How to bounce back from a bad interview

Education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 22 Jun 2021

Perhaps the disappointment comes in graduate school, or during your first job search.

Or maybe you are unfortunate enough to experience that disappointment far earlier - before your undergraduate career, or when applying to join a new school.

Knowing how to recover from a bad interview is meant to be part of a growth mindset, but how do we do so in a way that is both honest and thoughtful?

You are not required to immediately process the experience. Take the time to feel all the associated feelings, no matter how unpleasant and childish they may seem.

Did the interview seem unfair for any reason? Do you feel you are a better candidate than someone who was accepted and you're struggling to understand the result? Did the institution ask for one thing in their call for applications, but seem to want something different when you arrived?

Thinking about the associated emotions is a necessary first step toward understanding what you might learn from the experience.

Pause and consider if there might be something you can do about the outcome. Is there a legitimate reason you could ask to be reinterviewed? Were you unwell? Did the interview come after an immediate shock?

It is unlikely that this will be possible during the undergraduate admissions process, or for a specialist position that has already been offered to someone else. However, it might be possible when joining a new school or company in an entry-level position. The selection committee might even be impressed at your initiative.

Clearly and rationally state your case in an e-mail, but prepare a gracious response if you are again disappointed. Remember, this is a long shot.

Take the opportunity to try and understand which factors lay within and beyond your control.

A bad interview is not necessarily your fault. A poorly prepared, disorganized or abrasive interviewer or panel is not your fault. But failing to prepare a response to basic interview questions is.

From here you can internalize the realistic extent of your failure, rather than exaggerate. It is very unlikely, for example, that the interview went badly because you are a terrible candidate who will never have another opportunity. It is very easy to enter a spiral of shame when disappointed. Try to look at the results through a pragmatic lens.

Remember, again, to be gracious. The world is small and people have surprisingly long memories.

You may not have got what you wanted this time, but is it sensible to act like a brat and then reapply in six months' time? If you have received a personal e-mail with the news, respond promptly - although not necessarily immediately, you are still allowed to process. Write and thank referees for their support.

Everyone has at least one miserable interview story. Take comfort in the fact that these stories are often shared later, from a position of success.

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