Thank you for the interview and sorry for screwing up.
July 12, 2011 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I blew the interview. What should I say in my thank-you note?

I screwed up, blew the first question completely, and stumbled over a few more. Pros: this is a job in a different department of my same institution. The hiring committee knows and likes me. The institution is notorious for delaying on hiring, and the position needs to be filled within the week-- as I'm already in the institution's HR system, I could easily be shifted over.

Cons: There are 4 positions open, but there are at least 4 people interviewing who are more qualified than I am, and who have been doing a similar job for the same institution. Also, as I said above, I screwed up (but I did manage to pull most of the questions out).

I'm sending a thank-you note today. Should I try to re-answer the first question? If so, how should I explain why I'm doing that? Should I reiterate any of the other stuff I said? Should I send it via email, or via paper (anticipating that they will not get the paper by decision time)?
posted by cereselle to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're most likely to get the job if the first question was less of a big deal than you think it was to the hiring committee. Therefore, don't make it a big deal by revisiting it.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:55 AM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Don't try to re-answer the first question.
Do thank them for their time.
Do reiterate your desire for the position.
Do briefly restate why you feel you're the best person for the job.
Do offer to speak to the members of the committee at any time in an effort to help them make their decision. Leverage your availability at the institution.
posted by inturnaround at 9:55 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would be appreciative of the situation, acknowledge that you didn't portray yourself as best as your could have and ask that if you are passed over on this position could you be thought of as a candidate for future projects or positions of this nature.

humility goes a long way, and depending on the person reading your letter they would rather see that than you trying to re-answer a question you messed up on.

Show your humility and explain that you're open to work and/or experience to move your towards a position like this in the future.
posted by zombieApoc at 9:55 AM on July 12, 2011

Oh, and if time is of the essence, then send via email. It's more important that this message is received on time than it look pretty.

Good luck! Keep us posted.
posted by inturnaround at 9:56 AM on July 12, 2011

I wouldn't revisit (or in any way acknowledge) the screw-up; you're reinforcing it in their minds. Rather, I'd say that you enjoyed having an opportunity to meet with them, and that you'd love a chance to follow up with them regarding some additional ideas you have about [implementing the cross-group synergies to embiggen the bottom line] that you've had since the interview. This is sort of sleight of hand that allows you to try to get another bite at the apple without coming out and saying "I am usually less stupid than I was on Monday."

If they like you, they might give you the chance; if you've irreparably blown it, at least you go out with your dignity (and without leaving a paper trail in your file in which you acknowledge your flub).

Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The interview didn't go that badly: at least you finished strong! Just hope you made a good last impression (which is often more important than the first impression, despite conventional wisdom).
posted by John Cohen at 10:01 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personally, I probably wouldn't address it. Interviews are more about getting a "feel" for a candidate than about getting the right answers to questions. However, I do like the thank-you note wording that is suggested in this blog post: I made up an answer in a job interview; what should I do now? It might not work in your situation, but maybe it will give you some ideas.
posted by neushoorn at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2011

I have had interviews that I thought I totally blew, and I ended up getting the job. Send the thank you note if you like, but don't freak out.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Once in an old job, my supervisor and I did interviews for a new addition to our team. The person we picked was shocked to get an offer. He thought he completely bombed the interview because something mildly awkward had happened with shaking my hand. I don't even remember what it was, but at the time I laughed it off and barely noticed. He *was* nervous and was really thrown off by that, but we got a good, would-fit-in-with-the-team vibe from him and liked his work. (He told me later he thought he had bombed. I had no idea.)

So that's just a data point for you. I bet it didn't go as badly as you fear it did.

As to whether you should try to re-answer the first question, I think it's hard for us to tell without having been there or knowing details. I do think you COULD do that if you feel you need to do so. Maybe not directly/while drawing attention to your mistake (like, don't say "I couldn't get out a good answer before, but I want to tell you now that [answer to question]" -- just skip right to your answer.
posted by pupstocks at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2011

I've been on both sides of this. Once I bombed an interview so badly I actually called the person who referred me to apologize. An hour later I got the job. Weird but true.

And I've been on hiring committees where a candidate has been a little different -- off or weird or with a strange sense of humor, or whatever -- but where we realized the person would fit into our group perfectly and extended an offer.

So write your thank you and let the rest of it go.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2011

I once finished an interview and just after the interviewer left I looked down and realized the middle button of my blouse was undone, very much revealing my bra. Mortifying. I still got the job.

Keep the thank you note positive. You probably did better than you think you did.
posted by hazyjane at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2011

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