A job seeker went viral six weeks ago after she shared her painful #interviewfail via TikTok. Her particular situation was due to a technical mishap as she went through interview questions sent to her in advance by the employer, SkyWest Airlines, where she was applying to be a flight attendant. The individual, Chaylene Martinez thought she was practicing responses with a friend when she accidentally started recording too early. The interview was actually being viewed live by the company and Chaylene called one of their questions stupid and cheesy before realizing what was happening. It doesn’t get more awkward than that, except to add that her current employer also learned she was job hunting after she posted her #interviewfail and subsequently generated more than 6 million views.
THE VIRTUAL INTERVIEW
Before the pandemic made zoom a household word, a virtual interview was more occasional than commonplace. According to a poll cited by SHRM, 93% of employers plan to continue with virtual interviews in the future; many have adopted a combination of virtual and in person, using the virtual interview as a pre-screening tool.
Both candidates and employers agree that using a web-based format is a more impersonal process, but can also be more convenient. Additionally, many have adopted pre-recorded interview questions which candidates can then respond to via a recorded answer session versus a live format (similar to the one used by Ms. Martinez).
There are mishaps associated with virtual interviews that are unique to the format. Camera angles and bad lighting can change a candidate’s appearance and be very unflattering. Technical glitches like lost sound, internet disruptions, screen freezes as well as noise interruptions like doorbells, a child crying, or a dog barking can be a distraction to both candidate and interviewer.
Are there things you can do when you live through an #interviewfail? Yes!
First and foremost, make sure you have disconnected and your camera and microphone are off or muted.
Assess how it went. Don’t be overly critical of yourself. Determine where you think it went badly. Was it technical, verbal, visual or something else?
Technical mishaps are best avoided by testing your connectivity in advance. Unreliable reception or old equipment mean perhaps you should move your interview off site from your home to somewhere else where there is less chance of failure. Do a test run with a friend on camera angles, lighting, volume and a review of what the interviewer will see behind you. Avoid anything that’s political, controversial or potentially misinterpreted as off color. Don’t use a fake background screen because when you move your head, the green screen technology can misshape or mask it.
Did you give a bad answer? Forget to make your point or cite a good example? Did you fumble or speak less eloquently than you planned? Did you accidentally say a curse word? All of these things can be addressed in a follow up note and thank you. Express your gratitude for the interviewer’s time and share what you wanted to say.
1)I appreciate the time you gave me this afternoon, although I admit our video format made me a bit more nervous than I had anticipated. When you asked about a project that made an impact, I was remiss in not mentioning the white paper I collaborated on regarding the creation of sustainable work environments. I would be happy to share it with you should you want to read it – I’m quite proud of it and we have had an excellent response from potential product buyers.
2)There is no excuse for my use of profanity. I am mortified and I know better. That was my nerves talking and I apologize. If given the opportunity to move forward, that will NOT happen again – at least you know I’m “human” and learn from my mistakes.
If the interview ended abruptly, that may be a sign the interviewer had gained what they thought was enough information about you. If you still believe you are right for the role, you can make this case in your thank you/follow up. Did the hiring agent’s eyes glaze over, did you notice their eyes wandering, what about their body language? For that matter, what about yours? Did you sit up straight, talk directly into the camera even though you wanted to look at your screen? Eye contact is critical.
1)I appreciate the time you gave me this afternoon and I’m sorry our interview ended before I got a chance to tell you how I helped create a new onboarding process for our contract talent. I would be happy to give you a brief written overview to give you a better idea of my capabilities.
2)If the interviewer’s body language suggested boredom or disinterest, turn that into your own failure by writing: I’m not sure if you detected what may have seemed like low energy from me. That is not indicative of my personality, but rather because my desire to perform well may have made me seem stilted. I am much more accustomed to in-person interviewing and would welcome the opportunity to do so and make myself available to you at your convenience.
The lesson here is that if you are still eager to pursue this opportunity, try to get another interview, rather than try to get the job offer. Salvaging the interview and getting another chance is the goal. Writing something like, “My preparation and due diligence did not shine and I realize that. I’ve done far more in-person interviews than virtual and did not expect that I would fail to present the true me.” Interviewers may find your honesty refreshing and be sympathetic.
Whatever you write, keep it short, to the point and ask for a resolution. Ms. Martinez used her interview disaster to laugh at herself and turn it into a learning experience for herself and others. Author and inspirational speaker, Simon Sinek may have expressed it best when he wrote, “We don’t learn much when everything goes right. We learn most when things go wrong.” ###
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