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5 Bad Interview Scenarios... And How To Recover From Them!

You spent time picking out your outfit, making sure your resume was polished, and got plenty of sleep the night before. The big day is finally here! But then you show up to the interview and everything goes wrong.

Most of us just shake our heads, wince and try to tell ourselves we'll do better next time.

But is there a way to recover and possibly still get the job? ABSOLUTELY!

Some mistakes are harder to fix than others, but almost all of them can be smoothed over with a little thing we call the "Thank You note"! So here are 5 mistakes you may have made, and 5 ways for you to recover and land on your feet.

1. The Interviewer Was Like a Scripted Robot

We’ve all been there: The conversation that goes nowhere, because the other person is like some sort of emotionless machine and simply won’t give you the chance to form any kind of relationship so you can't have any meaningful dialogue.

In an interview setting, this person is almost always the one who simply reads from their mental [or actual] list of questions instead of engaging like a genuine human. This can leave you wondering how you did, and with a lot of unanswered questions of your own!

So how do you frame up a thank you note that’s genuine, thoughtful and provides you some of the input you were looking for if you’ve just interviewed with a robot?

Try This:

Dear [Name],

Thanks so much for your time and input today. It was great to learn more about the [role] and the goals for the team.

After our meeting, I thought of just a couple of follow up questions that I’m hopeful you can answer:

1. [Question one] 

2. [Question two]

If you’re able to answer these, or point me to the best contact for this information, I’ll be most grateful. Likewise, if I may answer any follow up questions, I’d be delighted to do so.

I’m very excited about the opportunity and look forward to continuing the conversation!


[Your Name]

2. You Screwed Up a Question

You know every time this happens because you can almost feel yourself sweating through your clothes! The interviewer asked you a tough question and you stumbled a bit as you answered. Is there any recovery from this unfortunate situation?

Possibly, and you can (and should) attempt to recover the situation with your thank you note.

Say, for instance, you’re interviewing for a marketing role and the interviewer asked for some specifics about your e-commerce background. You’ve done a bit of e-commerce work, but you didn’t arrive ready to discuss it… and so you fumbled your way through the answer to the point of sounding clueless.

How do you recover in the thank you note?

Try This:

Dear [Name],

Thanks so much for your time today. It was great hearing about your experience with [Company] and learning about [anything you learned about].

We spoke today about the [department] goals and challenges of [Company]. I got to thinking more about what I could bring to the table. In my current role, I’ve successfully [insert something you’ve done related to the goal] and feel that this may be very useful as you work to accelerate the growth of this business.

I’d be very glad to discuss this further with you, as we didn’t have much opportunity to dive into the details during our chat today. Likewise, I’m happy to answer any additional questions you may have as you firm up your next steps in the process.


[Your Name]

3. You Showed Up Late

This is one of the biggest "no-no"s in interviewing because right away it undermines your credibility.

Maybe you underestimated how long the drive would take, or maybe you got lost! Whatever the reason, if you arrive late—and have not pre-alerted your interviewer of the situation—it can make for a terrible first impression!

Can you fix this? Maybe…

Ideally, you should call the moment you realize you’re running late and also address it when you arrive. If you panic, however, and don’t say a word about it in person, absolutely reference it in the "thank you note", in the form of an apology.

Try This:

Dear [Name],

Thank you very much for your time and consideration today. In addition to expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the [title of job] role, I wanted to apologize for being 15 minutes late.

I was stopped by a traffic accident at 43rd and Main Street as I neared your office, and realized my cell phone was sitting on my kitchen counter as I scrambled to alert your assistant.

I respect your time very much and certainly did not intend to inconvenience you.

I enjoyed our discussion very much—especially our chat about [specific thing you talked about]. I feel I could really hit the ground running with this challenge.

Please let me know if I may provide any additional input that will help the team as you firm up next steps in the process and keep me in consideration for the role.


[Your Name]

4. You Rambled On and On

Sometimes nerves get the best of all of us and we don't know when to shut up! You know it happens whenever your interviewer starts checking their watch or you feel your mouth moving and completely forgot your point.

When this happens, it can be the worst feeling in the world, but don't worry! There's a way to make a smooth recovery..

Try This:

Dear [Name],

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your time and interest today. As you may have gathered, I’m very excited about the possibility of supporting one of my all-time favorite brands.

In fact, I’m so excited that I suspect I chattered on a bit longer than may have been useful when you asked me why I had applied for the role. I sincerely apologize if that came across as unfocused or inconsiderate.

You see, I’ve been a passionate customer of [Company] since you first introduced the [one of the older products]. When I arrived and saw the prototype in the lobby—and all of your smiling employees heading to lunch—I could hardly contain my enthusiasm.

You’re doing great work at [Company] and I feel confident I could support your efforts to [do the big thing they need you to do]. I would also—without question—be a passionate evangelist for the brand.

Thank you again for meeting with me today. I hope to continue on with the process!


[Your Name]

5. You Otherwise Tanked

Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what went wrong, but you left the interview feeling as if you didn't do your best. Whenever this happens, the best thing to do is move forward with positivism and confidence, knowing you may not land the role, but that you still got a little more interviewing experience along the way.

Still, you should never give a role up as lost, so see if you can recover before you mark this job off your list!

Try This:

Dear [Name],

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your time and interest today. I know you have a lot of interested and qualified candidates, and I don't know if I answered all of your questions, but would love the chance to help your company grow by [Insert their pain/challenges and a way you could help solve them!]

Thank you again for meeting with me today. I hope to continue on with the process!


[Your Name]

In every scenario, timely, thoughtful thank you notes should be viewed as mandatory following a job interview. They’re even more important when something went wrong and you need to make a smooth recovery!

Email vs. handwritten?

My preference is email, simply because it's faster, more convenient for your interviewer, and less likely to get tossed in the garbage due to misunderstood or poor handwriting.

Regardless where you stand on the debate, don’t run screaming from the building and bury your head in the sand the moment things get dicey. Instead, use the thank you as a potential opportunity to change the course and keep you in consideration!

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