How to follow up after a terrible virtual interview

Much as the career-scape has changed over the past few months, so has the interviewing process. And while remote interviewing was once an option for reserved for remote jobs or first-round interviews, it’s now the norm for most businesses and will be until further notice. 

The thing is though, that as convenient as the virtual process has become, there are countless actions you can take during an in-person interview that aren’t quite as easily manageable virtually. In-person, you might be able to sense if someone is impatient with you, or if they seem to be in a rush to move onto the next thing. Depending on how tuned in you are, you might even be able to guess from their body language if you seriously screw up and then find a way back to a middle ground.  

Virtual interviews on the other hand can be a bit trickier. What if you have something prepared that doesn’t work? You might not even realize it if you start scanning your notes and the interviewer loses patience with the process. More than that, what if you screw up monumentally. Maybe you overshare details about your past position or go off on a rant about politics only to discover your interviewer is checking their phone and has tuned you out. 

Unless you say or do something unforgivable, you can probably salvage the relationship. Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TopInterview, offered some tips on just what to do after you really screw up your virtual interview.  

Don’t shy away from the screw-up

“When you bomb an interview, your best bet is to address the situation head-on in your thank-you message,” Augustine said. In addition to expressing your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and reiterating your interest in the role, Augustine also said that you “must also make a strong case for why you’re the right candidate to hire – or at least, why you deserve another video call to redeem yourself.” Sometimes the key isn’t to get them to agree to give you the job, but just to get them to give you another chance.  

Make honesty the best policy

While you don’t want to dwell on the mistakes you made during your video interview, Augustine reminds us that “it’s important to acknowledge that the meeting could have gone better and that your performance was an inaccurate representation of your ability to do the job.” And it’s okay to admit if video interviewing is new to you. Augustine suggests that you let the interviewer know “that this unfamiliar interview format threw you a bit, despite your preparation. Employers and candidates, alike, have had to adapt to a new virtual process, so your interviewer may be sympathetic to your nerves.”

Clarify your response

If you’re given the opportunity, Augustine says toMake a point of explaining some specific information you wish you had communicated more clearly.” For example, if you veer off course wildly during the conversation and can’t seem to rescue the moment, you might notice that you forgot to answer the question. “Now’s the time to convey the response you wish you had given during the video interview,” Augustine said. And remember to “Keep the response brief; remember, your thank you message should resemble a note, not a novel.” 

Add value

In addition to sharing important information about your qualifications that you failed to mention during the interview, Augustine said that you should try to offer something valuable to the organization. “For example, could you introduce the hiring manager to a vendor or other connection they’re interested in meeting, or share a process-improvement idea that demonstrates your capabilities? Take initiative and demonstrate, through your actions, that you’re worthy of a second chance.” And if you’re feeling really confident, show instead of telling by adding an extra to your note that proves to the interviewer that initial screw up is not your norm.

 Request a second meeting

Augustine reminds us that despite best efforts, “There’s no guarantee your follow-up note will be enough to compensate for your interview mishaps; however, there’s no harm in asking for an opportunity to prove yourself.” Before you do though, think through your wording carefully. “There’s a fine line between enthusiasm and desperation, cautioned Augustine. “Offer to meet again for a brief call – you want to be cognizant of the interviewer’s time – to demonstrate what you have to offer the company.” Try to offer a few specific times or dates so that the interviewer understands you’re serious about repairing your reputation and potential work relationship.

 Summon your advocates

If your network includes people who already work at the company (ideally, individuals you contacted before the interview as part of your preparation) Augustine says to reach out once again for their help. “They may be able to directly follow up with your interviewer and advocate on your behalf.”

What about the embarrassing stuff?

For mistakes such as getting caught wearing only the top half of your interview suit, Augustine said to “acknowledge your lack of video-interviewing experience and your lapse in judgment.” After that, “communicate that you learned your lesson, and then move on to reiterate your interest in the opportunity and summarize your qualifications. There’s no need to harp on this mistake if the rest of the interview went well.”

Rachel Weingarten is a frequent contributor to Ladders News.