Job interview follow-up email: emetic edition.
February 13, 2017 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I am a newly graduated teacher. Had an interview for my dream job yesterday. Got a migraine moments before it started. Interviewer offered to reschedule but I declined. Things went downhill from there...

The interview was for a government position (education) and it was a local hire; meaning the school could do the hiring, not the department (they alternate with each staffing position). I was especially chosen from a closed pool of high-achieving qualified graduates to apply for this position, and I think I may have been the only one they chose to interview. Before yesterday, I am pretty sure they wanted to hire me.

Besides leaving the interview at least four times to throw up, and stinking up their toilet, and sweating, getting chills, tearing at tissues under the table, plus failing to provide anything but shallow answers, I think I did so-so if only because my graduate reports and original application were 'exemplary' and 'excellent' respectively, according to the very kind, gentle head interviewer on the 3-person panel.

Now I am composing my follow up email. I am assuming they would have made their decision soon after the interview and, based on my replies only, I wouldn't hire me.

But they won't be putting in their recommendation until later this morning. Is there anything I can do, write, say to salvage what is probably a serious career loss?
posted by Thella to Work & Money (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For future reference, acknowledging your weakness (I have a migraine and I am sick) and rescheduling is really hard to do, but is actually a good thing.

Good luck.
posted by freethefeet at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2017 [17 favorites]

Is there anything I can do, write, say to salvage what is probably a serious career loss?

Is there any reason why you don't think writing an email saying "I'm sorry about what happened, I had a terrible migraine and that's why I was so sick, I didn't realise it would take me so badly" and then asking to have an additional phone or Skype interview would work? Did they give any indication that they wouldn't hire you because you were ill?

For what it's worth, all of the people I've known involved in hiring would never judge a person's performance when they are obviously unwell. I'm surprised they haven't already offered to do a do-over interview, given your problems.

Write them, as soon as you can. Be honest about your skills and what you can bring to the role, that it's your dream job, that you are still very enthused and that you'd like to have another chance at the interview. If you don't think that's possible, write out answers to some of the questions they asked, if you can remember them -- I've done this for interviews that didn't go quite so badly and the interviewers usually appreciate it, since it shows how seriously you take this chance.

Good luck! Remember, for the future: it's totally okay to ask for help when you need it.
posted by fight or flight at 12:49 PM on February 13, 2017 [32 favorites]

Yes, put it all on the table. You have nothing to lose by telling them exactly what was going on with you during the interview and asking for another chance.
posted by something something at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just like everyone else, I encourage you to contact them and let them know you didn't realize how seriously your migraine would affect you, and ask if there's any chance you could do the interview again now that you're not sick.

Hopefully they will not want to lose out on the chance to hire someone who could be an excellent candidate. But you have zero to lose here by acknowledging that you recognize now you should have asked to reschedule.

One note: if I were interviewing and there was the possibility to interview you again, I'd want to hear explicitly that you'd do things differently if a similar situation arose (acknowledge you were too unwell to continue and reschedule instead of powering through).

Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:16 PM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

They knew I was suffering from a migraine, that's why they offered to reschedule. I feel like writing to them to repeat that would be pointless. Am I being too hard on myself?
posted by Thella at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2017

Just as a cheerful anecdote, I have gotten a job offer after an interview that was almost as bad as yours sounds (cold that unexpectedly worsened, to the point that snot was pouring out of my face and I couldn't shake hands because they were wet from blowing my nose). I was disgusting and borderline incoherent, and the people I interviewed with apparently decided to just give me a pass, and hire me on the basis of how I looked on paper.

Obviously, that's one anecdote, but if it happened to me it could happen to you.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:20 PM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't think writing them would be pointless, and I think you are being too hard on yourself. hurdy gurdy girl's advice looks great. Yes, they offered to reschedule; you just didn't realize how bad the migraine would get, and you would do it differently if a similar situation came up in future.
posted by col_pogo at 1:27 PM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think you owe them a followup in any case. Declining to reschedule was kind of an odd choice (I'm sure you didn't realize it would be so bad, but I'm surprised you didn't realize the problem after the first puke? it must have been awkward for them too --) so just drop them a note saying you're sorry for the situation and you didn't realize how badly the migraine was going to come on; and that you sincerely appreciate their time and generosity in seeing the conversation through; and that you realize under the circumstances you may not have been able to provide the depth of response you would have liked to; and that if they have followup questions you'd love a chance to answer them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:28 PM on February 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

I think it's worth emphasizing you were ill, and maybe that this is so important to you that you wanted to interview even while ill. Can you ask to come in again later this week for a second meeting? Or, offer up that you're available for a phone call today/tomorrow to elaborate upon xyz that you wanted to go into detail about at the interview. OR go into detail about it in this email. Think of the this email as your follow-up, elaboration and clarification opportunity about what you can bring to the job and the organization. Good luck!
posted by soakimbo at 1:30 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I interviewed a guy once for a non-public-facing position who had a major panic attack during the interview. He acknowledged it and after struggling for about 15 minutes to compose himself, he said, "I know I've totally blown this and I think I need to leave." He got up and went home.

Thing is, I used to suffer periodic panic attacks and am familiar with how it can overtake your body and make it impossible to function.

He wrote later that day to apologize for the awkwardness, but openly acknowledged that his anxiety about the interview had likely provoked the panic attack. He asked if I would consider accepting some writing samples and considering a re-do if I liked them. His samples blew all the other candidates away, and I decided to re-interview him in a coffee shop. He was fine, got hired, and was great.

I can't speak for your potential employers, but perhaps somebody there has suffered debilitating migraines before and is able to empathize. You have nothing to lose by just laying it out, perhaps apologizing for not initially taking their offer to reschedule (stating that they don't usually get this bad, etc.), and see where it goes.

I think job interviews are generally fundamentally useless as most people do them anyway, but I guess that's neither here nor there.
posted by GorgeousPorridge at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2017 [21 favorites]

Since you are asking for help with your draft, this is, I think, what I would write in a similar circumstance. Please pick out of it whatever feels good to you. Note that although I don't think, morally, that you need apologize, I think an apologetic tone is probably the best "business tone" to frame the follow-up with:

Dear [Interviewing Panel],

I very much appreciate the time you took to interview me yesterday, and I have to apologize at the position I placed you in by trying to muscle through the migraine that afflicted me. In retrospect, it would have been better had I taken advantage of your kind offer to reschedule.

You saw me at my worst; if it is at all possible, I'd like to present to you a much more accurate version of what I could bring to the table.
[Insert one-sentence "elevator pitch" here about how you could help them, reminding them of your strengths, i.e., "I truly believe my extensive experience in widgetometry could make a great deal of difference to your Widget Education program there."]

Should this be possible, I would be eager to reschedule at your convenience. If not, I nonetheless appreciate the kindness you showed me during a difficult moment.

Very truly yours,


posted by WCityMike at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2017 [69 favorites]

Of course you should contact them again! If anything they might be wondering why, after your terrible performance, you're not eager to give it another go.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:02 PM on February 13, 2017

Can you remember any of the questions you failed to answer? As a manger, I would be impressed in this situation if you admitted your misstep but didn't beat yourself up, dusted yourself off, and told me you weren't in a position to answer XYZ so you'd love half an hour of my time to address it.

If they can't fit another full interview in, tell them you'd be available for a call. This is not like an obnoxious candidate who won't stop contacting you, this was clearly an extenuating circumstance.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking steps to set this right. The worst they can say is no. The best they can say is you're hired.
posted by kapers at 3:22 PM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

WCityMike's letter is great- I'd suggest adding something like this:

In the past 15 years I have only had one other migraine that was anywhere near yesterday's level of severity. Typically my headaches are very manageable which is why I thought I would be able to interview yesterday. I now believe that both times I experienced a migraine at that level, the trigger was an ingredient in an over-the-counter allergy medication I had taken, which I now know to avoid forever!

I am so grateful for your patience and kindness yesterday; it really reflects well on your compassion as an organization. If possible, I humbly ask for a second interview so that we could meet on better footing. Thank you so much for considering my application!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:45 PM on February 13, 2017

I'm not sure I'd write a detailed explanation of my illness to the interviewers but a brief note showing you're a good sport, the references and reports are legit, and that you'd be available for another time slot. E.g.

Thank you for in inviting me to have an interview yesterday. It's an honour for a novice such as myself to be considered for X role in Y school. It's unfortunate that sudden illness prevented me from presenting myself to greater advantage, and in hindsight it would have been wise to have taken up your gracious offer to reschedule!

I do hope though that my perseverance was an obvious sign of my enthusiasm for joining the Y school community. I offer the teaching and personal qualities my school mentors, university supervisors and assessor have commended so highly in their references. I believe I am bringing a hardworking, imaginative, thorough, well-modulated attitude to my career. Despite the distraction yesterday, I hope that you were able to see my strong interest for the role and my belief that I have the personal and vocational qualities you are seeking.

I recognize that schools are very busy places and this may not be possible, but I am back to full health today and happy to meet again if you are still considering my application.

Thella, I also want you to consider this:

Top graduates are sought after. Highly sought after! As a mature age top graduate you are unicorn-esque. I was in your position once and I didn't realize, despite my mentor's efforts, that I was in a good position to select a good school, rather than fret about a school selecting me. Keep that in mind and cheer yourself on. If not this school, another will snap you up. I ended up in a kind of bidding war between schools which was kinda a crazy way to start my career.

Interviews are so capricious. I've had many over the years where whatever minor catastrophe could occur, did. At my first first teaching interview for example a cyclone raged outside. I barely made it in the doer, disheveled, umbrella inside out, interview outfit ruined, make up running down my face, hair dripping onto the swish resource documents I'd brought along - all ruined. The windows rattled so loudly and blew open aggressively sending stuff on the desk in front of us crashing onto the floor, and hail pellets hitting everything in sight. We had to yell over each other and not much was ordered of coherent about the whole 'interview'. Barely a word spoken about my experience. But I was the uni's top student and the school's preferred candidate and they knew from my paperwork what I had to offer. They just wanted to meet me and get a feeling for the person that I am.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:50 PM on February 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Thanks folks, you've all be marv.
I sent a letter of thanks. Didn't go into my unwellness except to express regret at not postponing. I did, however, answer a few of yesterday's questions with much better answers. I did ask for another bite at the cherry if it was possible or plausible, but left it all with them. I felt the length and depth of my email couldn't hurt if they had already decided for me, and couldn't help but assist if they were on the fence.

And thanks honey-barbara for the confidence boost.
posted by Thella at 5:46 PM on February 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

We all like a good follow-up...
I got the job.
posted by Thella at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2017 [18 favorites]

Congratulations! (That's just improved my mood to a surprising extent :-)
posted by trig at 3:42 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad I just randomly checked back in on this thread -- congratulations! Hope it's going well!
posted by WCityMike at 8:00 AM on April 13, 2017

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