By Vickie Elmer
You blew it. The interview was beyond bad and yet you know you'd be a blazingly bright hire for the job.
So what do you do if you really messed up on the first interview yet you feel you're well-qualified for the job? Keystone Associate's Pennell Locey tells of a woman who wrote afterward a refreshingly honest follow up: "I walked away from the interview knowing I had not done my best. Here's three things I wish I had said about myself. I would love to have a chance to try again." You have to be very candid, authentic – and very clear on why you deserve a second shot, said Locey, a senior consultant at the career management and outplacement company. The woman ended up landing the job.
If you're very frank and very humble in admitting that you stumbled, "it better be believable," said Jorge Lazaro Diaz, who produces the CareerJockey advice site. "You're definitely memorable, not in a good sense" and you need to humbly admit that and clearly articulate what was missing.
Diaz said he has hired people who admitted they had serious drinking problems, but overcame them, because of the courage and effort it showed. "That was what clinched it for him," he said, noting that some candidates seem so smooth and together that hiring managers wonder whether they are covering up some issue or problem.
Leora Hoffman, a professional matchmaker in suburban Washington, D.C., recommends her clients agree to a two-date minimum. "The chemistry does not always present itself the first time they meet," she said. That avoids the snap judgment approach that can rule out someone who is a great match. She sometimes has to act as the advocate for the second date – and job seekers also may need an advocate, too, to be reconsidered after a lackluster first interview.
That advocate could be a recruiter or a friend who believes in you, or it might be a former sorority sister or colleague who is willing to speak up on your behalf.
It takes courage to request a second chance and some employers may admire that, said Tashana Sims-Hudspeth, a Columbus, Ohio-based human resource manager who also teaches on HR and being successful in college. She suggests an approach that includes an apology, a general explanation of what went wrong and a request for a second chance. The candidate must be very clear how much they want to work at the employer and then use their personal judgment on giving a detailed explanation on what contributed to their bad performance.
Sometimes the recruiter could be a good filter, to help you if you need to reschedule an interview because of a car accident or a family funeral, said Sims-Hudspeth. Call and talk to the recruiter and ask for their suggestions on how to handle the situation.
This works best when the problem was outside your control; if you stayed out too late at a party or feel very nervous and messed up the interview, don't expect anyone to be eager to give you a second chance. Second or third interviews often are granted to just two or three candidates – the top choice and a backup, Locey said.
Another approach that could work to get a second chance is if the company fills the job you're seeking a few times each year: Find out what one skill-set you are missing and take a six-week class in it. Or go out and gain that experience through a pro bono charity project that you could complete within two months. Then write to the recruiter and hiring manager that you have filled in the gap or expanded your knowledge or expertise in the area they recommended, Locey said. Or if you have the expertise, but did not outline it in the interview, write a succinct follow-up note and give one or two examples. "It really works," said Locey. "You have almost nothing to lose at that point."
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