8 Ways to Recover from Interview Failure

You were shortlisted for the job but you didn’t get it. There’s no way around this: you will feel, even if only for a very short time, that you have been humiliated. Regardless of knowing that it was your fit with the job that was being assessed not you, the core person, it usually feels exactly as if your entire being has been deemed lacking. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to shorten the time to recovery.

1. Ask for feedback, even if it is unlikely that you will get anything that is helpful. Employers are often cowardly and sometimes they fear being sued so mostly you will hear soothing platitudes or straight lies such as ‘if we’d had two jobs you would have got one of them’. Always phone for feedback and don’t wait for it to be offered. Ideally ask for it at the same point that you get the bad news that you have not got the job. Good questions here are, ‘What did the successful candidate have that I lacked?’ and ‘What advice would you give me about how to be more impressive next time?’

2. Did nerves get the better of you? If so, learn some simple skills to control your breathing. This is more than just ‘deep breathing’ which may lead to hyperventilating – essentially it’s about making the out-breath longer than the in-breath and doing it without raising your shoulders or bunching up your chest

3. For your next interview reconsider the amount and type of research you do into the job and the organization. I find that many candidates underestimate how much of this they need to do. Others waste time and effort by reading up on the organization’s history, business plan or the background legislation which might possibly affect its future. This is all interesting but it is theoretical. Usually it is better to focus your attention instead on its competitors, its culture and the not-so-obvious problems that it may be facing

4. Think back to how you answered the ‘why do you want this job?’ question. This is the most important single question in the interview and in coaching strong candidates for their interviews I notice that this is the one that people most often get wrong. Start your answer by talking about the company and why you want to work there. To do this successfully you will need to have done real research described above, ideally by talking to people who already work in the department you want to join. Never start your answer to this question by talking about how getting this job would solve your career problems, eg that you are ‘ready for a new challenge’. The employer has no interest in providing you with new challenges. They are only interested in what you can do for them

5. Reconsider what you wore for the interview. How did your own outfit compare with what your interviewers were wearing? If there is any discrepancy, for instance that they were more formally or less formally dressed than you then you may not have looked the part. If you have never had colour and grooming advice now might be the time to invest in it

6. The interview can never be a test of your knowledge – if the employer wants to check up on this then they should assess it in some other way. What a job interview does test in your social skills. Did you smile? Do you have a good handshake? Were you enthusiastic and entertaining? If not then do a practice with a friend and listen carefully to their feedback

7. Learn how to use storytelling technique to demonstrate that you already have the skills the employer needs. Every answer should be a tightly-packed mini-story. By mini I mean something that lasts no longer than 3 minutes. Time yourself and see how your typical answer compares. Less than one minute is too short, more than four is going to be rambling and too long

8. Did you really want this job? If you were doing it ‘for interview practice’ then this will have guaranteed that you did not get it. This is another reason for thorough research before continuing with your application. If what this research reveals suggests that you would not like the job or enjoy working in that organization, then withdraw.

 There is more on all of this in my book Job Interview Success, available on amazon.co.uk