What to Do After a Bad Interview

As a recruiter, you know that getting your applicant to an interview is only half the battle. The rest of the fight comes after the in-person conversation. If the interview went well that’s great, pats on the back for you! But if it didn’t go as well as you dreamed, then that leaves you in charge of helping your clients pick up the pieces so that together you can figure out where it all went wrong.

Getting the most information possible after a less-than-successful interview will not only improve your relationship with your client, but also help you in the future with new interviewees who may be giving off bad hiring vibes.

Whatever the roadblocks may be, knowing how to flip a bad interview will help you steer away from a full-on train wreck the next time around!

Interviewer, or interviewee?

 ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt handle the truth!‚Äù‚ÄîA Few Good Men

 It honestly doesn‚Äôt matter who‚Äôs fault it was. Instead we should be focusing on why the interview was a flop and if both parties felt the fail. The truth of the matter is that both sides have a story about the overall experience. It‚Äôs your job to sniff out the common ground and figure out what the pain points were for both sides and more importantly, how you can quickly resolve these issues with future talent.

Getting the hiring manager’s feedback on a bad interview is an absolute must. Hearing a firsthand account of what didn’t go over smoothly will give you a new sense of awareness and help you relay valuable information back to your candidate.

In regards to applicant feedback, ask them to write down their initial thoughts directly after the interview to get a real read on the situation from their point of view. This opens up the conversation and encourages talent to genuinely share their views, grievances, or concerns before they hear what the hiring manager had to say.

Find out the facts and give yourself a concise 360-degree look at what really went down during the meeting. Oh, and you’ll score some bonus points for showing everyone involved that you care enough to listen. How about that for cultivating connections?!


 ‚ÄúNobody puts Baby in the corner.‚Äù‚ÄîDirty Dancing

So, you’ve gotten feedback from everyone involved, and you have a pretty decent grasp on went wrong… now comes the tricky part, you MUST readjust. Yes, some of the blame is on the client, and some on the applicant but at the core of it all is you, the recruiter – you are the common denominator. The adjustment you make doesn’t have to be huge, but it should incorporate the thoughts and ideas the hiring manager shared in your initial follow up.

Look at the information you have from all points of view, but don’t get caught up in things you can’t change or purple squirrel requests. Focus on the elements you can change, actively listen, then implement!


“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” —Cool Hand Luke

You’ve taken the heat from both sides and made the necessary tweaks requested– now it’s time for a little tough love. That’s right, we’re talking about carefully coaching the client and the candidate.

 When coaching your hiring manager remember to be delicate but direct. Get down to the meat and potatoes of it all. Keep the conversation focused on what the hiring manager needs from the candidate. Help them navigate the best ways to get the responses they want while keeping the candidate experience at the forefront of the conversation.

On the other hand, coaching your candidates can be equally as important. Recruiters lose up to 20 percent of candidates by not accurately coaching their applicants. That’s valuable talent right there. Sure, coaching normally takes place before the interview, but if you want to build a solid pipeline of talent in this low unemployment economy you need to get creative with your (human) resources! Use the feedback from clients to guide your advice and practice overcoming interview hurdles with talent.

Helping candidates craft flexible answers to a variety of common behavioral and skills-based questions to keep on hand could be the key to your next placement.

Bouncing back

‚ÄúJust keep swimming‚Äù‚ÄîFinding Nemo 

If you take nothing else out of what you have learned from a failed interview, remember this: Keep improving your talent strategy. Getting knocked back a couple of steps doesn’t have to be the end of your journey with the client or the candidate. You just have to artfully recover.

As a recruitment aficionado, it’s your goal to make the good candidates you find shine for your hiring managers – whether it’s the first interview you send them on or the fifth. Just as your hiring managers and candidates have to adjust, it’s on you to improve and keep pushing as well.

So what do we do when we run into inevitable interview fails? We get the facts, we adjust, and we keep swimming.


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