Getting a Second Chance After a Bad First Impression in an Interview

Good news! You’re getting a second chance after a bad first impression. How will you make the second one stick?

Searching for a new job for some people is as dreadful as going in for dental work (not fun, but necessary.) For me, it is an opportunity for exploration and discovery. That’s why when I learned of a particularly intriguing job a few years back, I dove right in to researching the company and spent several hours tailoring my resume and cover letter for the opening.

Knowing that submitting via a website is often a black hole for resumes, I didn’t expect to hear anything from the company, but still applied since that was the only way they were accepting resumes. I was surprised when one day a few weeks later, I got a response asking to set up time for a call to discuss my application–which I then proceeded to fumble through when the time came. After, I sent an email thanking the person for their time and let them know I was looking forward to the next steps.

A couple more weeks had passed when I got an email directly from the hiring manager stating that they would like to speak to me in person. Given my performance on the initial screening call and how much time had passed, I didn’t think I would make it to the next round of interviews, but there I was getting notice. I was completely floored and excited. After the news I once again spent several hours doing research, preparing questions to ask, and thinking through answers to the questions I would likely get. I was ready to wow.

The Making of a Bad First Impression

The day of the interview was a comedy of errors, although it certainly didn’t start out that way. I had my outfit (a smart looking pantsuit) ready to go along with the rest of the items I was taking with me to the interview. I felt confident right up until I got dressed and sat down to eat a small meal before leaving and heard a rip. I had tore the seat out of my pants.

I managed to laugh at the irony of it, considering I had worn this garment before with no issues. My laughter quickly turned to frustration after changing complete outfits more two times and opting to just go with the next–a leopard print dress that I threw a black blazer over. I wasn’t about to let clothing put me behind schedule. I still had plenty of time and got in my car.

The drive was delightful. There was little traffic and my directions navigator, Google Maps, had me on my way. For added peace of mind, I had written out the directions as well. When I arrived at where Google had said I needed to be, it quickly became apparent something wasn’t right. I called to clarify the location and learned that I was in fact not headed in the right direction. I still had time, but wouldn’t be arriving a bit early like I had planned to.

I was intently focusing on the directions when I heard sirens and looked up to see a cop car in my rearview mirror. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me,” I said. Pulling over, I had no idea what I had done wrong. The police officer enlightened me when he stated that I was going 10 miles over the speed limit. I apologized, explaining that I wasn’t from the area and was on my way to an interview, hoping he would give me a break.

As I sat while the officer was writing my ticket, I emailed the interviewer explaining the situation and felt completely foolish. Although I had left early in order to arrive with plenty of time to spare, I was destined to arrive to the interview location late. Getting the ticket left me frazzled and running across several parking lots to get to the building since there were no close spots, had me glistening with sweat. Never the less, I persisted.

I rushed into the building only to discover that the only elevator was being serviced. 3 flights of stairs later, I entered the office completely winded, and gave my name to the receptionist. “I’m sorry, they’re running behind, can I get you some water?” she stated. I gladly accepted and sat down.  Almost 20 minutes had passed and I had detailed out my day thus far while exchanging pleasantries with her (which she found to be quite humorous) when she told me they were ready to see me. As I was led back to where I would be meeting with the interviewers, she wished me luck. “Your day has to go better from here.” ‘Well, it hopefully won’t get any worse,’ I replied.

It Can Only Go Up From Here

I was determined to try to salvage the situation and gave the interview my best shot, even though I figured my attempt wouldn’t make a difference at that point. I had committed a cardinal sin of interviewing by arriving late. I did make them smile and laugh a few times while we spoke and took that as a good sign–or maybe they were just being polite. I got through it and that to me was all that mattered, along with getting my traffic ticket fixed of course.

In the final act of my unreal interview day, I stumbled and fell in the parking lot on the way back to my vehicle­–scraping both of my knees and sending my belongings flying. Some kind soul saw what happened and offered me tissue for my knees while helping me gather my things.

Embarrassed and exhausted, I got into my car and had a good laugh (and cry) at the experience I just had. “Okay, universe” I stated to the nothingness around me, “I get it, that’s not where I am supposed to be” and slowly drove home. I followed up the interview with a hand-written thank you note to each interviewer and apologized once again for being tardy, leaving it at that.

Salvation via Another Try

Perhaps it was my late arrival, or my attire (leopard print may not have been the best choice), but as you can probably guess, I didn’t get the job. When I got the news, I thanked the hiring manager who informed me for their time just the same. I asked to be kept in mind should they have any openings in the future or hear of any other opportunities where I might be a fit. And even though I wasn’t hired, I soon learned that all was not completely lost.

Despite my clearly horrible first impression, I had made enough of an impact and was offered the opportunity to interview at the (then) sister company of the place where I had originally applied. It just so happened it was also where one of the interviewers that I spoke to on that fateful day, still worked part time.

I certainly didn’t think I would be given a second chance and seized the opportunity to “get it right” and eventually, was hired on after several (mostly) uneventful interviews. Although I no longer work for this employer full-time, I will never forget the path that brought me there–a tore pair of pants, one traffic ticket with lawyer fees, two skinned knees, and a job that I didn’t get. It just goes to show you that even under the most seemingly awful circumstances, some good can still come. It’s up to you to make the best of it.

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Guest post by Anne E., a marketer with a passion for startups, tech, travel, digging for treasure, & story telling.