What To Do If You've Blown a Job Interview

What to Do When a Job Interview Goes Wrong

Businessman sitting in office lobby looking at camera
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Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put into preparing for an interview, something goes wrong. Maybe you've woken up with a migraine; maybe you can't take your mind off a personal event in your life; maybe that day you simply felt under the weather.

How to Handle a Bad Job Interview

Whatever it is, there are circumstances that you just can't predict - circumstances that may very well throw you off your "A game" and result in your poor performance during an interview.

It happens.

Here are three strategies you can use to recover from a bad job interview: 

1. Give yourself some time. A bad interview can leave you feeling frustrated and upset. Take some time – a few minutes, or maybe even an hour - to absorb the experience. But don't dwell too long. It's easy to spiral, and become convinced that the interview went even worse than it actually did. Remember, this is only one opportunity, and there will be many more. 

2. Look for lessons. Once you've spent some time with your feelings, ask yourself if there are any learning opportunities. Did the interview go poorly because you were late? Did you flub an answer to a common interview question? Fail to demonstrate your passion for the position? If you can identify the exact reason the interview went poorly, that can often help you fix the problem - either with this position, or by preparing differently for your next interview.


3. Request a second chance. No one wants to mess up in an interview, but employers are humans too and understand that people do have bad days. If you think you've blown an interview, don't just give up. Although there's no sure-fire fix, it's always a good idea to send a thank you email after your interview, and if you think you could have done better, it doesn't hurt to explain that in the note.


For instance, if you were feeling under the weather, you might send a thank you note saying you were feeling ill, and that it led to a poor performance that didn't demonstrate your full interest in the position. Then, ask if there is any way you can meet for a second time. You never know - the employer may be impressed with your initiative. After all, many times on the job, something won't go perfectly. For a potential employer, seeing how you work to improve a situation can be almost as meaningful as having a strong interview. 

How to Ask for a Second Chance

Although not all employers have the time or resources for a "do-over," if you think you flunked an interview, take the time to shoot the interviewer an email explaining your circumstances and thanking them for the opportunity to interview.

Of course, don't go crazy with excuses, but make sure you:

  • Briefly, explain what went wrong. For example, "I was feeling under the weather" or "I'm not typically late, but I had an unexpected childcare emergency." Aim to keep your explanation simple and short - no need for a lot of details or a sob story.
  • Emphasize your interest in the job. You can also mention the particular skills you'd bring to the position. 
  • Offer to meet a second time. Or, ask if it's an option to arrange a phone interview. 
  • Reiterate the option to contact your referencesStrong references can reassure interviewers that your poor performance was atypical, and attest to your on-the-job abilities. 

Here's a sample email that you might send if you find yourself in this situation.

Sample Email to Ask for Another Interview

Subject: Jane Doe Interview

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I enjoyed speaking with you, and I feel that the position would be a great match for my academic and professional background and my skill set.

However, I am not sure my interest and enthusiasm for the job translated in our interview today. I have been feeling under the weather this week and don't think I was able to express my aptitude for the job.

I wanted to take the time to reassure you that I believe my sense of initiative, high level of motivation, and positive attitude make me a prime candidate for this position. I'm not sure if that came across during the interview.

If you would like to arrange another time to meet, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you again.

Also, please don't hesitate to contact my references should you have any questions or concerns about my personal or work performance.

Thanks again for the opportunity to speak with you. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jane Doe

For the Next Time

Even if you can't salvage this interview, there are some things you can do to help alleviate the stress of worry about the next one being bad too. Here's how to minimize job interview stress, along with tips for acing a job interview.