Everyone has bad job interviews (including me!).
It’s not the end of the world. Actually, it’s very normal to have a bad job interview.
However, if you are a high achiever or have imposter syndrome, it can be even more difficult to bounce back because the disappointment can be deeper if you make it mean something about yourself.
So what do you do?
I’ve recently experienced this myself (listen to the podcast episode for the details!) and this is what I would tell a career coaching client, friend and myself.
Let’s get started!
1. Allow Yourself To Feel Disappointed After The Bad Interview
It’s okay to feel negative feelings. So much of society pushes us to brush off and repress negative feelings and replace them with toxic positivity or numb them. But instead of trying to run away from the feeling, lean into it.
If you feel disappointed, let yourself feel it instead of repressing it because if you try to bottle it up, it will slowly leak out into other parts of your life and you extend the feeling of disappointment and embarrassment (trust me, I’ve been there).
Instead, try reframing your mindset to one that acknowledges and praises your efforts instead of the result.
The reason why you are disappointed by your performance in the job interview is because you went for a job that you really wanted, and that’s great. It feels uncomfortable to disappoint yourself, but you tried. This is something I really coach my clients through because it is easy to play it safe and there are definitely tons of lateral job postings you could have applied to. However, you applied for a job that you really wanted. It’s important to understand that this is why you are feeling disappointed.
Instead of putting pressure on yourself on the result of the interview, give yourself credit for trying.
2. Talk About The Bad Interview With Another Person or To Yourself Through Journaling
After you feel the disappointment, it’s really important to allow yourself to release it from your mind. Talk to a family member or friend about the experience and allow yourself to get perspective on the situation. It’s not the end of the world and a trusted family member or friend can help give that third-party perspective.
If you don’t have someone you can confide in, or are an introvert (like me!), journal about your experience. When I am journaling, I like to think about my past self and my future self. What does that mean? When I am journaling, I also like to think about what my future self (“Future Kim”) would tell me to do in this type of situation. 99% of the time it would tell me not to be so hard on myself. I know that because sometimes I like to think about what I would tell the past version of myself, and usually it would be not to stress about it too much. What’s happened has happened and things will work out the way they are supposed to. When you are in the moment, everything seems like the end of the world, but when you are able to get some perspective, it doesn’t seem so bad. In a few weeks, months, and especially years, this won’t be a big deal.
If you think about what your future self tells you now, chances are, she would tell you to be kind to yourself and not beat yourself up for this situation; it will be okay.
3. Follow Up With A Thank You Email And Address Your Mistakes
Now that you have addressed the mindset component, let’s look at the actions you can take to rectify the situation. Here’s my secret: the follow-up email.
A thank you email should be sent at the end of every interview – good or bad. However, this is especially important if you had a bad interview. When you send the thank you email, make sure to take this opportunity to address anything that you felt you did badly during the interview.
For example, if you felt like you didn’t answer an interview question well, elaborate on it in the email.
Here’s a template to get you started:
“Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Thank you very much for your time interviewing me for the position of [job title]. I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this position, meet you and [insert other interviewer’s names].
After our interview, I realized that I neglected to include [insert a few short sentences of what you felt you missed during the interview. Keep it concise.]
I truly enjoyed our discussion on … [include some talking points of the projects or topics discussed in the interview].
Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Have a great week,
Last year, a member of the WLM community DMed me on Instagram what to do after her bad interview and I replied with this advice. She sent a video in her email because she felt like she didn’t show enough energy during the interview. Not only did the company LOVE it, they immediately invited for a second interview.
If you felt like you did really poorly for external reasons (like you had just found out some really bad news before the interview), you can always ask for a 2nd interview as well.
A job interview is not over until a candidate is selected. So if you feel like you had a bad job interview, make sure to follow up. Not only does this allows you to correct your mistake, but it releases you of any pressure regarding the bad interview. You have done the best you can and ultimately, the end decision is now up to the interviewer. There is no longer any reason to feel guilty or embarrassed for your bad job interview.
Bonus: If there was more than one interviewer (such as if it was a panel), email the interviewers separately and personalize it!
4. Reflect On The Experience And How To Improve
After you have worked on the mindset component and emailed the interviewer, it’s time to reflect on how to improve in the future. Look back at everything that you felt went badly and how it could be improved on for the future.
If you were late, next time give yourself more time to get ready or account for traffic.
However, most of the time a job interview goes badly because you didn’t answer the interview questions to the best of your ability. Reflect on the experience and how you can improve. Personally, I like to write down every single question that I am asked during a job interview and how I answered it. Many times, I realize after the fact that I did not choose the best example for a question, especially if the interviewer asked me a question that I wasn’t prepared to answer.
Write down the questions and your responses for when you prepare for future interviews. This will not be your only interview and it’s important to take this as a learning experience to improve for the future.
This is something I really coach my clients on – everything is a learning experience. During our interview prep, I teach my clients how to use an accomplishments matrix to choose the best answer for future interviews. If you need help with this, my coaching program is now open!
5. Ask For Feedback After The Bad Interview
This is a bonus tip! The best way to learn from a bad interview is to learn more about the interviewer’s perspective on why you weren’t chosen.
If you did not get the job, ask for feedback after you receive the email saying that you were not selected to move forward. Now, this does not always work. Sometimes employers will not respond or they respond with a generic answer, but sometimes you will actually get detailed feedback.
Especially if there were multiple rounds in the interview (in the podcast episode I talked about how I did multiple exams and interviews over the course of 2 years for a job), the employer may be willing to help because they appreciate your time as well. This also applies to internal job opportunities. If you were applying for a promotion within the company, your company probably wants you to stay and grow and would be willing to provide feedback on how to improve in the future.
When you ask for feedback, remember to ask about what went well and what didn’t. It’s just as important to remember to ask what went well so you know what to continue doing!
Remember everyone has bad job interviews – that’s a part of life! It means you are growing and pushing to new heights in your career. The key takeaway I’ve learned about bad job interviews is not to curl up into a ball feeling embarrassed or ashamed or run away from it. It is to accept it and learn from it.