We’ve all been there. You show up for the interview five minutes early. They remember your name. Everyone’s smiling. They’re asking questions; you’re answering smoothly and professionally. Then the smiles start to fade. You keep talking, and their smiles keep slipping and slipping until they look like they’re at a funeral instead of an interview.
And, in fact, they are at a funeral. What died? The chances of you getting the job. Congratulations, you bombed the interview. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The big question is, What can you do about it?
To that end, there are three things you must consider:
- Where did I screw up?
- How can I prevent it?
- How can I correct it?
Where Did I Screw Up?
Usually, we know where we messed up and typically it’s something we’ve said. In the vast majority of cases, it’s one of three things.
- Talking negatively about current or previous employers or companies. Even if you worked for Enron at the end or you currently work for Verizon, never talk bad about a previous employer or company. It’s unprofessional and employers don’t like it. In their heads, they’re wondering what you might say about them some day. Try to find something positive to say , and if that fails, at least something generic.
- Answering the money question poorly. When the employer asks what kind of salary you are looking for, the ONLY correct answer is, ““Mr. Employer, I am open and flexible. I am looking for the right opportunity.” If you quote a figure, you run the risk of alienating them with one too high, or lowballing yourself if you quote too low. If you don’t like what they say, you can always address it in the second interview.
- Communication skills. Not that you’re corrupting the Queen’s English, but rather, you’re not communicating your skills well. You need to correlate you your experiences to the demands of the job. If you’ve never worked with Windows 10, point out that you’re very well versed in both Windows 7 & 8 and the similarities will make it an extremely easy transition. Yes, it’s a simplistic example, but you get the idea.
Knowing where you screw up is an important first step. You have to be able to define the problem before you can attempt to solve it. Which brings us to…
How Can I Prevent It?
The best way to handle messing up on an interview is to not mess up on the interview. An ounce of prevention is worth two in the bush, or something to that effect. One of our favorite techniques is roleplaying. Find someone who you can trust to be critical and honest with you. Parents tend to work well for this. Then draw up a list of likely questions and have them interview you. Give several answers and see which one sounds best. This way you’ll have time to come up with the best answer. Most interviews follow a similar pattern, so odds are you’ll find plenty of value in having some canned answers for the real thing.
Another helpful, yet surprisingly overlooked, thing you can do to prepare is read some blogs. Not just the ones you’re told to read by some recruiter, but ones you find on your own as well. The internet is full of articles written by people covering every aspect of an interview. Read them, and then you’ll know. And knowing is half the battle!
How Can I Correct It?
Honestly, you probably can’t. Not too many employers are going to call back someone who messed up. There are no second first impressions. The only chance you really have is if you just failed to communicate your skills well. In your thank you email (you are sending a thank you email, right?), make sure you mention the skills you may have overlooked or not correlated properly. They might be willing to interview again if you write well enough.
But if you bombed because you compared the secretary’s face to the south end of a northbound horse, and it just so happens the secretary is the interviewers favorite daughter, well, let’s just not hold our breath, shall we?
In the End
People make mistakes. It’s part of being human. Don’t let it get you down, but make sure you learn from the experience and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Use our tips here, and maybe the next time you go into an interview, you’ll walk out with the job!
Photo: Skyfall/copyright MGM