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What You Can Do after Failing an Interview

What can you do after failing at a job interview? Does it even matter?

It sure does. Career coaches and hiring managers know this: even if a candidate bungled the interview, they may still be called back for another round. It depends how they handle the situation.

Here’s what you can do to make the best of it after failing an interview:

Finesse your follow-up message. If you know you made a mistake, but you haven’t actually been rejected, consider correcting or counterbalancing your mistake in your follow-up email. Let’s say you didn’t give a strong answer to a behavioral interview question like “What is the most challenging project you led?” If you think of a better story later, you could include a super-brief (one to three sentences) version of it in your thank-you note. Similarly, you could correct a fact you misstated. Just be sure you weigh the value of the correction against the possibility of highlighting something they may not have noticed or remembered.

If you can, have someone put in a good word for you. If one of the people on your references list is known to the hiring manager or someone close to her, ask that person to reach out directly. If you don’t have such a connection, see if you can quickly get a LinkedIn recommendation that subtly counteracts the negative impression you made at the interview. Then drop a note to the hiring manager–something like this: “Thanks again for our interview for the yada yada position. I’ve just been honored with this nice LinkedIn recommendation and thought it might interest you.”

Don’t give up. As long as they have not yet said “no” or hired someone else, continue to follow up as a matter of course. This does not, however, mean you should endlessly dwell on this one job opening.

If they have turned you down, the steps above would be too much, but there’s still something you can do to possibly turn this “no” now into a “yes” later.

Look to the future. Point your emotional energy toward other opportunities. Never put your job hunt on hold just because you have one hot prospect, nor because that one prospect didn’t pan out. Moving forward is one of the best ways to keep from obsessing about what’s past.

Learn from it. If you know what you did wrong, work on it. If you don’t know what the problem is, set up mock interviews and/or interview coaching to get feedback on how you’re coming across. Maybe there’s one thing you’re getting wrong, or maybe you just need to polish up your skills overall. Reading a good interview prep book is a great start, either way.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Don’t look at the rejection as a “3-P catastrophe”–Permanent, Pervasive and Personal. That kind of thinking will undermine your confidence.

Remember, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it that matters.  (This post was originally published in 2019 but has been updated for 2022.)

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