What to do when you blow a job interview

By Scott Westerman
“There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.
” ~Rachel Griffiths

Bad days! We all have them. Those times when you’ve completely prepared and practiced and, for some inexplicable reason, you can’t seem to put your best foot forward. What can we do when we’re up to bat in a job interview and our first swing is a miss?

Immediately recalibrate.

I’m a fan of handwritten notes, but you want to squelch bad first impressions immediately. So if you had a bad phone interview, immediately draft an email explaining that you’re much better in person. If you’ve done your homework, you knew what the interviewer was looking for. And now you have the benefit of intelligence. They asked you the questions. Go back and answer them again, better this time, more thoughtfully and with examples attached. Here’s a recalibration email that someone once sent me. I’ve saved it because it was so good.

Dear Scott,

As you no doubt guessed, I wasn’t on my A-Game today. It happens to all of us eventually, but this was a first for me and I wanted to write you immediately  to apologize.

I’m grateful for the time you took to talk with me today. It made me want to serve you and your team even more than ever. From our conversation, I learned that your biggest challenges are .. (They listed them.)

Here are some specific skill sets that I bring to the table that can add value.. (They listed them, customized to clearly and more effectively answer the interview questions, including real world scenarios that demonstrated their competency.)

I amm attaching some examples of my past work that directly relate to the position you’ve posted. (They explained succinctly how the attachments related to the need.)

And so you can get a better idea of what it is like to work with me, here are two of my references that you can feel free to contact to learn more about me. I respect them very much and have asked them to be honest and candid. They can confirm that I never give up until I am successful. If we get the chance to work together, you will quickly see that for yourself. (They provided both email and phone numbers for two impressive references.)

Finally, I include a brief outline of how I plan to approach the assignment. In short, this is my 60 day game plan to hit the ground running. It is yours to keep, whether or not we end up working together, in gratitude for the opportunity to compete for the position.

I would not blame you if you decided to move forward with other candidates. I did not demonstrate my best qualities on the phone and I am sorry about that.

But… I promise you that if we have another opportunity for some quality time, I can show you how our partnership will be mutually rewarding on every level. Most people give up when they stumble. I hope you’ve seen that I will never give up when it counts.

Thanks very much for reading these materials. With your permission, I will contact your assistant to arrange another chance for us to talk.


Wow! How could I not give that person another shot? I shared their stuff with the interview committee and they were intrigued that someone would go to so much trouble for a second chance. We gave them that chance. They endured one of the tougher team interviews I’ve witnessed and came through with flying colors. They thrived at our company and ended up on the interview team when a promotion opened up their former position again.

So, if you really want the gig, and truly feel that you are the best suited candidate, go after it again!

There are no guarantees that this approach will work in your situation. But there is one thing I can totally guarantee: In the wise words of Thomas Carlyle, “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”