How do I put a botched interview behind me?
April 9, 2014 8:34 AM   Subscribe

I goofed on a technical question that I have little doubt cost me the job. Chalk it up to nerves, or not understanding the question properly... Whatever the reason, I have been beating myself up about this since the interview, which was a week ago. Perhaps I have a lot of preconceived notions on how much better I would enjoy my work if I got this job, which is making it that much more difficult to swallow. It also has made me question my competency in my field, and I catch myself putting myself down on occasion. How do I get myself out of this funk and accept these past events for what they are, and stop beating myself up about it?
posted by helios410 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've always found keeping busy helps.

This isn't exactly advice, but I've had episodes where I've thought I botched something and gotten into a funk beating myself up over it, and then I botch *something else* and the first thing just flies out of my mind as my mind moves to my new problem. I basically never think about the first thing again.

Basically, mind over matter: if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. Self-criticism may be helpful but I think brooding is usually counterproductive. Throw yourself into another engaging activity and your mind will eventually move on.
posted by leopard at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2014

Hey, I totally know where you're coming from! I find that the only way to stop dwelling on things is to interrupt the thought as soon as I notice I'm having it. Like, if I start thinking, "if only I had..." I distract myself actively. Even if I distract myself by playing Candy Crush, it's a more productive use of my time than dwelling on past mistakes.

If the technical question actually exposed an area in which you're incompetent, work harder on that area. If your technical interview skills aren't so hot, practice technical interviewing.
posted by mskyle at 8:43 AM on April 9, 2014

Practice practice practice. Practice doing technical problems of the type used in interviews in your field. People who ace interviews are well prepared. You get over this failure by preparing to be successful next time. Then, ace your next interview and get an awesome job.
posted by chrchr at 8:44 AM on April 9, 2014

At an interview a couple of months ago, I froze up so badly when asked a question that I just stared at the table for what felt like several minutes before my brain rebooted sufficiently to come up with an answer.

The question? "Tell us about yourself."

If it helps, other people (hi!) have botched interviews even worse than you did. Not dead yet, and I had another interview after that that went better (still no job, but better.) The next one may go better for you. Good luck!
posted by asperity at 8:44 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of technical interview techniques aim to determine a candidate's level of experience by asking progressively more advanced questions until they can't answer one. So getting a question that is beyond your level of expertise isn't necessarily a sign that you are incompetent. It might just be that the company is trying to figure out your experience level in order to place you in the right position.

If you haven't heard back from the company yet, you are jumping the gun a bit. Wait another week, then contact them and ask about the status of your application.
posted by deathpanels at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. You don't really know for sure. What if the interviewer cut you a break on that, and you were passed over for another candidate who more closely fit what they were looking for? It's nothing you could have controlled, and you don't really know why you didn't get the job.

Work on accepting that sometimes you don't get what you want, no matter how much you prepare for it, or want it, or believe that it would be perfect for you.

Develop resiliance. Go into job interviews with the idea that it's a two-way process, they find out about you, you find out about them, and if you're both amenable, you'll work together.

Have you ever been on an interview where you come out saying to yourself, "These people are bat-shit crazy, forget it!"

Affirm to yourself, "I have awesome qualifications and skills and I know that there is a place out there for me that is a great fit. This last one wasn't it. Oh well, plenty of fish in the sea."

Because in the end, that's all it is. At Christmas it's hard to find a parking space at the mall. But, you will eventually find one, sometimes you just have to cruise the lot a bit longer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Remind yourself it's a big world out there and this is one of many, MANY opportunities. This isn't your only chance for professional happiness and success. Think of all the terrific things you've just stumbled upon in your lifetime. There will always be more, and abundantly so.

This works for everything: Job interviews, breakups, things you've lost.
posted by mochapickle at 9:07 AM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm going through this right now as well, kicking myself for feeling like I failed at two interviews two days in a row. I actually don't even yet know the results, but the sense of humiliation and of loss was pretty crushing. I was convinced that both jobs were the key to my happiness and self worth. I gather that the process sets candidates up for ego blows and I took mine pretty hard. So I can absolutely relate, and I'm working on bouncing back now as well.

I can't speak to the technical interview portion of your question, but I might have something to offer on the happiness front. A couple of nights ago I found and watched a TED talk by the psychologist Dan Gilbert which covers why getting what we think we want is not as important to our happiness as it may seem. It's 21 minutes long and helped put some things in perspective for me. It's on Netflix or here.
posted by mireille at 9:32 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I blew an interview SO bad that the man interviewing me called me an "idiot" to my face. (and he was on the Board of Directors of the NY Stock Exchange listed company!)

The firm ended up making an offer to me anyway! It turns out the Director's voice, while important, was not the only factor in making a decision. He was the third person/group I interviewed with that day. The other groups had voted me their #1 choice. He grumbled about my being a good choice, but folded.

Are you SURE this is over? Take it from me - long shots do come in.
posted by Colonel Sun at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm going through this right now too. I had an interview earlier this year for a position that would've been a significant advancement in my career (specifically, the next step up from entry-level) and may end up having been my only shot at advancing past entry-level in my career at my age. But I hadn't had an interview in an entire year before it, and a few months before that I had literally $50 in my bank account, and during the interview I had a horrible toothache I couldn't stop thinking about how I needed the job's dental insurance to cure; and long story short, while trying to make small talk to calm my nerves I accidentally said something really, really, really fucking stupid that made it very clear I didn't know something important about how the company worked (the interviewer, surprised: "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing that you didn't know that"). Obviously I didn't get the job. Because my field is small, I know who did, and honestly they're a much better fit for that company in general, but that couldn't have helped me, and more importantly, now I'm worried that they've told everyone they know about what a moron I am and everyone in my field - which again, is small - in a hiring capacity has me blacklisted. Awesome!

So, um, this is supposed to be helpful... I wish I had advice for you besides "you're not alone," but then again, a lot of people have expressed that similar things have happened to them, and what's more likely, that this thread just brought all the failures out of the failure woodwork, or that shit happens?
posted by dekathelon at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Both my husband I have been taking turns looking for jobs on and off over the past several years and I really know how you feel. The solution? Apply for more jobs. The reason you're so hung up on this is because it's become the one perfect option that will save you from your current whatever. Put a lot more irons in the fire and you'll have lots of various options to think about. Then no single one becomes so important, then they're all that much easier to let go once the interview is done. It also has the benefit of making you more relaxed in general so mistakes like this are less likely to happen. Worst case scenario, you withdraw your outstanding applications once you have a firm job offer in hand.

I also agree that you should practise technical questions and interview techniques as well. Get someone to drill you if possible, otherwise find practise questions on the internet and answer them out loud. That last part is key, you need to get used to actually saying the kinds of things you need to say, in your head isn't enough. Yes you'll be talking to yourself and it can be cringe making, do it anyway. Interviewing is a skill all its own, one that doesn't always relate in any way to how good you are at the job. Also you won't feel so bad dwelling on what went wrong last time once you're doing something proactive to make sure it doesn't happen again.
posted by shelleycat at 1:05 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I do this to myself all the time (and not just with interviews). Since there's nothing you can do about the past, would influencing your performance at future interviews make you feel like you're taking control of the problem? Read books on acing job interviews. Read others on handling stressful situations. As others have suggested, practice technical drills. Not cure-alls, but if your main issue is feeling mad at yourself for acting like a dipshit, you can at least feel like you're better prepared to prevent it from happening again.
posted by Rykey at 4:46 PM on April 9, 2014

I have had this same kind of fear. I am usually terrible at answering technical questions in the moment. I have also had the opportunity to get those jobs and talk to the hiring managers later about what they were looking for. The technical questions really are only about 30% of their decision most of the time. They want to see if you're a good fit for the team and if you're background is in the right neighborhood for the job. If they like you, they'll call. Keep in mind though that you have NO idea what the competition is like. Maybe the other guy only has just one more certification than you but it was just enough to tip the scales. Keep trying.

It's also important to be willing to think out loud. If they ask a mathematical question, take the time to work it out and don't be shy about correcting yourself. Let them see how you consider a question rather than just give a flat answer. If there's ANY confusion about what the question is asking, let them know that you see some room for ambiguity. Give them some examples of a thing or two that you DO know about the technology that they're asking about and explain that you're not sure exactly what they're looking for. Poorly worded interview questions are very common.

And don't be afraid to say, "that, I don't know." I did an interview where they asked about a technology where two types of it clearly exist and a person should know both. I was truthful in saying, "I only know the one kind because that's what we use in my current position." I don't think I answered half of the questions right but still got the job. The more technical the field is, they want to know that you're not going to bluff your way through the job too.

Also, in one instance I was asked about something that is tough to commit to memory without regular interaction. I let them know that these kinds of questions are EXACTLY why I want this job. I want to be around this technology so I can really practice it daily. Letting them know that you REALLY want to learn and grow with the job is more important than what you already actually know.
posted by zero point zero at 9:32 PM on April 9, 2014

Email them a follow up saying that you had a brain fart and answer the technical question correctly.
I keep hoping people I interview will do this when they screw up (especially when I can tell they're nervous) and they never do.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2014

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