Epic Interview FAIL. Now what?
September 25, 2008 10:32 PM   Subscribe

I massively screwed up a finalist interview today. I got really nervous and just ... well ... babbled. In the interview before this one, the hiring manager (we'll call her Liz) had basically told me that I was the leading candidate for the job (which I really wanted) but that she needed me to meet with the area heads before she could make an offer. She even offered some advice on the best approach to take with this group. When I got in the room I just became tongue tied and talked all around the first question without ever really answering it, and things went downhill from there. Now I need to write Liz a Thank You note, and every draft I write is taking on a sort of apologetic tone. ("I'm sure everyone could tell how nervous I was....") In such a situation, what's the right thing to say or do now?
posted by anastasiav to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sit tight. Be cool. You did far better than you imagine; these things are decided beforehand. If you don't get it, learn from the experience. I've been on both sides of the process.
posted by rotifer at 10:41 PM on September 25, 2008

I would write the note, then sleep on it, and take a look in the morning. Then edit as needed. When you are feeling flushed and emotional is the worst time to be composing this sort of thing. Get a first draft down, don't obsess, and come back to it with fresh eyes.
posted by miles1972 at 10:41 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It can be very hard to judge your own interview performance.

Even if you think you flubbed it, don't apologize. If you did poorly, an apology won't help. And if you didn't do as bad as you think, an apologetic letter could hurt your chances.

Write a sincere thank you that hits on the key reasons you would be good for the position. Be positive.
posted by blue mustard at 10:45 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

My general rule is that it's best not to mention these kinds of things. I'm sure everyone could tell how nervous you were, too, and people tend to be relatively forgiving toward things like nervousness. Mentioning it is just kind of awkward and I think actually casts things in a more negative light. It may not have been perceived as a weakness, but if you write about it in the thank you, it'll be clear to everyone that you perceived it as a weakness.

Just write a cool, professional thank you that reminds them what a good candidate you are, and doesn't remind them about how tongue-tied you were.
posted by adiabat at 10:48 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Regardless of how well you did or did not do, this thank you note isn't about you; it's about her. There's absolutely no reason to even mention yourself! Just thank her for her help and guidance, and leave it at that.
posted by davejay at 11:44 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Unless you completely, absolutely detonated just write a polite thank you to each of the panelists. It probably wasn't half as bad as you're thinking.

If there's one answer that you'd really like to clarify, then do it. Something along the lines of... After the interview, I was thinking about X question. I should have mentioned that I have similar experience at Y job. When confronted with a similar problem we did 1, 2 and 3.

You can play with the wording, but it's certainly fine to address a point you missed or correct an error. I'd rather work with someone who can identify, acknowledge and correct their own mistakes.
posted by 26.2 at 12:20 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me, if I was Liz. Look at it from her point of view - her boss comes to her and says, you know we just weren't impressed with anastasiav. Based on your note either she says, "Oh, but she just wrote me the nicest, most professional thank you note! I really think you should reconsider!" or she says "Oh she just wrote me a note telling me how completely nervous you guys made her and that she's sorry and she will probably do better next time!"

She's on your side. Give her some good ammo.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:38 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, as others just said, everyone is nervous and babbles. It probably doesn't matter. Even if the interviewer was Katie Couric, you're probably fine.
posted by rokusan at 12:39 AM on September 26, 2008

just write the thank you note you'd write if you thought everything had gone well

speaking of Katie, unless you sucked as bad as Gov Palin did in that interview, you're OK. There's a new standard for suckage now
posted by matteo at 3:32 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding matteo.

You probably did fine, and even if you didn't there's certainly no point in drawing attention to that fact. Everyone gets nervous. It's the people who are overly cocky and self-assured who give me pause during an interview.
posted by meta_eli at 5:56 AM on September 26, 2008

I'll second the advice to send a note to everyone who participated in the interview. Consider it a chance to gain back some ground. If you remember specific things from the interview that you can use to tailor your thank you note to each individual, all the better. I was on the receiving end of such a note recently, as was everyone at the inverview, and the response was a positive one (and the person got the job).
posted by Otis at 6:35 AM on September 26, 2008

Don't mention anything negative about yourself. If they're already aware of it, your note can't fix it. If they aren't, why bring it to your attention?

The purpose of the note is to thank them for the opportunity to interview with them. Use it for that; don't try to make it do something else.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2008

I think it's OK to follow up to an interview to correct or add to something in a substantive way. "After the interview, I realized that I never answered your question about ____. The answer is ____." I would use this rarely, as a last resort.

It sounds like you're considering doing something else: reminding them in your letter about how awkward your demeanor was. That's not a substantive follow-up -- that's just a gratuitous negative assessment of your own interview performance. I don't see the point.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't apologize. If you do know a better way to answer the question you think you "screwed up" just say, "I thought more about the question, and just wanted to add that ...."

This way it looks good that you've actually been thinking about it! And of course, be super polite so they'll want to have a friendly person like you around.

Best of luck!!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2008

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