about your availability. The job market is competitive now, and employers are eager to hire. If the interviewer doesn’t ask when you could start working for them, that could signify you didn’t impress them.
  • They shared little about the job. A job interview should give both parties insight into what each other wants out of their working relationship. If your interviewer doesn’t share anything about what they expect from you or try to sell you the company, they’ve probably decided not to proceed with your candidacy.
  • The interviewer expressed concerns about your qualities or answers. Did the interviewer question your skills or show obvious disapproval of your answers? It could mean they’re not confident in your abilities and think you wouldn’t fit into their organization well — even if they don’t say so outright.
  • The interviewers asked out-of-place or unrelated questions. It’s evident when an interviewer focuses on personal topics such as your hobbies or religious beliefs instead of your skills and experience. 
  • They didn’t introduce the rest of the team. If your interviewer seems reluctant to show you around the office or introduce you to anyone else on staff, that’s not good. They could be new in the company and don’t know anyone else at work well enough to vouch for you. Or maybe they don’t see you as a good match for their team.

Can You Still Get Hired After a Bad Interview?

Yes. But it will depend on what went wrong in the interview and the steps you take to get yourself back on track. 

You know that the interview is not over until they tell you it’s over, right? Sure, that may not be as comforting when you’re on the receiving end of a bad interview. But it’s essential to keep in mind that interviewers are human too and have seen (and expect) a fair share of glitches. 

While it may seem like a single interview is all there is to this process, in reality, a hiring manager will typically have several meetings over several days and even weeks before making their final decision. If something goes wrong during one appointment— there’s no need to give up hope.

But don’t just wait, hoping things will work in your favor. It helps to start formulating a recovery plan soon after the interview. 

First, understand what went wrong in the interview. Next, work to fix those problems before the hiring manager finalizes their hiring decision. How to do it is what brought you here. 

8 Things to Do When a Job Interview Goes Badly

Job interviews don’t always go well, and that’s okay. Focus on what you can control, and have hope! 

Here’s precisely what to do when a job interview goes badly:

  • Allow yourself to feel upset but don’t beat yourself up too much
  • Assess the damage and learn from your mistake
  • Share the experience with someone trustworthy
  • Send that follow-up email as soon as possible
  • Request a second chance via the thank-you note
  • Ask for feedback if you don’t get a second interview or the job
  • Continue your job search
  • Prepare for future interviews

1. Allow yourself to feel upset but don’t beat yourself up too much

Being on the receiving end of a bad interview can be a frustrating and emotional experience. The reason is simple: our emotions are usually tied to our self-esteem, which could substantially dip when we perform poorly in a job interview. 

That’s understandable; it’s tough not to take things personally after spending so much time preparing only to bomb the actual conversation. However, try not to dwell on negative thoughts about yourself or the interview performance. 

Your best bet is to find something relaxing. If spending time with friends worsens things, focus on an enjoyable activity. And more importantly, forgive yourself!

2. Assess the damage and learn from your mistake

Among the essential pointers on what to do when a job interview goes badly is to look at the situation objectively. It’s how you dig up lessons from bad experiences.

Start with identifying the possible reasons behind the interview disaster. Was it because of your missteps or something inherent to the company?

Try asking yourself these questions: 

  • Did I seem nervous? 
  • Did I give short answers or ramble too much?
  • Did I seem tense or uncomfortable?
  • Were there any awkward pauses?

In addition, take note of the interviewer’s behavior — their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice should communicate whether you impressed them or not.

Next, think about how the anomalies could be prevented or fixed in your future endeavors. 

For example, suppose you talked too much about something unrelated or failed to answer a question adequately. Acknowledging it when following up with your interviewer creates the impression that you take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes. 

3. Share the experience with someone trustworthy

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious after a bad interview, please get these negative thoughts off your chest. It could be all you need to re-energize for the next steps. 

But you don’t have to detail everything that went wrong.

If possible, look at the funny side of things. Was there something particularly embarrassing about the experience (such as spilling coffee on yourself)? An objective standpoint could help unravel the hidden humor for a much needed-relief.  

4. Send that follow-up email within 24 hours

You might be surprised at how many people don’t do this simple step or don’t do it right. Yet it matters to a staggering 68% of hiring managers. 

Why does a thank-you note after a bad interview work so well?

First, it’s common courtesy to appreciate the recruiters. After all, only 2-3% of applicants are lucky to get an interview. And even if you don’t get the job, you should still be grateful for the chance to talk about yourself and your skills.

A thank-you note also demonstrates that you care and are polite enough not to burn bridges even if things go haywire. Sincerity and genuine interest will always earn some brownie points with recruiters. Finally, it’s another chance to highlight some of your strengths and skills that didn’t come across well during the interview.

Ensure you email the note within 24 hours of the interview

In addition to thanking the interviewer and expressing your continued interest,  address your interview mistake. For example, if you blanked out on a particular interview question, a thank you note is the perfect opportunity to provide a detailed answer. 

And please don’t whine or complain! You never want someone to feel remotely responsible for someone’s disillusionment.

5. Use the thank-you note to request a second chance

Knowing that an interviewer is disappointed in your performance can feel like a real blow. But when you’re up against dozens of other candidates, it’s even more critical to turn around a bad situation and make a positive impression. A thank-you note offers you the chance to do just that. Here’s how:

Don’t try to cover up your mistake or shift blame. Take responsibility for your actions. Then explain what happened and how you’d behave differently if given another chance. Finally, ask if they could arrange for a second interview. 

 Should the hiring manager accepts your request, embark on serious preparation. That includes perusing your assessment notes (refer back to point #2) and conducting a mock interview with a friend to perfect your delivery. 

6. Ask for feedback if you don’t get a second interview or the job

So, the organization has moved forward without you. How upsetting! But you can always use feedback to improve your interviewing skills.

Request specific information about what went wrong and how to improve. Experts recommend going about this in a non-confrontational way for two reasons:

  •  It won’t come across as an attack on the interviewer’s abilities
  • An interviewer is likely to provide more constructive feedback when approached respectfully

You could say something like:

“I’m curious about something — is there anything that I could have done better during our conversation?”

Don’t argue with the answers. Instead, thank the interviewer for their time and insight, and then work to incorporate their feedback into your future interviews.

7. Continue your job search

An interview gone sour could leave you wondering if you’ll ever find that dream job. But the reality is that this isn’t the end of the road — it’s just one step in a long process.

So, don’t slack on exploring other opportunities! You may need to change careers or try something new, but it’s okay if things don’t go as planned right away — everyone experiences setbacks at some point in their careers and life! After all, a bad interview is not necessarily an indication of who you are as a candidate. 

8. Prepare for the following interviews

Imperfections should strengthen you for future opportunities. And getting rejected should never feel personal! Take it as a business decision made by people who barely know you. 

With that mindset, work to ace future appointments for your dream job. 

Use your reflections to prepare for the questions you flubbed and new ones that might arise in future interviews. In particular, pay attention to any feedback about your strengths or weaknesses.

More on interviewing? Please check out this guide: How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview. 

Should You Apologize for a Bad Interview?

Yes and no! 

How can you be sure?

First, consider whether or not there’s anything specific you did wrong that merits an apology. Lack of preparation, for example, could legitimately be your fault—and you can apologize for that. Perhaps you started talking about salary before discussing the job opportunity or mispronounced an interviewer’s name. (And yes—these things happen.) See if something else stands out as particularly bad from the interviewers’ perspective.

If there’s something specific that warrants an apology and relates directly back to a failure on your part during the meeting, it’ll help soften the impression of how poorly things went down by saying something like:

 “I’m sorry this wasn’t more well organized! I guess there are still some gaps in my knowledge.”

Should I Reach Out After a Bad Interview?

Yes. Always send a thank-you note soon after a job interviewer—bad and impressive. And it won’t hurt to request a second chance after blowing the first interview. (more on that below)

If you don’t get the job, ask for feedback on aspects you could improve for next time. If there isn’t much room for improvement, please move on gracefully with your life and apply elsewhere.

How Do You Ask for a Redo in an Interview?

Below are helpful pointers on asking for another chance after a bad job interview:

  • Thank the interviewer for the opportunity to interview with their organization
  • Take responsibility for the mistake(s) that contributed to your poor performance
  • Reiterate your interest in the job by requesting a second chance
  • Ask if there are any other positions open at their company that might suit your skillset better or when they anticipate having another opening available.

Example script

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with your organization. I’m still interested in the job, and I’m sorry that my performance did not reflect that excitement.

I realize that my mistakes during this interview were not in line with the level of professionalism typically required for this position, and I sincerely regret my lapse in judgment. However, I am confident that if given another chance, I would be able to prove myself as the ideal candidate for the job.

If this is likely to violate your organization’s policies, I would appreciate you letting me know about other positions open at your company that might suit my skill set better or when you anticipate another opening. 

Otherwise, I’d love to follow up with you again after some time has passed, just in case anything has changed since we last spoke.

Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!”

Summary

So that’s what to do when a job interview goes badly.

It’s natural to feel helpless following such an experience. Even the most accomplished professionals blow up job interviews. And you can expect candidates who’ve been out of work for a while to be more vulnerable. 

What matters most is how you bounce back—and we’re not talking abou a superhuman crisis response. You can always use the above easy-to-implement suggestions to turn your disaster into a manageable problem. Best of luck!

Need further reading on interviewing? Worry less. We’ve got plenty of resources for you.