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Lessons from a Bad Job Interview: How to Learn from your Mistakes and Perform Better Next Time

Posted by: Marc

Spud Bad Interview

If you’ve ever walked away from a job interview feeling like you’ve just barely survived a car accident, you’ll be familiar with that sinking feeling of inadequacy and shame. The sense that you’ve blown a golden opportunity, one that might not present itself again; the nagging doubt that you aren’t as good as you thought you were. Throw in the practical implications of remaining jobless, and it’s a recipe for depression.

It’s not a good moment, but you have to remind yourself that that’s all it is – a moment. One that happens to us all. Like all setbacks, there are lessons to be learned. Dust yourself off, pour a large one and take a close, unflinching look at what went wrong. Learning those lessons could make all the difference at the next interview.

  1. Find Out What Went Wrong. Even when you know you bombed, it’s not always obvious why. Rejection letters – if they come at all – are usually comprised of stock phrases like ‘not the right fit’ and empty well-wishing for the future. Once you know for certain you didn’t get the job, get in touch with the company and see if you can speak to your interviewer to find out what it was they didn’t like. This course of action should only be pursued once you have fully accepted the rejection – if you are still in a heightened state of emotion, or feel in any way aggrieved about the decision, speaking to the person responsible for that decision will be counterproductive for your future prospects. But if the wounds are closed and the mind is open, you’ve nothing to lose.
  2. Review Your CV. Check back over your CV for mistakes. Ask a trusted friend – perhaps somebody in the same industry – to look over it too. If you didn’t tailor your CV to the specific role, you’ll know better for next time. Even one glaring typo is enough to put scrupulous interviewers off, so double and triple check it before the next interview.
  3. Be Honest with Yourself. Did you have the right attitude going in? Were you well rested and fully prepared? Might you have come across as arrogant? Or too self-effacing? Not easy questions to answer, to be sure, but absolutely essential for your future success. Striking the right balance between confidence and humility is one of the hardest things to pull off, and remains a key blindspot for many candidates.
  4. But Don’t Be too Hard on Yourself. Remember, it’s not always your fault when things don’t pan out. You could have given the same performance to another recruiter and got the job. Your interview style is just one of many factors at play. If you’ve asked yourself the tough questions and feel you played it right, it’s important not to over correct and second guess yourself too much – sowing seeds of doubt is the last thing you want to do before the next interview.
  5. Practice. Call the trusted friend and thank them profusely for checking your CV. Now ask them to conduct a mock interview and give you feedback at the end. Heed the feedback and do another practice run. When you get a job, buy them a present.
  6. Indulge Your Frustration. Immediately after a bad interview, it’s important to get the experience off your chest by talking to a friend or family member. If you don’t indulge your emotions at the first opportunity, they will emerge later – probably at the next interview.

Vent. Learn. Move on. Even if you did everything wrong in the interview, mistakes aren’t crimes, and the most valuable lessons in life are learned the hard way. If those lessons help you perform better next time – perhaps for a more attractive job – flunking that one interview might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.


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Marc is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads our IT recruitment practice. Originally from the UK, Marc has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for ten years and working in the recruitment sector for just as long. Marc has worked as an in-house recruiter and within multinational recruitment consultancies and independent SME recruitment businesses.

At The Talent Hive we specialise in connecting IT & Engineering professionals with the right career opportunities. We encourage collaboration, socialising your success and sharing industry insight and expertise. Start the journey, connect with The Talent Hive today.

Categorised as: Career Development, Job Seeker Advice