I Bombed the Phone Interview – Now What?

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

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It had been one of those days. You know the kind when everything goes wrong. Murphy’s Law kicked in and just as you struggled to put out the latest fire, you received a call from a hiring manager or recruiter about a great job. The phone call is always the first interview and it is crucial. You knew that yet you were distracted and stressed.

The employer had already reduced the candidate pool to a select group and you made that group based on your resume. That day he was calling candidates for further elimination in order to whittle the group to a smaller number for face-to-face interviews. Unfortunately, that call came right when chaos broke loose in your world and you crashed and burned. What can you do to salvage the situation?

First, take a deep breath and get past the urge to kick yourself. Okay, so you blew it but it doesn’t have to stay a hopeless situation. Be proactive and take some steps to turn the situation around rather than indulge in self-pity. Attitude is everything! Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate distractions immediately. You weren’t ready for the call, yet you answered the phone anyway rather than letting it roll to voice mail. Whatever the distractions were when you hit the call button, get rid of them fast. You have a limited amount of time to rescue this situation and you need to get busy.
  • What questions did you not answer well? Think about it and jot down a few notes. Get your thoughts organized and think of what you should have said.
  • Get your resume in front of you. It’s your cheat sheet and it is also the document from which the hiring manager is working so you literally need to be “on the same page”. That also means knowing which version the employer is viewing. If you’ve sent multiple versions out for your job search, you should track those so you don’t look stupid by having to ask “Uh, which resume are you looking at?” in the interview.
  • Find a quiet place. If you have to go sit in your car so you don’t have screaming kids in the background (or whatever), do it. Get your mind in “professional business mode”, away from the more casual/crisis mindset.
  • Prepare a question about the company. You are trying to make a new impression, so you want to talk intelligently to the hiring manager or recruiter. This should not be a question about the JOB but about the company. Impress him/her with a question that shows you’ve done your research and have a serious interest where the company is concerned.

You need to do these things very quickly after hanging up from the disastrous initial phone call because you want to call the hiring manager back and try to salvage the situation as soon as possible. Once you are ready, call the recruiter or hiring manager back. This is how you will approach the call:

“Hi Joe? John Smith here. We just spoke and I wanted to give you a quick call back to apologize for my distraction. Unfortunately, a crisis meeting (or whatever) had my focus at the moment. I was excited to get your call, but I should have rescheduled for a better time. ABC Industries interests me and you got my attention. My poor impression concerns me, especially when you asked me about XYZ (this is the question you bombed). A second opportunity to respond to that would be great. I also have some questions about the new product launch going on there at ABC Industries (this will pertain to the question about the company). Can we reschedule and let me take another run at answering your questions?”

You can also leave this as a voice mail in case you don’t get through. The point is you are being proactive. Your goals are to admit you weren’t up to your best which demonstrates character; acknowledge your poor response to a question; show your interest in the company; and request a second interview. Since 99.9% of the other candidates won’t go this far, you will immediately have an edge. You will be “the one who called back”. It will be an additional checkmark in the positive column for your candidacy and may well make the difference in getting you passed on to the next round of interviews.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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