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How to recover from a bad interview

We’ve all been there. We go into an interview feeling confident, and we leave thinking “what just happened?” Maybe you didn’t do enough prep work or questions were asked that you never anticipated. Maybe you forgot to turn your phone off--and had an awkward moment. Whatever happened, it is important to successfully recover so you can walk into your next interview with resilience and optimism.

First things first. Even after a bad interview, you’ll want to send a thank you email to your interviewer. If what happened during the interview warrants acknowledgement/an apology (i.e. you were late, you said something inappropriate, etc.) then now is a good time to address it. You may be able to salvage the interaction with an honest, professional message. Even if you don’t get a call back, you can at least feel confident that you did what you could to rectify the situation.

Next, try to pinpoint what you could have done differently. Was is something under your control? Take some time to reflect on the interview. If you were late and arrived flustered, aim to leave 15 min earlier for your next interview. Did you forget to talk about the most important and relevant project you’ve done? Write down a few keywords in your padfolio to trigger your memory next time. One of the most common reasons for a poor interview is that a student was unprepared with knowledge about the company. Be sure to do plenty of research ahead of time. Identify what areas of the company you are most interested in, and link them to your previous experiences. This will help you remember the things you want to mention. Did you struggle with behavioral questions? Next time, take some time to think about a variety of scenarios that you have faced that reflect positively on you as a potential employee. You don’t have to think of these situations in terms of what questions they will fit, because chances are you can shape them to fit a variety of questions. The most important part is that you have them fresh in your memory so they are easy to recall.

If you can’t seem to put your finger on what went wrong, schedule a mock interview with an ECS advisor. We can help you understand what you are doing well, and what you may need to work on before your next interview. If you’d prefer to practice on your own first, check out the Impress mock interview module in your CareerEngine account. You can record yourself responding to interview questions and play it back for yourself to help you identify where you can improve. Or, you can send the recording to one of our advisors and they can provide feedback.

Remember, it is not the end of the world if you have a bad interview. It happens to the best of us. Take a deep breath and restore your confidence. The biggest part is understanding how you can improve and identify the steps to get you there. You’ll get ‘em next time!

About the author

Krysta Kirsch

Krysta Kirsch is a Previous On-Campus Recruiting Coordinator at Engineering Career Services.