How I Stupidly Screwed Up Getting a Job Interview

We all screw up interviews now and then – even someone who’s been through this whole job interview thing many many times and writes a blog just brimming with interview advice! Here’s what happened to me just this week.

I decided to reach out beyond my usual consulting clients and look for something new. One job in particular interested me because it offers a chance to work with various locations and people, helping make sure a major project for the City of New York flows smoothly. So I sent my resume and waited.

Two days later, I got an e-mail from the consulting firm giving me a full job description and asking if I was still interested.  I was reading the e-mail at the office while trying to balance at least 3 other things, and quickly responded including the phone number at my current assignment where I could be reached during the day.

As I clicked “Send” I saw I had accidentally typed the phone number with two of the numbers interchanged. Aaaargh! So I quickly sent a note with an apology and the right number.

And THAT e-mail had a typo too! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!

It had been a long day of technical editing and dealing with tiny oh-so-tedious details, so I can understand why I made the typos. My eyes were on overload. But that’s no excuse.

My mistake was not giving proper attention to this very important part of the job interview process – communication. Better to deal with it later at home when I can focus and do it right, than try to fit it in between work demands. Each time you communicate with the recruiter or HR person or any of the interviewers, you need to engage your best game. The slightest error – as wonderful as we may be and as unfair as this sounds – is cause for rejection.

Now here’s the part where I have to admit something from my past. Once when I was helping screen applicants for a help desk job, I suggested we reject a candidate because he left a message with the wrong contact number. My reasoning was “How could he work the help desk, which involves lots of small details, if he didn’t take the time to carefully provide us with the right phone number for his interview?” (Well…turns out he was hired after all and many years later is still working for that company. Not sure how many numbers he’s gotten wrong, but they like him and so do the customers – and he always has a big smile for everyone, including me.)

Could my recent experience be rightful karma for my being so quick to judge? Maybe so. I’m smiling at the thought. Always something to learn.

Oh…in case you’re curious, I sent a third e-mail (without typos) trying my best to assure the recruiter I am usually extremely careful about such things, but I haven’t heard back since. C’est la vie!

I think this whole thing is a good reminder for all of us to take these things in stride. If they do happen, do your best to correct as much as possible – and then just let it go and move on. If this is the reason a job is lost…then so be it. You can only do your best. But at least remember what just happened to me and take the time to communicate carefully – and that includes your resume and cover letter.

I’m a big believer these things happen for a reason so I’m not upset. Truth is I haven’t worked for a consulting firm…well…ever. I contract all my work directly and enjoy the lack of a middle man with extra rules. So maybe…just maybe…this got me out of a potentially awful situation.

But I like to think the real reason it happened is for me let you know that if you screw up before, during, or after a job interview…please don’t kick yourself. Stuff happens. Even to the best of us. Ahem. 🙂


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Oh no! Too bad!
    … but I do love your positive attitude. And hey, it’s just as likely that they’re slow to act at this point.

  2. Awww thanks, TEB! I like your perspective. Have you ever thought of being a coach? 😉

    Hope all is progressing nicely on your end. Fill me in when you get a chance.

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Great advice again…Don’t beat yourself up over things that happened already. We’re not Michael J. Fox with a DeLorean and the ability to go back and change time. We can only do our best! Sometimes s*** happens 😉

  4. Hahahaha! Thanks for adding so nicely to the discussion, Mr. X. Oh how I wish I had that DeLorean some days. Then again…we saw the trouble it can cause. Guess I’ll just make the most of now. 🙂

    Ronnie Ann

  5. Ouch! That’s a bummer, and you at least covered yourself with the third e-mail. But since they sent you the job description after you made the initial contact, they just might oversee the typos.

  6. Hey Rick! I like your positive attitude…and am a fan of your blog posts, by the way. 😉

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ll let everyone know if I ever hear from them again.

    Ronnie Ann

  7. Ronnie Ann—Dang. Sorry to hear that. But a valuable lesson you so graciously shared with us all: You never [well, seldom] get a second chance to make a first impression. You’re exactly right. You must bring your A game to every step of the process.

  8. Amen, Terry B. Unless of course you decide to be your own boss – then you can make the rules. Although odds are you’ll just wind up being the toughest boss of all! Sigh. Note to self: Remember to buy lottery ticket on the way home.

    Ronnie Ann

  9. Recently I dropped the ball during an interview for a position I would have been perfect for. I had already met with the company twice and been told that I would be an excellent fit. Before the third interview the office manager called me to say that I was being considered for a more important position then the original. The third meeting was with the VP of operations who was only in town for a limited time.

    That morning I didn’t feel great, but felt canceling was not an option. I arrived on time for my appointment, but was kept waiting for a half hour. During the wait a headache developed and by the time I was ushered in to the conference room I was a nervous wreck.

    When the VP asked me about previous clients, I froze. For a few minutes I experienced the worst mind blip. I simply went blank. She must have thought I was an idiot. I have followed up with a thank you note, but she has not contacted me. I’m devastated. The worst part is that I would have been great in the position, having eighteen successful years experience in the field. Any suggestions for fixing this mess, or should I just forget about it and move on?

  10. Oh Susan…I’m so sorry this happened to you! Sometimes, as talented as you are, you’re still judged by that first impression.

    But since you had done really well up to that point, I would take a chance and write the VP, letting her know exactly what happened. And I’d copy the Office Manager so she also sees your note. Stress your strength and your commitment to doing the best job for them possible. Make the note as positive and forward-looking as possible…and then say you hope she will give you the chance to show her just how much you have to offer the company.

    If you aren’t out of the running yet, then this will just reaffirm your strength and desire for the position. And if they decided to take a pass, then this might just do the trick. Nothing lost and maybe…just maybe…you’ll get a call.

    That doesn’t mean you just sit and wait. Keep the job hunt momentum going. But a note like this is worth a shot.

    Good luck. Please let us know what happens.

    Ronnie Ann

  11. Ronnie Ann….Thank you for your kind words and excellent suggestion.

    I wrote notes to both the VP and office manager with an honest assessment of my performance during the third interview. I did not hear back from the VP, but the office manager contacted me two weeks later with a request for a fourth interview with the head of sales. She was pleasant and understanding and could not have been nicer. This meeting was held yesterday and today I received a call from HR requesting a phone conference on Friday to discuss an offer. YEA!

    Your advice was right on the money, nothing gained nothing lost.

  12. Wow Susan! This is great news. I’m so happy for you. Congratulations on handling it so well. I can only give advice, but you are the one who made the sale. Wuhoo!!

    Best of luck in your new job. You earned it. 😉

    Ronnie Ann

  13. Ronnie Ann, I’m back for more advice. The interview process that I’ve experienced with this one company is endless.

    The phone conference with HR a week and a half ago went well, it felt upbeat and positive. It did not result in an offer. Previous to my meeting with HR, I had received a call from the local office manager stating that this talk would contain an offer of employment. Based on that call I completely changed my class schedule in order to accommodate a full work week. I dropped four classes and picked up a Saturday class in order to maintain my standing with school. My intent is to finish up my degree online.

    However, I was informed during the meeting (#5) that this call was yet another step in the interview progression. Afterwards, I emailed my referrals to HR and it is my understanding that they were not called till the following Thursday. I had not heard from anyone in either the local office or the New York headquarters regarding my status and yesterday called the local office manager to ask if she had any information. She said she had not heard anything and promised to drop an inquiry to HR.

    As you can imagine I have reached a frustration level that is now affecting my vision of this company. I have given myself a good talking to and realize the economy may be a factor, though I know for certain that they need to fill this position. At this point my self-esteem is tanking and I’m ready to move on.

    Would it be appropriate for me to call HR directly if they do not contact me by tomorrow? Would this action be considered pushy, seeing that I spoke to the local office manager recently? What would be a suitable time frame?

    Thank you very much for making yourself available as a sounding board. Your forum has been a great help.

  14. Hi again Susan!

    Sorry for the delay…both from me and from them!

    I have to admit I don’t have a good guess for what’s going on. As you say, the economy may be a factor, or, as you are starting to expect, it simply could be a reflection of the way the company operates, or at least HR. But there are lots of good companies with inefficient processes (keeps folks like me employed) that may still provide a great opportunity for you.

    You’re smart to think twice about contacting HR directly, since your main contact is local. In this case, for the sake of your own relationship building, wait a few more days and then call your local contact just to get a feel for how things are going and if this is an offer you can count on so you can stop looking elsewhere. Just remember these things do take time and in a large company there may be 5 or more people who need to sign off, all with their own piles of things calling for their attention.

    Good luck getting your answer soon or at least having the patience to wait it out until you do. It really sounds hopeful, but if you are at all unsure this one is for real, get back to looking again. It can’t hurt and, as I always say, you never know what fate might find for you. 😉

    Ronnie Ann

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