When Your Job Interview Doesn’t Go Well

WorkCoachCafeSometimes you have the feeling that an interview isn’t going well. You may be wrong, but, unfortunately, you may also be right. Possibly, something may be happening for the individual or the organization that is providing a major distraction.

Visible lack of interest might be a reflection on you, particularly if you arrived late or dressed inappropriately. Those are self-inflicted wounds that can be avoided if you are well-prepared and plan well. Unless you get “bad vibes” in every interview, don’t assume that you are the reason things are not going well.

[To maximize the possibility of job interview success, read 10 Steps From Job Interview to Job Offer.]

Signs Your Job Interview Is Not Going Well

Understand that, sometimes, the interviewer is just plain bad — or inexperienced — at job interviewing. Many organizations just throw employees into the interviewing process without any training or guidance.

[Read 3 Bad Assumptions About Job Interviews.]

The Interviewer Would Rather Be Doing (or Does) Something Else

The interviewer may be good at interviewing job candidates (or not), but they just aren’t engaged in the process at this moment. Signs that is the problem:

  • They arrive late. You may be kept waiting or a substitute interviewer takes over (which could be good or bad).
  • The interviewer doesn’t appear at all.
  • The interviewer(s) are there, physically, but clearly distracted or not interested in the interview:
    • The interviewer displays absolutely no interest in you, with no socializing — no hand shakes or other pleasantries (could be the “corporate culture” or the person/situation).
    • The interviewer asks a few, canned questions.
    • The interviewer shows no, or minimal, interest in your answers to the canned.
    • Follow-up questions are not asked.
    • Questions you ask are answered very briefly or dismissed.
  • The interviewer leaves the room, takes a call during the interview (in the same or a different room).
  • The interviewer repeatedly checks their smartphone or computer, apparently checking for email or other more important messaging.
  • The interview takes less time than scheduled.
  • People who were supposed to participate don’t show up.
  • No information provided when you ask the important “housekeeping questions.”

Yes, they really might be this rude, and chances are good that it is no reflection on you.

Why Does This Happen?

Assuming that you were on time, prepared, and dressed appropriately, many things could cause this kind of situation:

  • Perhaps some crisis has occurred unexpectedly, and it was too late to reschedule the interview. So they (or the person involved) decided to soldier on and continue the process.
  • Maybe, a decision was made to make an internal (or other) hire, and talking with you is a formality — a checkbox that can be marked “done.”
  • Perhaps rudeness and inefficiency are part of the corporate culture.

Hopefully, only one of the interviewers acted in the manner described above. If all of the interviewers acted that way, that’s a more serious situation.

How to Recover

Recovery can be challenging, and depends on your interest in the job.

While You Are There —

Your options while still there:

  • If you are really interested in this job, ask if the interview should be rescheduled to a better time.
  • If you are interested in the organization but not working for/with this interviewer or in this part of the organization, ask if other opportunities are available.
  • Ask what the next steps in the process  are (a good strategy, anyway).

When you ask about re-scheduling the interview, some groups/people will be defensive and get angry about any lack of professionalism on their part that this indicates. But, most well-managed organizations/people will acknowledge the lack of professional conduct, apologize, and agree to reschedule.

After the Interview —

Your actions after the interview can depend on the answers you received to your questions (above) and how interested you are in the organization and/or the job.

Carefully consider whether or not you want to work for this organization. Perhaps it’s very large, and this is a small part of it you might want to avoid. However, if it’s a small organization, you may have had a front row seat to observe how they operate — perhaps they are always in crisis mode. Not usually a good thing, but possibly something you enjoy (never a dull moment!).

Send a Thank You Note?

Post-interview thank you notes are typically a signal required when you are interested in the opportunity (the job and/or the organization).

No thanks!

If you have decided that you are really not interested, don’t send the thank you, understanding that you are missing an opportunity to build a bridge.

One more chance?

If you do decide that you are interested, send the thank you referencing your wish to speak with them again since the situation was less than ideal. If they don’t respond, you can cross them off your list. If they do respond, you can give them another chance.

More About Tough Job Interviews and Thank You Notes

18 Practical Tips to Hep You Ace Your Job Interview

3 Bad Assumptions About Job Interviews

5 Steps to Recover from Bad Job Interviews

How to Tell if a Job Interview Is Going Well

How to Answer the Top 10 Job Interview Questions

The VERY Important “Housekeeping” Questions

Very Short Job Interview – Ouch!


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.


  1. anakatana82 says:

    I wonder if anyone else had this sort of interviewing experience:
    This company invited me for a second interview. When I came there, it was a panel of four people, which is all right with me. They told me the purpose of this interview was to get to know me better and to see if I would be a good personality fit for the environment. Again, great, totally get it. What happened however there was little chance to develop connection as the whole process felt like interrogation. Not only they went over my resume in great detail, they actually started with high school, what I liked and didn’t like about it , who was my greatest influence there, my extracurricular activities in college, with the jobs – asking very specific things about tasks, with a lot of like/dislike about people. It started to feel like they wanted to see if I was lying on my resume!… And to make me feel uncomfortable about having to answer so many sensitive questions about people I worked with.
    Don’t get me wrong, there is place for all those questions in interviews. But in this case the whole thing took almost 2 hours, and I literally felt sick to my stomach from the intensity of it and how uncomfortable it made me feel. Am I being overly sensitive??
    (I had plenty of interviews before and they never threw me of like this).

Speak Your Mind