Screwing up in an interview doesn’t always mean you lost the job.
It’s not something we like to reflect on, but the truth is that there’s plenty of things that can go wrong when you submit an application and start the interview process for a new job. But even if the stakes are high, you can’t let the fear of making a mistake hold you back–there’s a wonderful new job out there with your name on it, and the only way to get it is to take a risk, submit the application, and do your best in the interview.
Only . . . what if you feel like you didn’t do your best? Or what if you know for sure that you made a misstep?
If you think there’s a chance you messed up during the interview process, you need to implement some damage control right away. Here’s what Halai Shukran, director of talent management at Viant, Inc., has to say about the five most common interview mistakes she sees when working with prospective job candidates.
MISTAKE NO. 1: MISSING THE PHONE SCREENING OR INTERVIEW
“A huge pain point for recruiters is putting all this work into finding a stellar candidate and scheduling a phone screening to feel them out for the role, only for the candidate to miss it,” says Shukran. “Missing the phone screen and not following up to reschedule shows a lack of professionalism, time management, and follow up, and these are key skills a recruiter looks for when assessing someone for any role.”
How to recover. If you’ve already made this mistake, it’s not a complete loss: Follow up with your contact as quickly as possible, take full responsibility for the slip, and explain the mitigating circumstances. Anything less–like dismissing it as no big deal or assuming they’ll reschedule quickly–won’t win you any favors (or second chances).
MISTAKE NO. 2: SENDING A GENERIC FOLLOW-UP OR NOT FOLLOWING UP ENOUGH
Shukran notes that another common interview mistake is sending a bland follow-up note or not following up at all. This causes you to miss out on an enormous opportunity to stand out among other prospective hires and–more importantly–to continue the conversation and build a relationship with your interviewer.
How to recover. If you made this common interview mistake and haven’t followed up to an interview yet, do so! Just make sure it’s unique to the person with whom you interviewed and shows you’re paying attention to the conversation: “Whenever possible, think back to something an interviewer said about the company and comment on it, or follow up for more information or to share an interesting article tied to the role. A follow-up that showcases whether or not you’re a fit shows more interest post-interview than a generic one,” remarks Shukran.
“I know of a candidate that was interviewing with a company, and while they were waiting in the wings to hear back from the recruiter, the company received some good reviews in the press,” remarks Shukran. “The next morning, the candidate reached out just to say congratulations on the big win. That thoughtful gesture showcased that person’s passion for the company and helped that candidate stay top of mind.”
MISTAKE NO. 3: FOLLOWING UP TOO MUCH
“When a candidate follows up too frequently, I start to wonder about what’s going on,” says Shukran. “Did they get turned down by another company, so they’re latching onto this job? Did they not hear when we said we’re going through first round of interviews and will get back to them next week? Either they’re not listening or they’re too aggressive, and either way that’s a turnoff.”
How to recover. Aside from chilling out and stepping back, you can’t recover from too much follow-up. Your best bet is to learn your lesson and apply a more moderate approach to following your next interview (or better yet, ask your interviewer what the follow-up schedule looks like and act accordingly).
MISTAKE NO. 4: NOT ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
If it seems like asking questions at the end of an interview is optional, Shukran wants to be clear that it’s not: “An interview is more of a conversation than anything else,” she says. “When you’re really listening in an interview and having an insightful conversation, you have an opportunity to dig deeper. If you’re not asking questions, it shows a lack of interest and passion.”
How to recover. If you find yourself in the middle of an interview and you really can’t think of any questions, it’s okay to ask to circle back with questions later.
“Not everyone can think on their feet,” Shukran says. “When you’re still in the moment and you can’t think of any questions, it’s okay to say, ‘This is a lot of info to digest, I’d like to think through the questions and follow up by email.’ That would show me a strong sense of self-awareness that you know you’re not the person to think on your feet but you know what you need to do to get the job done.”
If you didn’t ask questions in the interview, all is not lost. The next time you’re in touch with your interviewer–whether that’s a scheduled follow-up call or a check-in a week or two after your interview–ask if it’s possible to take them up on their offer to ask questions and include a few thoughtful ones in your email.
MISTAKE NO. 5: NOT SHOWING INDUSTRY KNOW-HOW
The best way to impress a recruiter or hiring manager is to do your research in advance of the interview–that means doing your due diligence and reading the company’s website, performing a web search for articles mentioning the company or recent press releases, and reviewing all interview-related email correspondence.
“I work in ad tech, so what’s always very impressive to me is when candidates come in from outside our industry with a strong understanding of the business,” says Shukran. “There may be gaps or mistakes in how they’re addressing what we do, but whether they have the details right or not, it shows me that they have a strong passion for the potential opportunity and a strategic, business-oriented way of thinking.”
How to recover. This is yet another common interview mistake where the best approach is a preventative one. Research the company and the position as thoroughly as possible in advance of your interview so you’re prepared to have an intelligent discussion about the position and the role it plays in the company’s big picture.
If you made the mistake of taking the interview cold, make sure you show that you’ve done your research when you follow up. Mention a recent press release or acquisition, or ask a question that shows that you’ve put some thought into how the position will play into the company’s long-term goals. As Shukran explains, “When you can connect your day-to-day to the bigger picture on an ongoing basis, it’s much more valuable compared to someone who is focused on the tasks associated with the job.”
If you blew an interview with one of these common interview mistakes, take heart. You’re not alone, and the mistake can likely be fixed. And if it can’t, you’ve learned a valuable lesson that will serve you well for future interviews. Don’t give up, and you’re bound to find the job that fits your life.