How to Turn Around an Interview Mistake to Get Hired


One of my best recruiting team hires screwed up big on the interview.

I hired him anyway.

Why? I hired him because of how he handled the mistake.

Let me tell you what happened.

John (I am disguising his name) had 3-4 successful interviews with me to lead one of the recruiting offices I oversaw.

We clicked. He had a similar sales growth mindset. He complemented my weak areas and I complemented his.

He had a great track record, to boot, compared to all of the other people I had interviewed. This was going to be good.

I was a believer in not overselling my job, and also making sure the candidate really wanted my job. I could sell ice to Eskimos if I wanted to.

But I didn’t want to sell him… I wanted him to want the job.

So I end the final interview with, “Think things through. Let me know if you have any final thoughts or questions. Tell me if you want this job. And if so, we will move to the next phase. Call me in two days, okay?”

John agreed. He was excited – really excited. After a long run with his current employer, he knew this is what he wanted, but he appreciated the time to pause and reflect. And he said he would call in two days.

Day one came and went.

Day two…

I was eager to hear from John. I remember I was booked up most of the day, but then by 3-4pm, I realize still no call from John, so I figure he will probably call me at night after hours.

No night call.

And to keep this email short, no call on day three either.

Finally on day four, I get a call from an embarrassed John…

“Lisa, I am so sorry. I have no valid excuse why I didn’t call within the stated time we discussed. Admittedly, my office was busy—like really busy—the last three days. I was working late each night tending to staffing requests and client inquiries. Combined with over thinking how I was going to reply with my interest and any additional questions, I would tell myself I would call soon… but poorly kept putting it off. I’m really not sure why, but I am here… hat in hand. I am 110% interested. This is the job I want to do. However, I realize I screwed up by not replying in time and that I am out of the running. But I wanted to call and thank you for interviewing me and spending as much time as you did with me. I wish you luck with the rest of your process.”

You know, maybe I was a sucker at the time, but I appreciated his frankness and honesty.

People either didn’t call or had a ton of “it wasn’t my fault” excuses.

But John just owned it. Admitted his humanity.

In hindsight, it was a little of a fear of success seeping into his self-sabotaging behavior.

But I didn’t know that or him at the time.

Yet I trusted my gut and said, “Let’s have you come in and chat and see where we are at.”

Ultimately, I hired him. And he was one of my top 5 recruiting hires.

I know if he didn’t work out, this instance would have been the perfect sign to pick on as a reason for why he didn’t work out.

But everyone makes mistakes.

Mistakes are human.

How someone handles the mistakes tells me what kind of person they are.

This is even more important on an interview.

When you make a mistake on an interview, do you…

Cower in shame and beat yourself up?

Deflect blame to someone or something else?

Own it with your tail between your legs… But own it?

Or laugh and let it roll?

How someone handles a mistake on an interview tells me how they will handle mistakes when I hire them.

John showed me that he would painfully come forward with his mistake and not hide in dishonesty or blame.

I could work with that attitude combined with his high talent and qualifications.

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Let’s do this!


Be well…






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