What if I mess something up during my interview?

You scored the interview, prepared your STARRs (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Relate), and have been pumping yourself for the big day! But… the interview didn’t go well. Maybe you forgot your portfolio, totally blanked on a question, or spilled your cup of water on one of the interviewers. Ugh! Now what? Well now it is time for some of your charm and whit to start making-up for the bad interview.

  • Take some time for reflection on the interview, whether alone or with a friend/mentor/etc. What went well? What went not so well? What did you learn from this experience? What were some factors that you did not really that could have influenced the varying parts of the interview?
  • Don’t keep stressing/beating yourself up over it! Stuff happens, and most everyone has a bad interview story they could share with you. Accept how it went and learn what you can from the interview.
  • Still send a thank you letter to the employer. Make sure to still thank them for the time and opportunity as you after any interview. Use the thank you letter as a chance to explain something that happened or influenced your performance in the interview. I don’t mean give an excuse, but just a short explanation of what happened. For example, maybe you were late because construction started and you got lost on the detour because the directions you had were no longer any good, so you were flustered for the first question and that was why you blanked on answering it. This could also be the chance to re-answer that question or add something you really wanted to let the employer know that you forgot to mention in the interview. Wrap up the thank you letter by reminding the employer of your interest in the position/company, reinforcing your references, and offering to come in a second time or talking over the phone.
  • Do not continue to apologize for something if you already did so in person during the interview. There is no need to keep reminding the employer of whatever mishap occurred. If it was something you realized after the interview and didn’t get a chance to apologize for before you left the interview (i.e. calling the interviewer by the wrong name or left without filling out some paperwork that needed to be done) then you might want to consider a brief apology.

Just remember it is not the end of the world if your interview did not go as you had hoped. Maybe that position just wasn’t meant for your or maybe showing your comeback skills is what is going to really get the interest of the employer. Also remember that you don’t know what the interviewer(s) were actually thinking during the interview. They might have thought the interview went very well, when you think it just stunk. So, relax, reflect, learn, and still send that thank you letter.


– Britani Felten, Graduate Student, Career Development Center



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