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What to Do if You Blow the Answer to an Interview Question

Strategies to improve your interview...after you leave!

After 11 years out of the full-time workforce, I had the opportunity to interview for a great job at an investment firm. Part of the interview process was to answer “case interview” questions, each asked by a different interviewer. In case interviews, the interviewer tells you about a business (or medical or other) situation or problem and asks how you would respond.

(For an excellent discussion of case interviews, see Monster Staff Writer Thad Peterson’s Ace the Case Interview.) The case interview is as much a test of your thought process and the way you approach problem solving as whether you can crack the case itself.

A little rusty on my interview skills, I remember giving a very poor and incomplete answer to one of these questions. I completely blew it. Of course, while I was driving home, it was all I could think about. And then...Eureka! The answer I should have given during the interview suddenly crystallized in my mind.

When I got home, I immediately emailed the manager who asked the question and recounted my car ride revelation. He told me later that this follow-up email, and more importantly, the fact I had the guts to send it, turned the tables in my favor from his perspective, and he supported my hiring. I got the job.

I believe this strategy can be applied to any interview question for which you feel your answer was less than stellar. If you think you blew it, or just didn’t nail it as well you could have, send a follow-up email to let the interviewer know whatever it was you forgot to say or said ineffectively. For example, “I was thinking more about our interview today and wanted to follow up on the question you asked about my experience managing manufacturing projects at remote plants. I didn’t articulate fully that when I was logistics manager at XYZ Company, I was in charge of products being manufactured at two Asian locations … etc, etc.” Now you also have the opportunity to reiterate how well you think the position matches your interests and skills, and any other thoughts you might want to emphasize or state for the first time.

Trying this strategy can rarely make the situation worse and can often improve it.

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