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The Most Terrible Job Interview Fails

Here we share some common mistakes that could ruin an interview and how you can turn things around.

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Here we share some common mistakes that could ruin an interview and how you can turn things around.

Photo credit: Wayhomestudio

No matter how much you prepare for an interview, there is always a possibility that something could go wrong, and once in a while, everyone has the occasional lousy interview. You could give a wrong answer, leave out important details, or forget to prepare adequately and go blank when asked simple questions. 

Sometimes you may realize halfway through or towards the end of the interview that you have messed up. And once you leave, you’ll end up going over every detail in your head and feel frustrated or ashamed about everything that went wrong. This can be significantly worse if you needed the job desperately and had put a lot of pressure on yourself for the interview. The key to redeeming yourself during an unpleasant interview is to handle it properly so that your interviewer can look past it and see what you have to offer. 

We asked a few people about their interview experiences and discussed how they could have salvaged the situation. 

The one who was late

“I had a virtual interview with a certain company last year and logged in about 5 minutes late to the call to find the hiring manager and the company founder waiting for me. I was quite embarrassed and apologized for the delay and they were very understanding about it. The interview went well, but unfortunately, I did not get the job.” - John*

Sometimes you can be late to your physical or virtual interview despite planning your time early enough to cater to any contingencies. It happens, and even though it may not be a good look for you, it doesn’t mean the interviewer will write you off completely (as long as you play your cards right). 

First, be proactive and let the interviewer know ahead of time if you are running late. Just make sure you do so within a reasonable time before the interview.

Once you get there, acknowledge your lateness immediately and take responsibility for it. Explain the reason for your delay while maintaining honesty and apologize for being late. After the interview, write an apology in your thank-you note, again explaining the reason for being late and recognizing that you appreciate the recruiter taking the time to see you anyway. 

This demonstrates your ability to gracefully handle stressful situations, take ownership of your mistakes, and turn them around skillfully. It also shows that you have good manners and will be well received.

The one whose nerves took over

“I once had an interview where I was so nervous that I started rambling about taking the interviewer’s job. By the time she was repeating back what I said, I knew it was too late.” - Sandra*

Landing an interview for the job you want can be exciting and also nerve-racking. It is common for candidates to get too nervous when asked questions and go blank, start rambling, forget to include essential details, or struggle to articulate their answers properly. The last thing you might want to do is call attention to your mistake at that moment, but it can help you. 

Ask the interviewer for a moment to collect yourself. You can mention that you’re a little nervous, and even though you prepared adequately for the interview, you need a couple of minutes to calm down and collect your thoughts. This will help you continue with your interview clearly and straightforwardly. The hiring manager may see this as authentic and be quite encouraging and supportive. 

You can also try breaking the ice before the interview by initiating a casual conversation with the hiring manager. Talking about the weather or asking about weekend plans is an excellent way to start things off before going right into the interview.

The one who came unprepared

“This one is usually tough for me to remember. I went in there thinking that I only needed to convince the recruiter that I was good for the job. So when they asked me simple questions about the company, I was clueless.” - Michael*

Interviews allow the company to learn more about you and vice versa, so you need to do as much research as possible beforehand. The recruiter will typically tell you about the role and the company during the interview, but they also expect you to have done your homework. Finding ways to show that you researched the company will indicate that you are taking it seriously. If you do not prepare for an interview, it will show and reduce your chances.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t answer basic questions like the name of the CEO or anything unexpected thrown at you. Also, try not to dwell on it because that may prevent you from doing well during the rest of the interview. Breathe deeply instead and concentrate on answering the remaining questions as well as possible. 

Stay calm and ask for a moment to think about the question. You can buy some time by asking the interviewer to clarify the question or repeat it. This can help you think of your answer and allow the interviewer to see how your thought process works.  

After the interview:


  1. Research the company on LinkedIn to find company contacts and learn more about its competitors.

  2. Include this knowledge in your thank-you note to further impress the hiring manager.

  3. Don’t forget to thank all the people who interviewed you in the letter and specify why you are passionate about the role. 

If you’re not able to handle your nerves and leave the interview feeling like you didn’t do your best, don’t give up hope yet. It’s all about the follow-up thank-you note. Use the note to show your passion for the role and creatively provide any additional answers required of you. 

The one who didn’t have any questions

“When I first started looking for work after campus, I thought that not asking questions in an interview was polite and made me seem unproblematic. So I never used to ask the recruiters questions during interviews. Looking back, maybe that’s why I never landed any of those jobs.” - Sarah*

Many people assume that when an interviewer is asking if you have any questions, they are just doing that to be polite, but that is not the case. This is usually a test to determine your engagement in the interview process, interest in the opportunity, and knowledge about the company. So if you only focus on getting ready for their questions, you may not be prepared with yours. 

Prepare several detailed questions highlighting your knowledge of the industry and the company. However, if you are unable to come up with questions of your own, you can ask some general questions like “What do you like about working here?” or “How would we be working together?” You can also include your questions at the end of the thank-you note if you forget to ask during the session. 

You’ll get extra points for asking about something the recruiter mentioned during the interview or something you found out when researching the company. This will show how thoughtful and excited you are about the opportunity. 

What if you can’t save face?

People make interview mistakes more often than you think, and it is perfectly normal. We are human, after all. Surprisingly, most recruiters are willing to look past some of these errors; but once in a while, you can’t salvage a bad interview. So you will have to accept it and move on. Even if the hiring manager cannot look past your mistakes, you can take extra steps to make your interview experience better next time. 

Reflect on the interview while focusing on both the good and the bad. Acknowledge what you did right and the questions that gave you a hard time. Think about what you’d have said now that you are not under so much pressure. 

Making a mistake during an interview always feels terrible. However, these strategies can help you bounce back and satisfy any concerns the recruiter had about you so that you can proceed to the next round. Even if your mistake costs you the job, you will still walk away, having learned a few important things to keep in mind for the next interview. The chances are you will never repeat the same mistake in the next interview and hopefully land the job offer of your dreams.

Written by

Sandra Musonge

Sandra Musonge is a part-time writer at Fuzu with over five years of experience under her belt, helping numerous B2B and B2C clients with their content needs. She writes to inspire and not just to inform. Her educational background in Biochemistry has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. You can find her enjoying nature or trying out new recipes when she isn't writing.

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