Bombed A Job Interview? 4 Next Steps

by | Interviewing

Oops! Your big job interview didn’t go as planned. How do you know if your performance was just mediocre, or if you really bombed the interview, and what should you do if it’s the latter?

Let’s find out. Keep reading to learn:

  • Common signs you bombed a job interview
  • What to do after a bad interview
  • How to recover and move forward

How Do You Know If You Bombed A Job Interview?

To begin, what are the signs that you bombed your interview?

One clue that your interview may have gone poorly is when the recruiter or hiring manager expresses concerns about your background, knowledge, or skills. It’s expected that a prospective employer will probe into these areas and ask detailed questions during the initial interviews, but take note if they share doubts regarding your qualifications, especially if the concerns align with the requirements listed in the job posting, as it may be a sign you’re not the type of candidate they had in mind for the role.

The length of your interview can also be a clue as to how well you performed. It can be a good sign if your interview goes over the allotted time, as long as the delay isn’t caused by your long-windedness. On the other hand, don’t keep your hopes up if your interview was rushed or even cut short, since it can mean they already know they’re not interested in moving you to the next step in the hiring process.

Another clue that you might not be called back for another interview is when the recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t share the next steps in the hiring process. While some novice recruiters and managers may inadvertently skip over this if they run out of time, if they’re truly interested in you as a candidate, they’ll clearly communicate the next steps at some point.

Finally, listen to your gut, since you can often tell when there’s a disconnection or lack of interest from an employer. You’ll probably sense intuitively when an interview didn’t go well.

Note: Don’t count yourself out until you receive a rejection letter, since some interviewers can be difficult to read, particularly when you’re meeting via Zoom.

Common Signs You Bombed A Job Interview

To summarize, here are a few signs you may have bombed your interview:

  • The interviewer expressed concerns regarding your qualifications.
  • Your interview was rushed or cut short.
  • You didn’t hear about the next steps in the hiring process.
  • Your interviewer was disconnected or seemed to lack interest.

Common Signs You Bombed A Job Interview

4 Steps To Take When You Bomb A Job Interview

Now, what should you do if you think, or know, that your interview was a flop? Are there any ways to recover from a bad interview? Here’s what you might consider:

1. Give yourself grace.

For starters, try not to be too hard on yourself. Unless you’re a pundit or press secretary, it’s unlikely that you answer tough questions on the spot for a living, so give yourself grace if your interview performance was less than perfect.

Additionally, we can be our harshest critics, and you may be being too hard on yourself. Even if your interview was truly terrible, nearly everyone has flopped at least once, and employers know this when considering candidates’ interview skills.

2. Take time to process.

You might also consider setting a limit on how much time you’ll dedicate to processing your bad performance and practicing self-care. Try the following:

  • Setting a timer for X minutes or hours to allow yourself to wallow in your feelings.
  • Giving yourself the night or weekend off from your job search.
  • Rewarding yourself for making it to the interview process (application-to-interview rates are usually in the low single digits).

3. Send a strategic follow-up email.

Once you’ve had some time to cool off, you’ll want to send an intentionally crafted follow-up email to the interviewer. Although I’m a proponent of sending thank you emails after any interview, they can be particularly effective after a less-than-stellar one, since they provide you an opportunity to repair any damage.

Importantly, you don’t want to harp on the past and focus your follow-up email on your interview performance. Instead, you can briefly highlight any items you forgot to mention or wanted to rephrase, as well as emphasize your interview talking points.

4. Focus on what’s in your control.

Lastly, you want to focus your attention on the future and those activities that are within your control. Examples of actions you can focus on include:

Steps To Take When You Bomb A Job Interview

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself repeatedly bombing job interviews, or it’s been a while since you last looked for a job, consider hiring a coach to support you with the transition. Remember: You only get one first impression. You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).

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