Job Interview

Failed Interview? Here are 7 Ways to Avoid Mistakes in the Future

failed job interview

As you leave the job interview, you get the sense that it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. A few days later, you hear the dreaded rejection letter or email telling you that you didn’t make it. Ugh, another failed interview! How frustrating is that?! 

Why are Job Interviews so Hard?

A series of failed job interviews can easily make anyone question their core competencies or interpersonal skills. Or blame the HRs for asking too tricky questions and purposefully putting you in a challenging position. 

But the truth is that we are oftentimes our own’s worst enemy. 

Interviewing is hard because we often tend to second-guess our abilities, get overly anxious before the interview, or, on the contrary, treat the conversation far too casually. 

In fact, 92% of adults have lingering fears about different aspects of the job interview such as:

  • Acting too nervous 
  • Being overqualified for the job 
  • Getting stumped by an employer questions
  • Arriving too late to the job interview
  • Appearing underqualified for the role
  • Not coming fully prepared 

When you let those fears take over your mind, interviewing gets hard, and failure happens more often. 

So stop asking about “why do I keep failing at job interviews?”. Shift your focus towards reflecting on your fears and past interview mistakes.

A failed job interviews are not necessarily a waste of your time. You can learn a lot from your experience and apply that knowledge to your next interview to improve your chances of success the next time around! 

The 7 Common Interview Mistakes 

Below we lined up some of the common interview mistakes that sit at the core of every failed job interview: 

  1. Coming underprepared, lacking context about the role & employer
  2. Choosing an inappropriate interview outfit 
  3. Failure to calm your nerves before the interview
  4. Being too shy to admit that you don’t understand a question
  5. Staying silent or giving up too early when asked a difficult question
  6. Trying to forget a failed interview as fast as possible, instead of analyzing it
  7. Forgetting to follow-up with the interviewer despite the outcome. 

And here are the 7 ways to easily avoid them in the future! 

1. Research the Employer 

A job interview is a two-way conversation where: 

  • The interviewer introduces and ‘sells’ you the company
  • You showcase how your skills and past experience can be of value to them

In essence, you present a ‘sales pitch’ to the employer. And every good salesperson will tell you that homerun pitches are highly personalized. 

That’s why background company research is essential.

researching the company and employer

Remember: other candidates will likely have similar technical skills and backgrounds. So if you just reiterate these, you’ll end up sounding like everyone else.

Doing some background research on the company will help you highlight the risk skills and projects during the interview. For example, if you know about the company’s commitment to diversity, you could bring up your experience with designing accessible websites, in line with the Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines. 

Plus, you’ll have an easier time answering the “why do you want to work here” interview question

2. Plan Your Interview Outfits in Advance

Given the pressure, an interview outfit is often the last thing on most candidates’ agenda. That can be problematic. Even companies with relaxed dress codes expect applicants to appear more professionally dressed for the interview. It’s a basic courtesy of displaying professionalism. 

For more traditional companies, casual outfits, worn to an interview, can appear rather distasteful, especially for people seeking customer-facing or managerial roles. 

So do put some effort into your looks. This guide succinctly explains what you should wear to a job interview

3. Get Your Nerves at Check

Interview nerves are the worst. You get all jittery, anxious, and lose your ability to think straight and act confident. So you must not let your mind sabotage your interview! 

stressed job applicant

Here are several actionable ways to calm the nerves before the interview

  • Have a good breakfast, but avoid too much caffeine as it makes you jittery
  • Give yourself a pre-interview pep-talk to get in the right mindset
  • Take a brisk walk before your appointment to shake off some nervous energy 
  • Try to smile more (even if it’s forced at first) as ‘smiling’ is a natural mechanism for reducing stress. 

If you feel the anxiety kicking in during the interview, take a deep breath, and ask for a moment to think over your interview answer. Take a sip of water, if you’d been offered some, and massage the middle of your palm with your thumb. This should help you calm down a bit and keep the conversation going. 

4. Ask for Clarifications 

A lot of interview fails happen when the candidates rush to reply without fully processing the question. 

When you feel that you don’t fully understand the question or some of the terms within it, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Most recruiters will gladly re-phrase it or give examples of what they want to know. Quite often doing this can help you figure out the answer or you can piece together an answer from the clues they give you.

After asking for clarification, if you still find yourself stumped for a concise answer, then talk about what you do know. Be honest and tell that while you have not exactly done X or Z, you did have a similar experience or a theoretical understanding of the issue. 

Such a strategy is far better than evading the question altogether or firing up an irrelevant reply. 

5. Explain How You Would Find The Answer

If you are truly stumped about giving an answer and the interviewer hasn’t moved the conversation on, then take some time to explain your general line of thinking.

Recruiters often throw in a hard question here and there to test your analytical skills and your approaches to processing the problem. 

A person who can provide a thoughtful way to find an answer is going to be far more appealing than someone who just shrugs, shakes their head, and gives up.

You may expect more tricky questions to be thrown at you during your interview if you are applying for a job that requires strong decision-making or leadership skills. In this case, the recruiter is looking to see if you can take initiative to solve problems as they come up. They’ll want people who can think on their feet and lead, not follow.

6. Reflect On Your Performance 

An interview failure is an opportunity to learn. 

When you get some quiet time, mentally review your performance. Try to pinpoint the moment that you felt things were not going particularly well or were not working in your favor. 

woman reflecting on interview performance
  • Were you lacking in company knowledge?
  • Were you having trouble answering a question you didn’t quite understand?
  • Did you feel you lacked sufficient experience in some aspect of the job? 
  • Were you asked a question that threw your concentration off?

Your goal is to find the interview questions you’ve struggled with the most. Then you’ll be able to prepare better answers for the next time.

7.  Follow Up After The Interview

A follow-up email after the interview can help you clear up some of the awkward interview moments. 

Use it as an opportunity to address some goofs and rough corners, provide an answer to the question you struggled with, or merely ask for feedback on your performance. 

Doing so can change the odds in a somewhat side-tracked interview. Or, at least, provide you with a closure — a quick tip or explanation from the HR on why they chose someone else over you and how you can increase your chances of getting hired the other time around. 

If you get the chance to talk about your interview, you might ask why you didn’t get the job and see if there is anything you can do better next time. Don’t forget to take plenty of notes during your conversation so you can refer back to them and address each one.

Restate that you are very interested in working at the company and would like to be considered for any future job openings that may appear. You never know – you may be lucky! It is certainly worth trying.

To Conclude 

It would be great to get a second chance at a job interview if things didn’t work out well. By framing each new interview as another chance to be successful, you’ll realize you’ve got a chance to change your future. Don’t waste your next opportunity by repeating past interview mistakes. Focus on changing your approach to make your next interview a great success!
Read our research-backed interview tips next to learn more about acing that next job interview!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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