Bad Job Interview? Ask for a Do-Over By Sue Shellenbarger

Jan 31, 2017, 07:34 PM

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(music) Bad Job Interview? Ask for a Do-Over Get second chances by admitting mistakes, offering more information; ask for feedback often and always follow up By Sue Shellenbarger Updated Nov. 15, 2016 4:03 p.m. ET You’ve blown a job interview or presentation. What if you could get a do-over? A humble plea for a second chance sometimes reopens closed doors if it strikes just the right note: Email new evidence of your qualifications for a job. Apologize when you’ve misinterpreted a question, or send more information to clear up a misunderstanding. Do-overs for job seekers are rare, and the few who get a second chance make an argument that is both highly persuasive and humble, says Susan Peppercorn, a senior consultant with ClearRock Inc., an executive-coaching and career-consulting firm in Boston. “The key to any redo is, what can you do for the company?” Ms. Peppercorn says.

The mistake: Abhijit Phadnis was rejected for talking too much about team accomplishments and not enough about individual achievements. How he fixed it: Wrote an email asking for another chance. Related his individual work to the job’s demands. Photo: Abhijit Phadnis Abhijit Phadnis was excited as an M.B.A. student years ago about landing a financial-manager position at a consumer-products company. He was deeply disappointed when he was rejected. At Ms. Peppercorn’s suggestion, Mr. Phadnis emailed the hiring manager thanking him and asking for feedback. He was told that his interview answers focused too much on his past work on various teams, and failed to explain how his individual skills fit the job. Mr. Phadnis fired off an impassioned email asking the hiring manager for a second chance. Hoping the job hadn’t been filled yet, he admitted he hadn’t done as well as he should have in the interviews, explained that he had admired the company and used its products since childhood, and promised to offer additional information. “If you give me another chance, you won’t be disappointed. I’ll show I can do what you’re looking for,” he wrote. A brief email soon arrived, suggesting he get in touch. After a phone call and another round of interviews, Mr. Phadnis got the job. It isn’t enough simply to ask a stranger for a second chance. “You have to give them something new,” such as work samples or examples of past accomplishments, says Robert Hellmann, a New York career coach with the Five O’Clock Club. To gauge whether you might need a do-over, try to get a sense of the impression you made and what interviewers saw as your weaknesses. Mr. Hellman suggests asking at the end of interviews, “How do you feel about moving my candidacy forward?” and “How do I compare with others you’re considering for the job?” You can also ask for such feedback by email immediately after the interview. Then provide information aimed at filling those gaps.

Even the most logical do-over requests may fail. A job interview was going well for Greg Zippi until he told the hiring manager travel wasn’t his favorite thing, though he was accustomed to it and entirely willing to do as much travel as needed, says Mr. Zippi, president of DecisionWise, a Springville, Utah, organizational development consulting firm. He soon learned he’d been rejected because the hiring manager “heard me say I didn’t want to travel,” Mr. Zippi says. In a follow-up email, “I fell on my sword, saying, ‘I apologize if I confused you,’” and insisted he was willing to travel. But the door was closed, Mr. Zippi says. Getting a do-over takes luck. After doing well in six interviews for a job years ago, Tom Borghesi assumed he had it locked up. He mistook an import...