Many people equate a job interview to having a root canal. They think it’s painful! While I do not believe they belong in the same category, interviews are without a doubt stressful. They wreak havoc on your nerves.

That feeling only worsens when you leave the office thinking that you blew it. Self-doubt starts to seep in and you replay the interview in your mind thinking of all the things you should have said or done. You suddenly realize that you didn’t give the best answer to a question or that you left out a crucial piece of information.

Well, don’t be too harsh with yourself. You can turn a bad experience into something more positive. Here are four solid steps to overcome poor performance in a job interview.

Step 1: Take Immediate Notes

If you walk away with a bad sense, write down what you think went wrong as soon as you get to the car.  Do this while your thoughts are fresh. This is a three-parter.

  • Write down what went wrong. Was it a question that was not answered well? Did you say something improper?  Could you have given a stronger example? Did you draw a blank on a certain question? What, specifically, makes you believe it went wrong?
  • Write down as many interview questions as you remember. This will help you with future interview preparation. Many hiring managers or recruiters use the same generic interview questions. This will help you practice.
  • Identify what went right. If something went well, you can duplicate that in the future. Where were you great? Did you explain past situations and achievements through solid storytelling? Did you have a killer introduction? How did you make a connection with the interviewer? Mature your interview strategy with this as your foundation.

Most importantly, this is an exercise to help you grow and not one to use to beat yourself up. Your emotions may be raw at this point but after a couple of days, you can revisit your thoughts to help you polish your skills.

Step 2: Use Your Thank You Note to Recover.

Don’t use the thank you note as an apology.  (“I am sorry but I was so nervous.”)  When you make excuses, you end up sounding less than confident in your abilities. Besides, you’re most likely your worst critic and you have no way of knowing what the interviewer is thinking. What you perceive as a bad answer may not be in the mind of the interviewer.

You can, however, use the thank you note to convey supplementary information or to clarify your answers. After reflecting on your interview, you may realize that you failed to mention a key skill you have that would be relevant to the role.

As an example, let’s say your interviewer mentioned that this position may take on some social media duties in the future. In your follow-up note, you could say something like “In light of the potential social media duties, I’d like to mention that in my last internship, I contributed to my company’s blog postings and that my blogs always had more than 3K views per post.”

A word of caution – don’t be tempted to over-explain. Your follow-up email should be a paragraph or two. That’s all. Nice and succinct. Hiring managers don’t want to read any email that is a page long. Mention only the most influential and important ideas or omissions.

Step 3: Use Your References Wisely.

If you believe there is a chance your references will be contacted, give them a head’s up. Help them get familiar with the position and let them know where you believe you could use a boost.  For example, if you believe that you could have emphasized your marketing skills and expertise more, ask your relevant reference to help you out by providing examples of how you excel in that capacity.

Step 4: Phone a Friend.

Did anyone help you with this job? Were you working with a recruiter? Do you know someone who works there? Did a mutual connection help make the introduction? If so, let your connection know how you feel about your interview. You never know if there’s a chance they can help salvage the interview. I’ve seen interviewees get a shot at a second interview because their connection intervened on their behalf.  Don’t be afraid to use your connections.


You can do all the above and still not get the job. That’s okay. On to the next one! Here are a few ideas to help you improve your interviewing techniques.

Ask for Feedback:

It’s okay to ask your interviewer for feedback. It’s a great opportunity to gain some valuable insight that will help you hone your skills. You may end up learning something about yourself that you didn’t know. If you get the dreaded “thank you but no thank you” email, respond something like this:

“Thank you for your time and consideration. While I am disappointed that I was not offered the job, I enjoyed meeting you and learning more about the organization. I’d love to make myself a stronger candidate for my future interviews so if you could provide me with any feedback or suggestions, I would be grateful for your insight.”

Foster Your Relationship with the Company:

Maybe this interview didn’t work out but if you are interested in the organization, take time to nurture and grow your relationship with the company.  Follow and engage with the company on social media. Continue to interact in a positive manner while soaking up as much information and knowledge as you can. You’ll be able to use that knowledge if you interview with them again in the future. Don’t let a bad job interview overshadow your vision for future opportunities.

And, remember…

You’re already stronger than you were before the interview.

Even if you can’t recover in this interview, you’ll be more prepared for the next one.

The more you interview, the more your confidence will increase. You’ll eventually get the job you want. Trust me.

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.YourBestLifeTodayCoaching.Com .