What To Do if You Fluff A Job Interview

Photo source: BBC

“I hate interviews – but you have to do them.” ~ Jackie Chan

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet around here this week. I’ve been a bit busy. Mostly being interviewed. And when I haven’t been being interviewed, I’ve been applying to be interviewed. I’ve barely had time to get any sleep in.

I kicked off the week with a second interview down in London. I’d had the first part of the testing/interview process last week.

Now this interview should have been easy. I have years of experience doing the exact same things that I’d be doing in that role if they were to give it to me. The skills needed for the job are all the things that I’m really good at. It really should have been a piece of cake, so I arrived feeling pretty confident about the whole thing.

And then I got in the room with the interview panel.

And then I don’t know what happened.

I got stage fright or something.

It was as though I’d forgotten to speak English properly. Or any language. I just couldn’t seem to string a whole sentence together.

I couldn’t remember any of the work that I’d ever done in my career, or, explain how I’d go about working in a hypothetical scenario.

I don’t think I actually managed to give a complete and coherent answer to a single thing they asked me.

And it wasn’t as though they asked me any difficult questions. I’d rehearsed perfect answers to all of them in my head on the train on the way in.

I could see by the end of it that the interviewers just thought that I’d completely wasted my time and there’s.

I slunk off to the nearest pub and drowned my sorrows in a pint of hoola hoops. An actual pint of hoola hoops, this pub served hoola hoops in pint glasses. And as soon as I sat down I remembered exactly how perfect I would have been for that job, and all of the great examples of why I was going to tell them that they should give it to me.

I could have kicked myself.

Really, really hard.

The next day I looked up the email address for the chair of the interview panel online. I sent her a message thanking her, and the rest of the panel, for their time and the opportunity of the interview. I apologised for having been so nervous that I hadn’t been able to answer their questions as well as they might have hoped. And I explained that I didn’t understand where all the nervousness had come from, because I know that I’m awesome, and that I’d be awesome for that role and in that organisation.

I added a few of the examples that I’d remembered on the way home to justify my claims to awesomeness; and said that while I was by no means asking for special treatment, I would be happy to provide any information that we weren’t able to get to in the interview that might help them in making their decision.

And then thanked the panel once again for the opportunity.

And sent the email.

Then I sat back anticipating a response from the interview lady telling me that it would be unfair to the other candidates to allow me to provide additional information into the process, and anyway, my interview had truly been so awful that they were quite sure that they didn’t want me.

But instead the HR team responded to me with an email scheduling another interview appointment.

I rang them to ask if it was a mistake, but they said no, they want to interview me again.

Apparently the panel decided that I wasn’t ‘appointable’ on the basis of Monday’s interview, but that the director had been impressed by my initiative and self motivation in getting in touch with her straight away. They also seem to think that it shows an impressive amount of self-awareness to have noticed that the world’s worst interview was, well, the world’s worst interview. And they were impressed with the extra information that I had provided.

So I’m getting a second (third?) interview.

And the HR lady says that they never do this.

So, folks, if you ever find yourself in the position of having completely fluffed a job interview:

  • Remember that you’re awesome as soon as possible
  • Apologise to the panel for the horrible experience you’ve just put you all through, and
  • Make it clear that you’re back to your sparkling best form already.

And you might, just, turn the situation around.

Can’t hurt to try now, can it?

UPDATE: I had the re-interview a couple of days ago. And it was great. I don’t know whether it was because I got my act together, because I was telling myself I’d blown it and to just treat this as a practice, or because I had a shot of whiskey in the pub round the corner to calm my nerves before I went in. But it went perfectly, I said all the things I wanted to say and managed to sound knowledgeable and confident.

And I got the job!

Provisionally anyway. They just called me. They need to take up my references and a couple of other things, but if that all checks out okay they’ll be able to give me a start date.


10 thoughts on “What To Do if You Fluff A Job Interview”

  1. The end of this post made me smile 🙂
    This reminds me of the time my husband broke his leg! He was going through a rough time, because he’d broken his leg and his brother was dying of cancer in hospital. He had only just had surgery on his ankle and was ordered to bed rest, but he got the call for the job he’d wanted for YEARS.

    He turned up on crutches, risking his leg and said, “Look, I know that this is obviously a physical job (he’s a diesel mechanic in the mining industry) and I am not trying to show disrespect for wasting your time, but I really want to work for you some day soon. I know you probably can’t give me a position because I won’t recover for months, but I just have to show you what I’m all about and how serious I am about this.”

    He felt a bit stupid, but he gave it his best shot and was forthcoming and honest (like you were), taking a risk (like you did with the follow up email).

    Months later, just as he recovered (no joke – perfect timing), he was called up. They needed to employ more people in the same position and he was top of their shortlist – they remembered him and even asked how his leg was when he went back. This is huge as there’s a joke about the company that someone has to either die or retire for a job to open up. He’d been trying and hoping for years (along with many other people who were his competition). Who knew a broken leg and total embarrassing honesty would make him stand out after all that time?

    I wish you all the best – you’re amazing and your story is inspiring 🙂


    1. Thank you 🙂 And you’re not the first person to say that, I was so focused on the interview that I didn’t think to tell anyone I was going to be about. If I get it after this interview I’ll join you for some hoola hoops.


  2. I work in HR and it is great to hear of a company that has the sense to do this. The best recruiters know that an interview is not the best way to know if someone is right for the job. Interviews are just too far removed from reality and have the capacity to make the best of us go to pieces. Also, many people ‘give good interview’ but are terrible employees.

    You did SO good following up. The same rings true for if you don’t get a job. I once didn’t and followed up with an email saying I was disappointed and that the role sounded great (explaining why), but that I was very thankful for the opportunity to interview and it was a pleasure to meet them. Then the person they appointed couldn’t take the job, and my follow up email is what made them decide to give it to me!

    Congrats on your second chance, and good luck! 🙂


    1. Thanks. I’d always figured that must the case about interviews. They seem to be all about how well you can sell yourself, but since selling things doesn’t come into my job I don’t really see how whether or not I can sell myself is relevant to how well I might do if they hired me.

      That’s great that you got the job because of your email. I always mean to thank people for interviewing me but usually never get round to it. I’m definitely going to make sure I send an email every time in future.



  3. Wow! This is great! Not great that things went so badly, but great that they’re giving you another chance! It was very brave of you to email and it definitely paid off! Wishing you the best of luck in your re-interview, you can do it!! 🙂 xx


  4. Wow, that’s amazing! I could never be brave enough to send an email like this. It’s so so great they want to interview you again.
    I was in a truly horrible interview once and I just really messed up, not giving any clear answers and wearing a polyester dress (how could this happen!?) and sweating like hell…



    1. I think it helps that when I write anything on a computer, an email, or a blog post, or whatever, I don’t really imagine anyone else actually reading it. I think I’d have chickened out if I’d thought of making a phone call and actually had to speak to the woman.

      That’s a shame. I guess this is why all the interview advice says to make sure you wear you’re comfortable in. I’m sure you looked as fabulous as always though.



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