How to rebound from an interview disaster

Ever had an interview and it was so bad that you felt like you would never recover ?  Read on for 4 real life stories of interview disasters and how to rebound if they ever happen to you.

1. She froze.

Image credit: Getty

“It was the final interview with a candidate for an IT role. We were about 15 minutes into the interview and suddenly she stopped talking.  I switched to another question and she said that she couldn’t think of an example that was specific to the situation.  I tried another.  Same thing.  After another 30 minutes of trying to get information and trying to answer her questions, I ended the interview and asked the hiring manager to stay behind for a debrief.  I asked, ‘What on earth happened?’ He didn’t know but clearly we couldn’t make a hiring decision based on this interview, but she was the frontline candidate so he agreed to follow up.”

The Rebound:

This is a fairly common issue in an interview.  If you freeze, stop yourself for a minute and think about why.  What are you worried about?  Share your concerns with your interviewer and they will help you work through it, even if it’s just a bad case of nerves.

So what happened?

When the hiring manager followed up, the candidate told him that she was concerned that her answers might violate the confidentiality agreement that she had signed with her current employer.  Once we understood the issue, we brought her back for another interview (she did great!) and wound up making an offer.  Last I heard, she was still there and doing very well in the job.

2. He couldn’t stop talking.  The. whole. time.

From the moment he walked through the door, this candidate could not stop talking.  It was clearly a bad case of nerves, but years later, there are two things I still remember.  One, he shared ALOT of information: more than I ever would have asked for and not all of it relevant. Two, he didn’t ask any questions, which told more about how he prepared than anything else.

The Rebound:

If you feel yourself going on and on and on and you’re not sure where to stop or even how, then take control of your dialogue and and ask the interviewer this simple question: “Have I given you the information you were looking for?”  It will give you time to pause and the interviewer time to give you feedback on your answer.  Then, you can both move on with the interview.

So what happened?

In this case, we did not make an offer.  We simply couldn’t get enough of the right information out of the candidate to feel confident that he would perform well in the job.

3. I ripped a hole in my tights just before the interview.

“I was sitting in the waiting room waiting for my interview.  It was the first one I had had in a long time and I was a little nervous.  So I sat on my left hand but forgot that I was wearing my new engagement ring.  And I ripped a huge hole in my tights.  I pulled my hand out, realized what I had done, and without thinking, I dropped an “f-bomb”… just as the hiring manager walked up to introduce himself.  It was all downhill from there.”

The Rebound:

Take a deep breath and count to 3.  Don’t swear, yell, or overreact.  Instead say, “I can’t believe I just did that, I’m so embarrassed.”  That’s it.  Believe it or not, if you handle it with grace, it can be a wonderful icebreaker.  You’re human and these sorts of things happen more often than you might think.

If you do make it worse somehow, apologize and muddle through the interview.  Then, follow it up with a written apology note where you let them know that you were very nervous.  Even if the process ends there, you will leave it on better footing than you did the interview.

So what happened?

In this case, she wasn’t able to recover her composure enough to answer the interview questions effectively.  She wasn’t asked back for a second round and moved on with her job search.

4. He didn’t show up

“I had a candidate booked for a phone interview for a position and when I called at the scheduled time… voicemail.  I didn’t get a call back and no email to follow up.  Needless to say, I lost interest.  Plus, I was annoyed with the time I wasted preparing for the interview.”

The Rebound:

In all honesty, Not showing up, either by phone or in person, is probably the hardest to rebound from.  But you can, and should, try.

If something happened that prevented you from going to the interview, you should follow up and let them know why, preferably by phone.  If you can’t get them to take the call, then write a handwritten apology note that explains what happened and that you are sorry for the inconvenience.  Don’t ask for a second chance in the note.  Simply wish them the best of luck in their search.  If they are still open to meeting you, they will contact you.

What happened:

In this case, crickets.  And I’m still slightly peeved.


Last thoughts:

Remember that during the interview, the role of both the interviewer and the candidate is to have a productive, structured exchange of information where each side tries to learn as much as they possibly can about each other.  Its a conversation, not an interrogation.

Your goal when you leave the room is to have learned enough to be able to answer this question:
Am I the right fit for them AND are they the right fit for me?

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This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be human resources consulting advice or specific advice for your business needs.

© 2017 Allium Consulting Group, LLC.  All rights reserved.