What Should I Do If…?


What should you do if you think you gave a particularly bad answer to a question during an interview?  This is the most frequently asked interview-related question I hear from clients, though it is by no means the only one. Over the next few weeks/months we will look at the most common “What Should I Do If…” questions and offer some possible solutions.

The ‘Bad Answer’ Conundrum
Recently, a client called me sounding dejected.  He’d just had an interview for a job he really wanted. He thought it mostly went well, but, on one substantive issue, he was “certain” he had given a bad answer. He was planning to compose a follow-up email, providing what he thought was a better answer, and he wanted my opinion as to whether he should send it.

If you find yourself in a position similar to that of my client, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. How did the interviewer react to your “horrible” answer? Did he or she press you for a better/different answer? Did the interviewer express, either verbally or otherwise, dissatisfaction with your answer? In other words, what makes you think it was a bad answer? Your thoughts about the answer after the fact, or the interviewer’s reaction? If you saw a strongly raised eyebrow, definitively crossed arms, or some other clear body language indicative of dissatisfaction, then maybe you did give an answer that was sub-par. But, if you are basing your concerns solely on your own thoughts, maybe just let it go.
  2. What are you hoping to accomplish by sending a follow-up email clarifying your response? Yes, you might come across as being more knowledgeable, but you also might come across as lacking in confidence and being someone who second-guesses himself. Weigh those against each other and see where you come out.
  3. Is there a reason this can’t wait 24 hours? Sleep on it. Assuming you were planning to send a thank you note including a “better” answer to the interview question, it can be sent the next day and still have the same impact. And, in the light of morning, your “bad” answer may not sound so bad, so you may send a simple thank you note without including a clarifying response.

How did it go for my client? Well, the next day we agreed that perhaps his answer hadn’t been that bad. Not great, but not disqualifying, either. So, he sent a strong thank you note, indicating his passion for the work. And that was it. Our intuition was borne out when he got a job offer the following week.  He just started work at the firm and couldn’t be happier.

More often than not, I advise clients to sit tight and not compound any possible problem by sending a “clarifying” follow up. In light of the points above, if you really blew it, do you think a clarifying email would change that?  Right, probably not.

Sometimes it can be hard to look at things objectively. That’s where we can help. We’ve heard almost every possible story of “blown” interviews. We’d love to add yours to our catalog. Give us a call at 301-520-9511 or email me at bob@epi.coach.