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No one wants to have a bad interview, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your story. There are a few steps you can take to squeeze some value out of a bad interview, even if you don’t land a role at that company.
It might seem like a wasted effort, but many interviewers wait to read the follow-up thank you letter before closing the door for good on a candidate. A poorly written or copy-and-pasted thank you email – or worse, no thank you at all – reaffirms any negativity from the interview, and shuts down any chance you might have had at a follow-up interview or further consideration.
No matter how poorly the interview went, follow up with individual thank you notes to each person you interviewed, referencing specific topics of conversation that you covered. Make doubly sure that the note is personalized if you were interviewed by multiple people because they will certainly compare thank-you notes to see if you put the time and effort into each one.
A good thank you note can be the difference between, “that candidate was awful” and “that candidate just wasn’t the right fit.” The former closes off any future opportunities at that company, the latter can ensure that roles in other departments or teams are still on the table.
Why did the interview go poorly? Were you caught unprepared for a certain question? Did you stumble when explaining your work history? Did you and the interviewer simply not click?
It can be an uncomfortable exercise, but honest self reflection is the most important thing you can do after a bad interview. Even if you don’t get an offer from that company, diagnosing why an interview went poorly will allow you to walk into your next interview better prepared and with more confidence than your last interview.
Reflection will help you diagnose the root of your problem, but that diagnosis is meaningless unless you follow it up with real action. Before your next interview, carve out a substantial portion of time to address your interview shortcomings head on.
If you were caught unprepared, examine how much time you spent studying the company you were interviewing for and adjust accordingly. If you stumbled explaining your credentials, take time to rehearse your professional elevator pitch so you ensure that you’re covering all of the important highlights from the outset.
As a general rule, ask yourself what the career narrative is that you’re trying to tell in an interview, then reflect on the bad interview and pinpoint where that narrative stalled. Isolating and improving those moments will help you do a 180 the next time you’re in the interview chair.
Above all else, it’s important not to let a bad interview shake your confidence. It’s easy to focus on the negative after a bad experience, but that negativity can snowball into your future interview prep and leave you second guessing yourself in future interviews.
Take a bad interview as a learning opportunity – a chance to hone your technique and improve your sales pitch for the next prospective employer. The right opportunity is waiting for you, and you’ll be thankful for your previous experience when you’re finally ready to strike.