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When You Mess Up an Interview

You were so excited to get an interview.  It felt like success was within your grasp but from the moment you sat down, nothing went as planned.  Your words came out wrong and even though you know that you are perfect for the job, it didn't come through when you were answering the questions.  Now you feel like you had a chance and you blew it.  Given that it takes so much time and effort to even get an interview, it is extremely frustrating when you don't perform well.  You may be starting to feel like nobody is ever going to hire you.  Don't despair; job interviews are tough and this is all part of the process.  Here are some steps that will help you get back on track:

Don't lose hope.  Since you can't read the interviewer's mind, you don't know for sure how they perceived you.  You may have performed better than you think.  The interviewer may not have even noticed the mistakes that you think you made.  You could be worrying about nothing. 

Be open.  The thank you letter is a good opportunity to address any concerns that the employer might have.  If there is a question that you don't think that you answered well, you can include a short answer in your thank you note.  Also, if you feel that you didn't highlight some of your key strengths, you can do that now.  You could say something like "In my excitement of interviewing for this unique opportunity, I forget to mention that I have extensive experience in..."

Mention your strengths.  Since you don't feel great about your interview performance, you need to work a little harder at selling your skills.  Remind them of why you are a great fit for the job. 

Learn from it.  Although this may be a bit painful, it is important that you take the time to reflect on what went wrong.  Should you have spent more time preparing for the interview?  Did you talk about something that you shouldn't have mentioned?  Should you have more specific examples of your accomplishments ready?  Did you simply freeze up?  Once you identify where you went wrong, you can better prepare yourself for next time.   

Move on.  After you send the thank you letter, there isn't much else that you can do.  There is no sense in analyzing everything that you said and did at the interview because it won't change anything.  Instead try to focus on finding other opportunities.  That way you'll be thrilled if they call you but if they don't, you'll already have a few more irons in the fire. 

Job interviews are hard for everyone.  The interviewer is asking you all sorts of questions that are designed to expose your weaknesses and while answering those questions you are expected to sell yourself.  If you walk away from the interview feeling stressed, then you are probably doing something right.  Keep in mind that your goal for this whole process is to find a job that is a good fit for you.  If it truly is the right fit, the employer will see past the little nervous mistakes and will focus on your great personality and all the skills that you have to bring to the position. 


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by