10 Signs You Bombed The Interview (and How to Recover)

How do you know if you bombed the interview? It’s going to happen to you eventually if you interview enough! So what are the signs, how can you recover, and how can you make sure it never happens again?

Job interviews can be stressful. After all, you’re trying to make a connection with someone you’ve never met before, based on your resume and their need to hire someone. Sometimes people are overjoyed at how an interview went or maybe they can’t tell. Here’s our breakdown of how to know if you bombed the interview (and how to fix it!)

In this article, we’re going to cover:

10 Common Signs You Bombed The Interview
Do Not Over Analyze The Interview
How to Recover if You Bombed the Interview
What to do Next Time to Never Bomb Again
Terrible (and True) Interview Stories From Real People Who Definitely Bombed the Interview

10 Common Signs You Bombed The Interview


The interviewer’s body language wasn’t friendly.

Whether or not we want to admit it, body language reveals our honest reaction to the person we’re talking to. If your interviewer was leaning away from you, crossing their arms, appeared distracted, or made little or no eye contact, that’s a sign that you won’t get the position. It may not mean that you bombed the interview, though. It’s not definite, as it could depend on multiple factors. Is the room cold? Is the person busy? Any of these and many others could determine if they weren’t friendly. Consider if they smiled at you in any way. If so, you may be overthinking it. But if you got a truly chilly vibe from their body language, it might be best not to wait on their phone call.


None of the interview questions felt like a conversation.

At some point, there would ideally be a rapport between you and the interviewer where you connect as two people having a conversation. If it felt like you were just checking “yes” or “no” questions, then it could be a bad sign. If they asked open-ended questions and none of them sparked a more natural conversation, you might not want to pin your hopes on it.


The interview took a lot less time than you expected.

This is a bad sign because there are usually so many details to discuss a new position. Discussing onboarding, job responsibilities, and company culture are all ordinary parts of the interview. These things take time. This is a sign when you were expecting the interview to take half an hour, but it ended up being ten minutes. Maybe you were told it would be about an hour, but it ended up being half that.

Now sometimes small companies are pushed to the max and staff need to do double-duty, including interviewing. If that person was desperately needed somewhere else and was the only one to solve the problem, then that isn’t a sign of a bad interview. However, if you see plenty of stress-free people and the place seems to be under control without any fires to put out, then a short interview is a bad sign.


They don’t have any follow-up questions to your answers.

If you’ve explained how you’ve dealt with a terrible situation and you don’t get a single reaction, it might be over. They may not have any follow-up questions for you, but they should have a reaction, of some kind.

If you feel they are not engaging with you, ask them what success would like for them in that role. Are there metrics you have to meet? What kind of skills do their top performers have? Asking them questions related to their last question turns the interview into more of a conversation. That is exactly what you want to happen instead.


The questions got vaguer as the interview went on, instead of more specific.

For instance, they should already know your resume and experience before talking to you about what kind of company it is, instead of vice-versa. The idea is that each job interview starts with questions they ask everyone and then probe more deeply as the conversation goes on. The goal is to see if you’re a match for the company. Each hiring manager already has your resume. If the questions get less detailed and are less interesting as the conversation goes on, it may be a sign that the interviewer has mentally checked out.


They highlighted the negative.

If the hiring manager repeatedly “warns” you about a job, then watch out. They could be trying to drive you away from being interested in the job.

If they keep talking about how you don’t have a skill or experience for the position and won’t move on, then they’re trying to say you’re not qualified. If you don’t have what they’re looking for, they may be trying to let you down indirectly.


Or you highlighted the negative.

Do not badmouth your past or current employer in a job interview. No matter how many rotten things you have had to deal with or insane situations you’ve been in, do not badmouth your past or current employer. If you’re in a legal situation with your previous boss, still don’t say anything negative.

Saying anything negative about your past employer always makes you look like a bad employee. Speak positively so they think positively of you.

In an interview, badmouthing someone who isn’t there to defend themselves makes it look like you are the problem. Even when you’re telling the truth. Yes, there are toxic workplaces. Yes, there are terrible bosses, terrible coworkers, and awful situations. It comes across as you making your past boss/coworkers/situation the scapegoat of your own shortcomings. You sound like an unprofessional gossip who can’t get along with other people, and just wants out but doesn’t care where (so this new place doesn’t matter much to you).

If you need catharsis, see a counselor. A job interview is not the time for that. The hiring manager is there to see if you’re a good fit for this new job. So complain to your friends, your family, your pet, or your plant, but don’t air those grievances at a job interview. Keep it positive so they think positively of you!


At no point did the interviewer speak highly of the company or try to “pitch” it to you.

This implies that they don’t feel the need to sell you or convince you to take the job if it’s offered to you. While this could be a bad sign, it might also show that they think you know enough about the company that they don’t have to sell you on the perks or achievements of working there. If you’ve already demonstrated that you’ve done your research on the company itself, they may not feel it’s necessary to tell you more.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. If you didn’t talk about why you wanted to apply to this company in particular, didn’t express admiration of their benefits and great work culture, and you weren’t applying at a well-known place like Google, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get another phone call. Not impossible and not the ultimate sign, but something to keep on your radar.


You have no idea when they will follow-up with you.

Ideally, there would be a day or a time that they would get back to you. Often hiring managers have a string of interviews scheduled ahead of time and can’t legally make a decision before then. It’s not necessarily a bad answer if they tell you “we have five more interviews in the next week and we’ll let you know after that”. It IS a bad sign if you have no idea when or if they will ever follow up with you again.

If you’ve reached the end of the interview and realized that you don’t know when you’ll hear back from them, it’s 100% okay to ask when you’ll hear from them while still in the interview. If you’ve gone home and worried that you’ve blown it, ask the question in the thank you email. Make sure to check in with them after about a week.


You didn’t respect the other person’s time.

As someone being interviewed, there are a few social norms that are expected of you. Not doing these can lead to you giving a terrible first impression and not getting the job. These include being late, not having researched the company, or didn’t come appropriately dressed. There is more than one way to show that you actually want the job, and that includes how you treat other people and present yourself.

The hiring manager has other things to do than ask you about your greatest strengths and weaknesses. It’s important that you respect their time, as well as the time of the other people you may come into contact with. That includes (but isn’t limited to) security guards, administrative assistants, and parking attendants. You’d be surprised who’s opinion will be asked about a potential new hire.


Do Not Over Analyze The Interview

You might be overthinking the situation.

The person didn’t look up from their notes but otherwise did engage with you.

Not all interviewers are good at interviewing. This could be for several reasons, such as this person is new or not good at handling interviews or trying to make sure they go over the correct resume skills. They may be more of a note-taker personality that will then have to justify hiring you over someone else.  If this interviewer is going to see lots of different people for several positions or going to interview people over a long stretch of time, taking notes is logical. You want them to remember you in several weeks if that’s the situation.


It seems like it’s the first time they’ve read your resume.

That is absolutely frustrating! If it really is the first time they’ve read your resume, perhaps it’s because someone else did all the legwork of finding someone with your key skills or experience. That doesn’t excuse their system, but you can now use this chance to sell yourself. Show how likable you are and how why yes, you do match the skills/experience on your resume. It’s important that you don’t mistake their method of staffing as a sign you bombed the interview. After all, you only need to be hired once.

However, if the person who scheduled your interview is also the one going over and over your resume, you may not want this job. If the company or the hiring manager is so unorganized that it’s easier to contact you and schedule an interview than it is to read a resume, it could be terrible working there. If this happens to you, consider carefully if you’d have to work in close contact with the person hiring. Working with an unorganized boss might be enough to send you back to job-searching!


It’s possible that all of these things happened and you’ll still get the job! Unfortunately, there is also the option that the interview went great and you still weren’t offered the position. If you have any hesitation, be sure that your thank you email does some heavy lifting and save you!


How to Recover if You Bombed the Interview

That email expressing thanks can also help you after a job interview.

Immediately afterward, write down who you met with, your impression of them (so you can tailor the note to them), and make sure you have their information.


Take a Second to Breathe

Interviews are stressful! Before you write your thank-you note, make sure you take a minute (or an hour) to settle your mind. Consider what you think went wrong and what could have been better. Don’t dwell for too long, as this is only one opportunity that may not have worked out. There will be others. That said, get to your thank-you email! After all, that person might know somewhere else where you’d be a great fit!

Make That Thank You Email Work For You

No matter how badly you think the interview went, it’s important that you still write a thank you email. After all, this company will be hiring in the future, these people talk to other people, and people have long memories – including interviews and resumes.

Make sure your thank-you email does some heavy lifting. If they asked you a question that you didn’t have the answer to, immediately find out that answer and include it in your thank-you note. Point out how your experience and skills do make you a good fit, and how you could be a good culture fit as well. Make sure to send a thoughtful note appropriate to the position, situation, and recipients. You can’t always recover from a big interview mistake, but you can always leave a classy impression for the next time they’re hiring.

See also: What to Write in a Thank You Note After a Job Interview

Consider Asking For Another Chance

This advice isn’t for everyone. This does depend on what went wrong. It can be tempting to give excuses for a terrible interview. Keep in mind that you don’t know what they’re thinking and you may be over-analyzing the situation.

If you genuinely had car trouble and that’s why you were late, or had a last-minute child care emergency, asking for a do-over isn’t impossible. This doesn’t always work. If your skills are not in high demand or if you flubbed up too much to recover, there’s no way they’ll give you a second chance. Before asking them, make sure to consider if it’s really necessary.

The times when this does work is when you have to pass a technical test and your score was almost passing – but not quite. Asking for a second chance without hard evidence of how you did doesn’t show confidence, so make sure you have a solid reason why they should give you a second chance.


What to do Next Time to Never Bomb Again

You can learn from your mistakes and go on to great success!


Was it really as bad as you thought? Okay, so this wasn’t the best interview you’ve ever had. There will be others! You need to take a step back and think about exactly where you think things went wrong. This one job isn’t the end of your career or the only job out there. There are plenty of ways for you to achieve your goals. There isn’t just one way to do things.

It’s important to step back and view this as though you already have a job somewhere else. Dwelling on this one interview won’t help you improve or gain confidence, so it’s important that you use this time to your advantage. Bombing an interview isn’t fun, but this isn’t the last interview you’ll ever go on.

That being said, how do you really think you did? Do you think it was them or you? Both? Was it as soon as you showed up or during the actual interview? What did you do right and would do again?


Identify Where It Went Wrong

So how can you make sure that the next one goes much better? At what point did you get that sick feeling in your gut? Usually, people get butterflies beforehand, but was there a point during the conversation that you clearly remember wondering why you showed up?

The most common ones are:

  • Your mind went blank when they asked you a question.
  • They pointed out that you lack a specific skill or experience that this job requires. Your answer wasn’t as helpful as you thought.
  • You got a ‘gut feeling’. Perhaps you didn’t ‘gel’ with the hiring manager, or their questions threw you off your groove. Either way, it wasn’t a good fit for you.

That’s okay! Not every interview is going to go well! But you can prepare to make sure that you get further next time.


Get Ready For Next Time!

Okay, so the great interview where you’re hired is coming! Why? Because you’re willing to put in the effort to improve! (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article!) You’re just about to improve your whole situation and be amazing at your next interview. Here are your tools:

Were you stumped for an answer? Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Questions

Worried about a skill you may not have done for an employer? How To Overcome the Job Experience Requirement

Gut feeling? Hm. Well, here’s how to make a good impression next time: 5 Ways To Make an Amazing First Impression and make sure to research the company before you go. You can’t predict what kind of person you will meet there, but you can make sure you’re ready for almost anything.


Terrible (And True) Interview Stories From Real People Who Definitely Bombed the Interview

(Yes, these really happened.) These are some of the worst horror stories our recruiters had about what real people, who really bombed the interview:


A woman going back into the workforce was sent to interview for an entry-level position. She managed to locate the company, arrive in person and on time, had a copy of her resume, and then when asked why she wanted to work there, responded “Where?”. It’s one thing to be frazzled, but this woman forgot the name of the company she was actually interviewing for, during the actual interview. She realized her mistake later, but there was no second interview.


During the peak of summer, a man showed up to his interview just after his current job, drenched in sweat and smelled terribly of body odor. He was qualified for the job, but the smell was too much for the manager in the small office. The manager was very understanding and rescheduled a second interview for a later (and cooler) day and ended up hiring him. (See Dress For Success for Interview)


A man on the way to a lab tech interview decided to bicycle to the interview. He got caught in the rain and then got lost. Instead of calling to explain or to reschedule, he showed up two hours late, dripping wet, and demanded an interview. By then the hiring manager had given up on him and gone home. No, they did not give him another interview. (Always call ahead if something prevents you from making it on time!)


A husband had an interview and his wife insisted on being with him during it. She sat in on the interview because she wasn’t happy with her husband’s unemployment and inability to secure a new job. (There was no second interview.)


In Conclusion

Whatever happened at your interview, it probably wasn’t as bad as those! And yes, all those people did eventually find work and are at jobs that they love. Most people, at one point or another, bombed the interview. Remember that all people make mistakes and that you can learn from this experience. The only mistake you can make now is to refuse to try better next time. Do your research, plan ahead, practice answering questions, and you will be hired.

If you’d like more help landing an excellent career position, contact us at NESC Staffing since that’s what we do. Search Jobs

Need more help?

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Talk About a Time You Disagreed With Your Boss Answer (With Examples)

67 Great Interview Questions to Ask Your Potential Employer

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