How You Can Bounce Back After a Bad Job Interview (and Ace the Next One)

Beautiful young businesswoman smiles as she participates in a video conference with a colleague.
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Job seekers know that optimistic feeling that comes before an important job interview. There’s a nervous excitement, knowing that you’ve prepared yourself for this moment. You might have even started visualizing yourself in the new job, being your best self.

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Because of the optimism, the despair when an interview goes sideways is all the more overwhelming. Maybe you have audio or technical issues on a video call that is difficult to overcome, or bad traffic keeps you from arriving early or on time. You were asked a question that threw you off guard, or you blank on an answer.

I spoke with Diana YK Chan, a recruiter turned career coach at My Marketability, who offered some tips about how to bounce back from a less-than-stellar interview experience.

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Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

“A lot of times people are nervous, and we can be are hard on ourselves,” Chan said. “We have to give ourselves a pat on the back that we did our best. Acknowledge the preparation done.”

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Sharing your experience with someone you trust can help.

“Talk to someone about the overall process because I bet you a lot of times, we probably thought it went terrible, but it was actually okay.”

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Lessons Learned

Learn from every interview to help prepare you for the next one.

Chan recommends journaling your experience to find ways to improve. What questions were asked, what went well, what could have gone better and what other stories could you have told? By going through this self-reflection process you’ll improve your stories and be more prepared for the next time.

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Change Your Mindset

If you are going into an interview nervous or filled with negative energy, change the narrative to work to your advantage.

Chan mentioned a recent client of hers who was going in for the third round of interviews for his dream job. He expressed worry about being caught off guard or saying the wrong thing. Her advice was to reframe the narrative of the story you tell yourself.

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“Instead of saying ‘I’m worried,’ say ‘I am excited.’ ‘I’m excited for this opportunity. I’m excited to show them what I have to offer, to think on my feet, and to provide the best answer to show them why I’m a great fit.'”

Saying it out loud can change how you feel and how people react to you.

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Overanalyzing the Process Can Be Problematic

By now you’ve figured out that preparation for your next interview is critical (Chan has free interview prep resources on her website). Overdoing it runs the risk of psyching yourself out to the point where your performance is impacted.

“There is a level of balance where we need to be prepared, but we also need to trust ourselves that we’re smart enough, creative enough to come up with the answer on the spot as well,” Chan said.

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“Otherwise, what happens is we become too robotic or too rehearsed, and then we cannot connect with the interviewer at all.”

It’s not about being perfect, Chan said. Focus less on perfection and more on a connection.

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When in Doubt, Breathe It Out

Finally, Chan emphasizes that it’s OK to take a moment and don’t feel obligated to fill an awkward silence right away.  If you feel the negative or nervous energy coming into play, stop and take a breath.

“It’s the most simple technique in an interview. You just have to give yourself a moment and breathe. Give yourself a pause and get yourself back in the game.”

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Last updated: May. 12, 2021

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