It Happens: When the interview does not go well…

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It happens. Sometimes we really prepare and the interview goes south, and sometimes we didn’t give the interview the preparation that it deserved. Even if you really bombed the interview, all is not lost. You shouldn’t write off that opportunity. Wouldn’t it be better to leave that potential employer with a positive impression? After all, we work in a tight knit industry where people know each other.

Keep in mind, that no matter how much coaching we receive, advice that we get and books that we read about interviewing, we cannot ever guarantee who will be on the other side of the desk. They may be a seasoned and experienced manager who is trained with interviewing techniques, or they may be someone who does not have a clue how to conduct a proper interview. Either way, they are the person you need to impress. It is best to be prepared for these scenarios and every scenario in between.

Interviews can be stressful. If you are unemployed, you may be anxious and wearing a “desperate” face on your sleeve. So take a deep breath and you will be more in control of the interview. In advance, here are a few things you can do:

  • Dress appropriately – Make a good first impression. Find out in advance the culture of the organization so you are not too formal or too casual.
  • Be well-groomed – Personal details (five o’ clock shadows, chipped nail polish, dirty finger nails, scuffed up shoes…) are a reflection of whether or not you will be a detail-oriented employee. Make a positive impression and show the potential employer that you really take your meeting seriously.
  • Stay focused on your goal – Often candidates feel they have established a “positive rapport” with an interviewer because they “bonded” over children of similar ages, or other personal commonalities. This is detrimental. While still being friendly, you will need to understand that this meeting is a professional meeting and it is about business. Telling your life’s story, recent family hardships, and relationship issues do not endear you to an interviewer. It shows you are an unfocused chatterbox.
  • Be on time – ALWAYS! Enough said.
  • Do your homework – Do not walk in without arming yourself with information. Understand the environment, the position, and what is going on recently that has had an impact on the organization. In the interview, you will need to sell the value that you have to offer. You can’t know what you have to offer that may be valuable if you do not know what they need!

With all of that being said and done, what if you still blew it?
 
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Well, if you have the skills that the organization needs and the mistakes are “small” (keeping in mind small mistakes are characterized differently by different people), you may be called back.

If you really feel that the interview did not go well, it is still best to attempt to leave a lasting, positive impression. Even if this job did not come through for you, you never know if another position will become available, or if the person who interviewed you might refer you to someone else.

  • Make sure to figure out where you can improve, and work on this for next time.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. We can’t all have perfect days and things happen. Learn from it and move on.
  • ALWAYS follow up with a thank-you note. (I recommend the old fashioned, handwritten letter. In today’s electronic age, going that extra mile with a personal touch really makes a difference, and the handwritten letter is so unexpected today, that I believe it leaves a more positive and lasting impression.)
  • Use the thank you/follow-up to clarify anything that you feel you may have forgotten that is important.
  • Reiterate your strengths.
  • DO NOT draw attention to “mistakes” that an interviewer may not have noticed, (For example: “I’m sorry, I realized my fly was open!”) but DO take this opportunity to smooth over obvious rough patches, (For example: “You asked me in the interview about ‘XYZ.’ After thinking through the question a bit more, I don’t believe I gave a sufficient answer. My thoughts on XYZ are…”)

Even though the interview may not have yielded the results that you would have liked, the only real harm you can do is leaving that interviewer with a negative impression. End on a positive note, whether you get the job or not.

Michelle_Riklan_PicMichelle A. Riklan, ACRW, CPRW, CEIC, is an internationally recognized, award winning résumé writer and a member of several prestigious career and résumé writing organizations. She is a speaker, author, corporate trainer, career coach and employment/interview consultant.