Follow-up e-mail to fix a botched job interview?
August 27, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I totally botched a job interview today. I really want the job, and am just starting to write a follow-up / thank-you e-mail. Help me do it well!

I had an interview today. (The first at this company.) I've had many over the past few months, and have been doing a little better, and staying a little calmer, each time. But for some reason, today I really fell apart. It was definitely quite clear that I was a nervous wreck, and I think I gave bad answers all around, alternating (in hindsight) between being unreasonable vague/terse and giving rambling answers.

What hurts the most, though, is that I think I'm actually well-qualified for the position, that I'd fit in well with the existing team, and that it's a job I'd really enjoy doing. I've had a couple interviews where I really was barely qualified and come across fairly well, and I've done well in some interviews for jobs I didn't even want. But now that I'm qualified for a job and excited about it, I totally, absolutely blew it.

I want to send a follow-up e-mail thanking them for meeting with me. In the past I've used these e-mails as a good way to chip in a little tidbit I forgot to mention in the interview, but this one will have to be a major damage control operation. I do write much more clearly than I speak, so whatever I send will be articulate and relevant, unlike the interview.

But how, exactly, do you proceed in this case? Should I acknowledge that I was nervous and that I felt I didn't do a good job explaining some things? (I normally wouldn't acknowledge nervousness, but they definitely noticed, and it was definitely handicapping.) Should I write a fairly long e-mail outlining a few of the things I could have answered better, or should I keep it short? And if I keep it short, how do I explain that I didn't have a lobotomy before the interview, and that I'm actually pretty qualified? I think just sending a generic "Thanks for your time, I'm excited about this position" will just make them think I'm a polite idiot, so my follow-up e-mail really needs to make amends for my poor performance in the interview.

(I'm aware this question is maybe a little vague. Part of it's that I don't want to reveal too much on the off-chance that any of them read Ask MeFi and think, "Hey, that loser is on Ask MeFi?!," but the position I interviewed for isn't relevant. It doesn't involve client contact, so someone who can't communicate clearly might not be a show-stopper if I can get them to see I'm smart. And sorry for not giving more specifics on exactly what went wrong, but the short answer is, "Everything.")
posted by fogster to Work & Money (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I forgot to add... There were a few people in the interview. There was a boss and a couple subordinates, but all of them were actively involved in the interview. Do I send the e-mail to just the boss, or all 3? (And does it change anything that I felt that one of the subordinates seemed to go out of his way to help bring some of the questions I clearly struggled on down to things I could answer more easily?)
posted by fogster at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: 1) Don't acknowledge you were nervous...that is a sign of a lack of self-confidence. They may not have noticed as much as you think they did. I interview people all the time and I expect them to be nervous if they really want the job, so it's really not a big deal if you're qualified. It will, however, matter if you are interviewing for a position where calm-under-pressure in face-to-face situations is a requirement (attorney, doctor, lecturer, recruiter, management, HR etc.)

2)Do not write a long email. Most managers don't have time to read long emails with a lot of explanation. If you want to write something long and involved (though I wouldn't recommended it) do it as an actual letter. Email is for communicating, not storytelling.

3) "I'm actually well-qualified for the position, that I'd fit in well with the existing team, and that it's a job I'd really enjoy doing".......this is what you told us, and this is exactly what you want to put in your email. One of the best selling points is letting the interviewer know how much you want the job. A motivated new-hire who was nervous in the interview is much more desired than a highly qualified, calm, indifferent candidate.

In short...the place to make up for your shortcomings is in this email. So, be confident if you were nervous and let them know how much you want the job and are the right person for it, but keep it short and to the point.

Also, this is a good time to attach an good example of your relevant work if you have any (but don't overdo it!)

Good luck.
posted by unccivil at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you should mention it or not, but by all means keep it short rather than long!
If you do decide to mention it then perhaps something along the lines of:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I appreciated learning more about the position and your company. I am exicted by the opportunity being presented and hope to get the chance to make a better impression the next time we meet.

I don't know if something like that would be considered presumtuous or confident though.
posted by Iteki at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: Send the email only to the boss and addresss him or her directly by name. Mention your pleasure in meeting with the subordinates in the email and mention them by name (if you remember their names and are sure about spelling, etc.) The boss will be impressed with your focus (showing that even though you were nervous, you were still functioning) and will probably forward to the others.

Let the boss decide whether or not to distribute it.

Usually team members are included to provide input on personality, compatibility, etc. The boss(es) make the decision relative to your qualifications.
posted by unccivil at 1:41 PM on August 27, 2008

As stated above, definitely mention how you feel (more than ever) that you would be a perfect fit for this company and that you could work well with the team. Keep it short. Please, please do not outline the questions that you could have answered better.

And if it were me, I would address it to the boss alone, although you could mention in the note that it was nice to meet Mr. or Ms X and Y and how you appreciated them taking time out of the schedules to meet with you.
posted by amicamentis at 1:44 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: Never apologize. Never explain (well, in situations like this anyway). The follow-up letter is for reinforcing your positives.

Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you. I was excited to learn that [my skill here] would be an asset in the position and found that the existing team to be [really great to work with for this reason]. Please don't hesitate to contact me at [phone number here] if I can provide any additional information about myself or qualifications.

Like unccivil said: Be as confident as you can possibly be in an email and keep it short.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:46 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

(oh, and use your preview feature before hitting send. In fact, use it twice.)
posted by crush-onastick at 1:47 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: I'd assertively offer to follow up by phone (hopefully you're more collected on the phone; at least there's always the mute button so you can silently scream).

"I would love to further discuss what I can bring to your company. Please don't hesitate to contact me at [phone number]."
posted by desjardins at 2:01 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: I would definitely send an email to all the people you interviewed with. I've done this with recent job interviews. Several of the people actually wrote me back (which I actually didn't anticipate,) so it seems that I made an impression and the email did something.

Just be sure you write something a little different to each person.
posted by sevenless at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: So I shouldn't do anything at all different from a "good" interview? Not even make a quick reference to how I felt I could have done better? (Good thing I asked!)

Thanks all for the advice so far.
posted by fogster at 3:56 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: seconding crush-onastick on the preview. I go a step further and don't even put the address in the 'to:' field just in case I accidentally hit send.
posted by ian1977 at 3:57 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: I've been hesitant to post this reply but honestly, if you didn't distinguish yourself in the interview, none of the suggested follow up emails are going to distinguish you either. I think it's a good idea to send a more transparent email saying that on reflection, you don't believe you sold yourself to the interview panel particularly well. I don't think it's necessary to say why - I would avoid using weak words like nervous or anxious - but I would go on to say that normally you're very strong in interviews and wish you had better communicated X.

People hire people. It's okay to be human in your communications. I'd keep it short and choose one thing to really emphasise, but yeah, I'd address the issue if it really was as obvious as you think it was. If you really botched the interview, than you need a strategy well beyond "Thank you for your time...".
posted by DarlingBri at 4:02 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Forget it, the email is not gonna work. Recruiters generally don't believe what candidates say about themselves -- they believe what other people say about them.

Your best strategy is to try to network with other contacts at this company, and make a good impression on them, and ask them to follow up for you. That would do more to turn the tide than a barrage of emails from you, which would likely backfire. Can you say "desperate"?

Oh and start looking for another job. If you're a good candidate, then there's always more opportunities out there.
posted by randomstriker at 5:57 PM on August 27, 2008

Send whatever email you want, as long as you know it won't make any difference at all. Unless every single other candidate totally sucked, why would they bother spending more time with you (in another interview)? They don't care if you think you can do better, because they've already met someone who they think is better.

All the advice everywhere telling everyone to send thank you notes are just hogwash. Not in many many years have any employers had a vast pool of equally qualified candidates who can only be distinguished by their ability to conform to archaic etiquette guidelines. Just concentrate on the interviews, and don't stress about the 'thank you's, and think of this as a learning experience that you won't repeat.
posted by Kololo at 7:37 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: I disagree with Kololo, but practices may be industry- or region-specific. In my industry (healthcare/pharma consulting) and region (New England), emailed thank you notes don't get you the job, but they can absolutely influence your chances. Whether to email all your interviewers or just the boss is probabaly industry-specific too, and may be determined by the size of the company (smaller company=email everyone). You'd be surprised what a well-written, articulate, charming thank you note can do for your chances! Don't apologize or over-explain yourself, but do reiterate that you really want the job.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm actually well-qualified for the position

Please dear God don't write this in the e-mail. Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, listen to it in another way: "I'm actually a human being." Well fuck, here I thought you were some cyborg showing up, but ha!, you fooled me good, you're an actual human being!. See the problem? You're not "actually" qualified. You're qualified, period. And you're going to want to tell them why, as concisely as possible. Throw an experience in the e-mail that you think may help. But close, close, close... that's what it comes down to.

FWIW, I think you blew it. Honestly, it sucks, but have a realistic expectation that you blew it. That way anything on the upside is gravy. And there is no downside. This is a tough, tough job market, especially in certain fields, and there are candidates that are simply flawless in their interviewing that will make you look like one of the horses that they use just to round out the field. So take some days, or weeks, stare at yourself in the mirror, and practice speaking, discussing your experiences, and closing. If you've done as many interviews as you've said by this point, you should be a pro. The fact that you aren't tells me you aren't learning from your past interviews. Change that. You need to seriously reflect upon the good and bad, and get better. Practice. Practice.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:39 PM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: While I agree that the thank you note is probably too little too late, you would be nuts not to try. All you have to lose is time. Not even a stamp. I agree with Uncivil for the most part, but since your chances here are slim you might take a shot at something along the lines of DarlingBri.

Also, based on your description, you need to figure out why or at least figure how to avoid the fact that in jobs that you really want or are a great fit you are very nervous in the interview to the point of botching it up. If you are relaxed when there is nothing to lose, you can teach yourself to be relaxed when there is more at stake.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: Oh and start looking for another job.

Absolutely, this was one of several. I just happened to be particularly fond of this one, and wondered if I could try to undo some of the damage.

Send whatever email you want, as long as you know it won't make any difference at all.

I don't know enough about the other candidates to know how I compare, but the point isn't, "Oh please, oh please, oh please, let me try again," but more of a, "Despite the fact that I suck at interviewing, I hope you're able to see that I'm well-qualified for this position." I'm aware that my chances aren't great anyway, but I figured it can't hurt to try.

Thanks all for the advice. I know some of the Best Answers might contradict each other, but they all had some good advice.
posted by fogster at 8:47 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: "Please dear God don't write this in the e-mail."

Good call. The "actually" was just for here, in a sort of, "I know you don't believe it, but I'm actually qualified!" way. But, re-reading, it does kind of seem like I was going to say that to them. (Funny how one little word, often devoid of meaning, can change the whole meaning of the post, eh?)
posted by fogster at 8:53 PM on August 27, 2008

If you are relaxed when there is nothing to lose, you can teach yourself to be relaxed when there is more at stake.

This is my anti-nervousness trick: I always convince myself that there's nothing to lose.
posted by desjardins at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2008

Your only chance is to show how qualified you are in your email. You need around three killer bullet points that show you are the right guy, and definitely express interest in having a followup conversation.
posted by xammerboy at 7:33 AM on August 28, 2008

We demand an update! (hope you got it anyway...)
posted by Deathalicious at 2:02 PM on October 30, 2008

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