How to Come Back from a Bad IT Interview

I was in my early 20s, looking for my second ‘career’ job after graduating from university, and I was applying to everything. One of the positions I saw required you to leave a voicemail message with the responses to various questions as the first step in the application process.

So I made my list of talking points, picked up the phone, and said my responses to the voicemail system. I thought I’d done pretty well – until I realized, after I hung up, that I’d neglected to leave my name and telephone number. I called back and left a cheerfully self-deprecating message about it (along the lines of “I’m so interested in this position that I got excited and forgot to leave my name”) but the damage was done – I never got a callback.

It’s happened to the best of us, and there’s nothing worse. Despite all our good intentions and careful planning, sometimes we make a total hash of the interview process and end up kicking ourselves. Is there anything you can do to salvage the situation?

Well the honest answer is sometimes. Here are some ways to make it better.

Don’t Let it Send You into a Spiral of Despair

We repeat: It happens to everyone, including people who’ve been in the working world for 20+ years. Sometimes an interview just doesn’t go very well. Maybe you were late through no fault of your own; maybe things got off on the wrong foot with the interviewer and the whole thing never recovered. Don’t let yourself start thinking that it’s the beginning of the end of your IT career.  Or that another opportunity will never come along.

Something to think about: 90% of the time, when I hear from candidates who had a disastrous interview, a week or two later they have a fantastic interview with another company and end up saying, “You know, maybe it’s good that the other one didn’t go that well – I guess things happen for a reason.”

Call the IT Recruiter and Tell Them What Happened

If you’ve been sent to the interview by a recruiter, call them right after the interview and let them know what happened. Take responsibility if it’s your fault (“I got lost, so I was late and off my game”, “I accidentally said a swear word”, etc.) or explain the situation if it wasn’t (“The interviewer asked about my marital status and didn’t respond well when I refused to answer”).

The recruiter may be able to smooth over the situation for you or try to get you another interview with someone else in the organization. But they can’t help you if you aren’t honest with them.

Try the Direct Approach

If you feel like you haven’t put your best foot forward at the beginning of the interview – maybe you felt flustered or let an anecdote go on too long and you can see the interviewer wasn’t impressed, you can always try addressing it directly.

”Look, I feel like maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Can we start again? I’m really interested in this position and I’d like the opportunity to demonstrate I’m a good fit.” This won’t always work, but can sometimes save a difficult situation.

A Bad Interview Might be a Good Sign

Sometimes you have a bad interview through no fault of your own. The interviewer keeps you waiting 45 minutes, becomes combative during the interview or asks inappropriate questions, etc.

Don’t feel bad about this – it’s a good indication that the job, or the organization, wasn’t the right one for you in the first place. Maybe the company is in trouble; maybe the manager is about to get fired; maybe the whole place is just chronically disorganized. Whatever the reason, you can probably safely assume you dodged a bullet.

Move on to the Next IT Opportunity

Looking for a new job is tough on everyone’s self-esteem, and dwelling on one bad interview will only make it worse. Yes, you should do some self-examination afterwards to see if you can learn anything (“Next time I’ll double-check the location so I don’t get lost on the way”), but after that, let it go and move on to the next opportunity.

If you’re looking to make a move with your IT career, we’d love to connect to see if any of our open positions are right for you. Connect with us today.

Visit our Guide to Finding the Perfect Tech Job for more helpful articles like this one.