How to Come Back From a Bad First Impression

Can you be given a second chance if you slip up in an interview?

So, imagine if you have a really important interview at a company you have had your sights on for a long time and it could be the chance of a lifetime. However, on your journey there you encounter some major road works and you are 10 minutes late and then when you eventually arrive completely stressed out and with a significant perspiration issue, you call the CEO Daniel rather than David! Is there actually any way to recover from this pretty poor first impression to actually go on to secure the position? It may seem like a lost cause and a missed opportunity, however there are a few things you can do at the time of interview or even once you’ve left the building to try and reverse a bad opinion. Below are a few points on how to potentially turn a bad first impression into a good one.

Better late than never:

One of the most frowned upon “don’t’s” as far as interview etiquette is concerned is whatever you do, DON’T BE LATE! However we are human after all and sometimes we encounter obstacles that are there to try and trip us up no matter how early we set off. There is no point pretending to be on time and not mention it. Be honest, say that you are sorry, explain that you know it is unacceptable and describe the circumstances. You may find that the interviewer actually respects your honesty and is impressed with the amount of effort you have made to get there on time.

Don’t sweat the small stuff:

It is well documented that we form an almost immediate opinion of someone when meeting them for the first time based upon their appearance. Therefore, it is incredibly important that your outward image reflects the overall brand you are trying to portray. Once you have spent an age preening and perfecting your best interview attire, it is incredibly annoying to be reduced to a quivering mess and all that hard work seems to have been wasted. It is not very easy to keep nerves under wraps entirely, especially if the job you are going for could be a life-changer and your best laid plans of preparation have gone astray.

However, you must remember that most interviewers expect a few nerves so don’t right yourself off. If you are going for a pressurised sales role however, it may leave the interviewer wondering if you are made of strong enough stuff. Try to keep nerves at bay by doing as much preparation as possible regarding the company, role and even the best route to travel there and have a few well practised answers to common interview questions. It will help your confidence to have good examples prepared, highlighting your skills and experience.

The pen is mightier than the sword:

It is not uncommon to have a mental block when answering a tricky interview question or go off on a tangent and not answer the question to properly showcase your experience and talent. At the time, an interviewer will understand if you apologise and take a moment to gather yourself.

In hindsight it’’s easy to be wise after the event, we all think of things we could have said or done better. If you are in doubt about your performance following the interview, or made a complete mess of it, then a follow up letter or email the next day might just help your chances.

Take some time and properly articulate your answers to the questions you let yourself down on because of nerves. Perhaps explain that it is not a true reflection of how you normally behave in a work/business scenario, but you were not on top form because of legitimate reasons, therefore you would appreciate a second chance at interview. Apologise for any errors you may have made i.e. lateness, not switching your phone on to silent, getting the interviewers name wrong, not doing your research etc. At the end of the day you have nothing to lose, they can either give you a second chance or not. If the position is really important to you it is worth the effort. If you do go the extra mile they might just respect you for it and you will be more memorable than the competition.

There’s an exception to every rule:

As an executive search consultancy we interview hundreds of candidates every year before putting them forward to clients to be interviewed and there is something to be said about an interview that perhaps didn’’t go quite to plan, for whatever reason, or the interviewee making a fool of themselves. These are usually interviews/interviewees you remember and stand out from the crowd. Unless you have made a completely unforgivable error and are totally written off, most people are given a second chance to prove themselves, so don’t think it is a lost cause and lose hope. The incident will make the interview rememberable, but it is how you redeem yourself that will create the lasting impression.

By Newman Stewart

Newman Stewart is an Executive Search and Management Selection company who helps excellent businesses employ excellent people. We are experts in our field and proud of the results we achieve for our clients. With a vast proven track record of success, nationally and internationally, we are the retained, recruitment partner of choice to many national, multi-national and small businesses.