Recovering From a Bad Job Interview

by Jana on March 27, 2012

I recently wrote about what happens when a good job interview goes bad. It’s a terrible experience to know that you’ve blown an opportunity to get promoted or move laterally into a better position. But it’s not something that we can use as reason to never try again.

Recovering from a bad job interview takes time. Your confidence is shaken. You’re frustrated with the situation you caused. You’re angry that you let yourself screw up. You’re upset because you don’t think you’ll get another opportunity like that again. The list of negative emotions resulting from a bad job interview is infinite. But you can’t let it get to you. You need to take the situation and learn from it, and then move on.

Here are a few tips for moving on from a bad job interview:

  • Allow yourself to feel all those emotions. Talk about how you’re feeling.  If you need to cry or scream, do it.  It’s healthy and perfectly acceptable. It’s hard to move on from a bad event if you don’t deal with it.
  • Objectively review the interview. When we’re in the thick of our emotions, it’s difficult to think objectively about what went down. Once you’re not as emotional, sit down with your spouse or a friend or even just a pen and paper and talk about what happened. Make a list of everything you did wrong; don’t just blame the interview panel. You need to own what happened.
  • Focus on what you can do to improve next time. Were you visibly nervous? Horribly unprepared to talk about your skills? Did you have a poor understanding of the company and/or position? How about your attire? Did you completely answer the question the interviewer was asking or did you skirt the question? If you find a deficiency in any of these areas, work on them for your next interview.
  • Practice. This seems ridiculous but whenever I would have a job interview, I practice my answers to anticipated questions (stock questions like “how do you handle conflict” and “what are your weaknesses”).  I once had the opportunity to meet with a professional job coach (for free!) and he told me that practicing was the key to success. He also told me that you should go into any job interview with 3 things that you want to make sure you impress upon the panel. Practice these 3 things as well.
  • Try again. Do not let yourself get so dejected from one bad interview that you convince yourself to never try again. You must keep applying and interviewing in order to get better (and to put the bad one even further behind you). One blown job interview is not the end of your career advancement. Trust me on that. Less than two years after my horrible interview, I was in a better job with even higher pay. Why? Because I refused to let it stop me.

I don’t know one person who’s interviewed perfectly every time. I think in order to get better, we have to mess up. We need to make those mistakes so we can improve our skills. Messing up gives us a chance to pause and reflect on our weakness, making us more viable candidates for the next position.

Readers, what lessons have you learned from bombing at a job interview? How did you recover and move on?
Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe via Flickr.


Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals March 27, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I think the “practice” portion of your advice cannot be overstated enough. What’s even better? If you can practice with another person, be it a job coach like you mentioned or just a friend. I’ve done that to practice for interviews, particularly when I first entered the job market, and their advice was invaluable.

Jana @ Daily Money Shot April 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

What’s nice about practicing is that you can almost develop a “script” for questions you know you’re going to be asked. It also helps work out some of the nerves.

Kari@Small Budget Big Dreams April 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

Sometimes I think an interview went horribly, when it actually went OK (or vice versa). I usually tend to underestimate how well the interview went and have been surprised to get a call back. I think the key is staying positive and learning from interview mistakes you’ve made in the past. We’re human so we make mistakes, it’s just a matter of learning from them and not getting discouraged.

Jana @ Daily Money Shot April 2, 2012 at 9:40 am

Staying positive is definitely essential. I think many of us get stuck in our own heads and convince ourselves that every interview is going to be terrible, so it is. We need to just do our best and realize that as long as we do that, the rest is out of our hands.

Money Infographics April 16, 2012 at 6:44 am

The best advice I ever got was if they were harsh on you initially, imagine what they’d be like when you work for them. I’d also say don’t let fear get in the way of a good idea

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