Job interviews are often a stressful affair at the best of times. The unfortunate truth is that some of your interviews are bound to go wrong. Whether it’s due to a lack of preparation, a misunderstanding of some sort, or simply a bad day, most of us have had at least one bad interview.

With your future on the line, a bad interview can feel harrowing. But that interview is just one small step on your career journey. It’s vital to learn how to bounce back from a bad interview, learn the necessary lessons, and move on to the next one.

Reflect on what went wrong

First, you need to analyze what, if anything, went wrong in your interview. Was there a pivotal moment where something went south, was there something you forgot, or is it simply a feeling you didn’t do your best?

JobMob’s Nisa Chitakasem says that if you catch a mistake during the interview, you need to stay calm, don’t panic, and don’t try too hard to pivot back. Recognizing your mistake in the moment is a good thing, but you can’t let that moment snowball and lead to more disaster.

If instead, you’re reflecting afterward, take some notes to figure out what went right and what went wrong. Gleeson Recruitment Group’s Rose Hunt says that likely your entire interview wasn’t a disaster. By focusing on the specific spots that didn’t go well, you’ll be able to isolate your mistake and come up with a solution.

Ask for feedback

If you want a more objective, outside view of the situation, asking for feedback is always an option. If nothing else, you might at least get a definitive answer. An interviewer won’t always answer your inquiry—some companies have policies against it, and some candidates react poorly to criticism—but it’s worth asking.

Indeed writes that by following up with your interviewer, you might get the response you’re looking for. They might be able to tell you what went wrong, if anything, or possibly reassure you that something you thought went bad actually didn’t. Maybe the only reason you were passed over is because of the strength of another candidate or a lack of experience on your part. If you’re working with a recruiter, they may be able to act as an in-between between you and the interviewer to find an answer.

“If your recruiter believes in your skills and knows your bad job interview performance was just a glitch, there’s a chance they’ll be able to smooth things over, and maybe even get you through to the next round of interviews for a second chance.” –Rose Hunt

Send a thank-you note

You should be sending a thank-you note after every interview, good or bad. It shows your appreciation and gives you an edge over those who don’t send one. But a thank you after a bad interview can be a tool to clarify things and make a better final impression in addition to the usual benefits.

HBR’s Marlo Lyons describes how you can use a thank-you note to show self-awareness. Instead of apologizing, you can mention a specific area that tripped you up and take another stab at better answering that question. For example:

“When you asked me about my experience in driving the business, it was clear my answer didn’t resonate. After taking some time to reflect on the question, I thought of this example, which may clarify.”

Even if you think you did more damage than a quick follow-up can repair, it’s still good practice to send the note anyway and express your interest and gratitude. It doesn’t hurt, and at least you’ll end on a good note.

Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself

Whatever you learn from your follow-up efforts, the most important lessons you can take away are being aware of what went wrong, forgiving yourself, and moving on.

Interviews are stressful and generally not representative of the skills you’ll use on that job every day. Interviewing is a specific skill set involving how to behave in a set meta. No one can blame you for giving in to the pressure or making a mistake.

The Muse’s Katie Douthwaite Wolf says that by determining your mistakes, you can practice until you’re more comfortable answering interview questions. This bad interview can be the catalyst to improve and do better next time. Use your experience to carry yourself forward rather than dwell on the negative.

“A bad interview can leave you feeling frustrated, upset, and beating yourself up. Take some time (whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour) to reflect on the experience, but don’t dwell on it for too long. It’s easy to spiral and become convinced that the interview went even worse than it actually did.” –Alison Doyle, The Balance

Wrap up

Interviews offer a chance at an exciting potential future, so it’s understandable to feel down when things go wrong. But one interview can’t define your job search. By learning the above lessons, you can figure out what went wrong and approach your next interview a little wiser.

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