You Botched a Phone Interview: How to Follow up

It’s not at all unusual to botch at least one phone interview. Some phone interviews can be very difficult, particularly if you are unexperienced. However, botching the interview can be a significant problem. Depending on the type of phone interview, or the stage of interviewing in a multi stage interview process, you may or may not be able to undo the damage.

Damage Control Issues

Some phone interviews are purely screening exercises. These are hit or miss interviews, and if you blow one of these, you’re out of the picture, and you can’t follow up or do any damage control. Staged interviews, however, are different. You may well get the chance to remedy a situation, unless they’re a “progressive elimination” type of interview. These interviews are progressive screening, reducing the number of applicants to a chosen few. In these interviews, you’re out of the equation at whatever stage you fail to make the grade.

In multi-stage interviews, you’re not expected to ace every stage brilliantly. The cumulative assessment is the final verdict. That said, botching any stage does need some management, particularly if you made any basic mistakes.

In a competitive interview process, any mistake can cost you a job. It’s worth trying whatever you can to restore your position and minimize any damage done. Ways of doing this will vary depending on the interview process and the specific employer.

You need to target your damage control efforts to decision makers. These are the people who’ll be making comparisons between candidates for recommendations for the position. Your obvious effort to prove that you recognize your weak spots will look better than apparent ignorance.

Undoing the Damage

The good news is that if you progress to the next stage of interview, you haven’t fatally damaged your chances of getting the job- yet. You have an opportunity to fix the situation, and you need to take it.

You need to reassure the employer that the phone interview was a glitch, an uncharacteristic effort, not a typical response. Even giving the impression that you aren’t aware of making a mistake during the phone debacle isn’t a good idea. Raising the subject on your own terms at least gives you some control. This is a generic form of approach to damage control which will allow you to be honest about your situation, and reassure the employer at the same time:

Interviewee: “Look, before we go any further, I’d like to mention something. I wasn’t very happy at all with my performance during that phone interview. I don’t think I did myself justice, and it was way below my normal standard.

I’ve only done one or two phone interviews before, a while back, and I’m not really used to them. I prefer to interview in person, interacting directly, doing a presentation style of interview, and I think that’s where I got lost. If there’s a way of proving to you that I do know my stuff much better than that, I’d like to do that.” 

This approach gives the possibility of undoing the damage from the phone interview, if the employer wants to do so.