Interviews can be doggone nerve wracking–and those nerves can make us appear unfriendly, anxious, or insecure. Anything from a small distraction (squirrel) to a surprise attendee (mailman) has the potential to throw us off course entirely. That’s okay! Some of life’s biggest gifts are the opportunities we’re given to learn, heal, and grow. So, we’ve prepared a few helpful tips on how to recover from a bad interview … for humans!
Reflect on the Conversation
Sometimes, remembering the specific details of an interview is difficult – the whole ordeal may feel like a stressful blur. However, if your performance isn’t sitting well with you, do your best to think through any of your perceived “mistakes.”
For example, did you:
- Neglect to answer a direct question
- Forget to articulate a relevant skill you’ve been working toward
- Leave your level of experience too vague
- Notice a negative or disappointed reaction to one of your answers or comments
Overall, do you feel you might have created any miscommunications that would likely impact the interviewer’s impression of your ability to perform? If so, this likely requires follow-up action.
On the other hand, if you are simply stressing about whether you smiled enough or fidgeted too much, try not to ruminate. It’s easy to overthink every detail of your interview, but at the end of the day, you can’t change whether it felt “off.” Fortunately, most interviewers understand that nerves are a normal part of the process.
Create an Action Plan for Improvement
Sometimes, we just don’t nail it. It’s okay to have an off day or a bad interview. Whether you fell flat because of nerves or outside circumstances, dust yourself off and forgive your own mistakes. Then, learn from them.
Give yourself a few days of distance to allow your emotions to settle after a rocky interview. Then, sit down to make a plan for improvement in future interviews. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Which specific interview questions were most difficult for me to answer?
- How could I have been better prepared?
- How can I make accommodations for my own nerves?
- What tools can I use to remind myself of my most important skills to mention?
- How might I practice before my next interview?
If you do realize that you left out important information or left relevant details up for interpretation, it’s time to create an action plan. In the vast majority of cases, this will simply mean adding a short follow-up explanation to your thank you email. If you already have a more personal connection with the hiring manager, you may go as far as giving them a call.
Remember that respecting the hiring team’s limited time and only providing the extra information necessary is the overall goal. Refrain from seeking reassurance that everyone liked you or wasting time with apologies.
Always Send a Thank You
Sending a thank you email is best practice after any interview. Especially if you’re concerned that your enthusiasm or friendliness didn’t shine through as much as you hoped, this is a great space for remedying that. Resist the urge to apologize or make excuses such as, “I’m very excited about this opportunity. I’m sorry if it didn’t show, I was nervous!” This only puts the hiring manager in an awkward position of feeling that they need to reassure you, and will make you appear less confident.
Instead of apologizing or shedding light on your perceived blunders, simply communicate your enthusiasm and thank them for their time. If needed, add a few sentences clarifying any key information you felt you skipped over during the interview. For example, perhaps you feel you need to add context to a specific response that fell flat. Provide a very brief (one sentence) reminder of the conversation from the interview along with a single sentence for additionally relevant context. Remember that the team likely interviewed various candidates that day, so don’t assume they know exactly what you are referring to without a reminder.
With a little bit of time and practice, you’ll begin to feel more confident in your skills. You’ll be fetching a dreamy new gig before you know it! In the meantime, be sure to sniff out the Keys to Performing a Successful Self-Assessment for a few additional ideas on how to prepare for your search!