Job Search & Interview

I Think I Messed Up My Interview: 7 Tips to Recover  

Job interview catastrophes happen more often than you might think. You aren’t the only person in the world who has ever thought, “I think I messed up my interview” or “Why do I always mess up interviews?” Interviews aren’t the most comfortable situations, after all.

It can be nerve-racking to have the fate of your financial future hanging on what another human being thinks of you during a 30-minute session. The STAR formatting can stress you even more because you have to draw answers on cue.

Fortunately, there are some effective ways you can save a sinking interview in real-time. You can also do a little damage control if your interview has already passed. Read on.

Have You Really Messed up the Interview?

All insecurities tend to leak out when you go under a prospective employer’s microscope. Thus, you might think you bombed an interview, but the interviewer might be focusing on taking notes or digesting the information you provided. However, if your experience involves any of these signs, you’ll be right to assume that your session is going south:

  • The interviewer keeps eyeballing the clock.
  • You’re getting disinterested vibes from the interviewer.
  • The interviewer’s body language is closed off.
  • It sounds like the interviewer wants to wrap things up early.
  • The interviewer keeps mentioning other people.
  • You have a gut feeling the interviewer isn’t even considering you.
  • The interviewer doesn’t dig any deeper into your question answers.
  • You experience awkward silences or odd looks.
  • You don’t get hired on the spot.
  • The interviewer seems bored.

You can feel confident that your meeting is not progressing well if you notice any of those things happening. You can still save it while you’re there, but you have to think and act quickly.

Read More: “I Overslept and Missed a Job Interview!” The Best Thing to Do in This Scenario

How To Save Your Sinking Interview

Just because your ship is sinking doesn’t mean you have to drown. You can grab a lifejacket if your interview is a genuine session, but some situations are out of your control.

For example, there may not be much you can do if the employer already has someone else in mind and is only interviewing you to meet a quota. You can’t do much if the employer brings you in to analyze you but not hire you either.

You can try to turn things around if you messed up one interview question and feel like you can do better. Here’s what you should do if you answer a question poorly during an interview or don’t know what to say:

1. Ask if you can have a few seconds.

Most interviewers are willing to give candidates a chance to collect themselves and think of an appropriate question response. It’s better to ask for additional time than to say nothing and stare at your interviewer blankly.

Once he gives you a nod of approval, you’ll need to take a deep breath and get into the zone and transform memories of your best performances into an explanation.

Read More: How to Answer the 5 Most Common Business Acumen Interview Questions (With Examples)

2. Request to move the question to the end.

Interviewers do allow their candidates to skip questions and move them to the end if they ask respectfully. Thus, you can ask for a pass if you need more time. Just don’t pull out an Uno Skip card and hand it to the interviewer like a YouTube prankster once did. Your interviewer probably won’t find that gesture humorous.

3. Ask for a do-over.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the opportunity to rework your answer. Let the other person know that some new information has entered your mind, and you want to share it with him. The individual may be pleased to hear what you have to say.

4. Hit your next question out of the ballpark.

Botching one interview question won’t necessarily tank your interview, but you need to ensure that you give a stellar answer to the next question. Your new career is riding on it.

Read More: How To Cancel An Interview Professionally (with Examples)

I Think I Messed up My Interview: Was Your Interview a Fail?

Sometimes, more than one interview question puts you in the outbox with the employer. You might answer several questions wrong or exhibit some of the no-no behavior during your session. These are some actions that can cause an interviewer to look the other way:

You spoke badly about your former employer.

You might think a prospective employer will love to hear about everything your former employer did wrong, but that’s not the case. A negative tale about your ex-employer will raise a red flag because the prospective employer will wonder if you’ll trash them if you ever leave the company.

You gave irrelevant question answers.

Interviewers have specific reasons for asking certain questions, and they look for highly relevant answers. Therefore, they might put you on the chopping block if none of your responses pertain to the information they request.

You didn’t make eye contact.

Looking down at the ground or shifting your eyes gives the impression that you’re hiding something or don’t feel confident about your abilities. Either of those can send a no-hire message to the employer.

Your voice cracked, or you did some other nervous tick.

Nervous ticks and cracked voices are sure-fire signs that the interview makes you nervous. Some employers desire to hire people who are a bit stronger under pressure. Your nervousness might be isolated to interview situations and meet-and-greet jitters, but your interviewer might not know that.

Your body language was bad.

The worst body language for a job interview is closed or crossed arms and a guarded look. That means no trust exists, and you need to have a mutually trusting relationship for a job to work and last.

You generally gave poor answers.

Your answers may have been relevant to the questions but poorly constructed. Maybe they were missing vital components. Either way, the interviewer might want to pass on you because of it.

You were late for the meeting.

Remember that you only have one chance to give an interviewer a good impression. Tardiness during your first meeting is unacceptable unless you have a legitimate reason, such as a car accident, traffic jam, or police stop. Even then, you will need to show the interviewer proof of your plight and hope that they still accept you.

You weren’t dressed appropriately.

Business casual is usually the standard for job interviews, unless it’s a factory or warehouse job. Even then, you must check with the employer to ask them about the standard. Inappropriate clothing shows a lack of concern for the job, and you’ll want to avoid giving the employer that impression.

You were unprepared.

It’s customary to research a prospective employer to gather information about who you are working for. It’s also wise to take your credentials, certifications, or accolades with you to show the prospective employer your readiness.

You didn’t act eager enough.

You can fail an interview by not giving the impression that you are enthused. Remember that the interviewer doesn’t know you. Therefore, he may not understand that you are a laid-back individual who gets excited about things internally.

Read More: 21 Surefire Signs You Didn’t Get The Job After an Interview

I Think I Messed up My Interview: What To Do

The process of recovering from a bad interview once you’ve left is a bit different from saving an existing interview. These are some things you can do if you realize you messed up after it’s over:

5. Send a heartfelt “Thank You” note.

If you think you bombed your interview horribly, sending a follow-up is a good idea. Your effort will put your name back into the prospective employer’s mind, and it might make them second-guess passing up on you for the job. However, you must put a great deal of thought into it. Try to add something to it that lets them know you know you messed up your interview and would like them to give you a chance anyway.

6. Ask for another chance.

You could contact the interviewer and ask for a second interview directly. Taking the honest approach and telling him you weren’t your best self that day might work. Express to him how much you desire the job and would appreciate the opportunity to redo the session as your best self.

It won’t hurt to ask because the worst he can do is tell you no. On the other hand, he might oblige you because of your persistence and concern.

Read More: How To Ask For A Second Chance Interview With Email Examples

7. Take your lumps and look for another job.

Sometimes, you have to accept a loss and learn from your mistakes. You might have missed the bus on this job opportunity. However, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.

Think about all the mistakes you made in your interview, and then work toward correcting them so that you can ace the next opportunity. If nervousness causes the problem, you can work on building your self-confidence.

Practice having interviews with people of different authority levels until you become a pro at it. Research proper interview etiquette practices and spend more time researching prospective employers. You’ll be the master of taking interviews in no time.

Don’t fret if you messed up interview for dream job. You now know the answer to, “What should you do if you answer a question poorly during an interview?” and how to recover from a horrible interview session. Use the tips mentioned above to navigate your next job opportunity and hit a home run when you meet the interviewer.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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