Lost your interview?

Failure used to be my biggest fear. But one unsuccessful job interview taught me how to turn such experiences around and make them constructive for my future. Learning how to build myself back up again was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but also the most beneficial.

Just like anyone else in this world, I too was once fresh out of college and looking for a job. I decided to start off slow and apply for a Target career. I appreciated their work ethics and how open they were to entry-level applicants. Even though the work hours were sometimes odd, I was very excited to work in such a friendly, young and comfortable environment.

But then the unexpected happened. I went into my interview completely sure of myself, and I was convinced that the job was already mine. Oh boy, was I wrong! Because I was so careless and full of myself, I failed it all. I think I even threw a distasteful joke in there and no one even began to smile. Needless to say, I wasn’t called back for a second chance.

Learning from Failure

I was severely disappointed for quite some time. Even though Target is the biggest retail chain in the United States, getting a job there should have been easy for someone fresh out of college, right? Well, yes, but not having the right attitude was definitely my downfall.

Although I saw this event as my biggest defeat yet, I began to understand the positive learning opportunity hidden behind it. Granted, it took me a while. Cowering in the face of your decline and subsequently rejecting is a natural response, after all. However, it’s essential to bounce back from it.

The first time is always the hardest, and for me it certainly was. I hadn’t as much as got a low grade on an exam before, so imagine my surprise when a store refused to hire me. I had big dreams and career goals, and I used to think of myself as being a truly ambitious person.

Looking back at it, not only did I put myself under completely unnecessary pressure, but I was downright annoying braggadocious. No wonder they didn’t see me as a desirable employee. In many ways, failing my interview is the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself, and the beauty of it all is that I didn’t even know it.

What I Know Now

If you’re faced with a situation similar to mine, bouncing back is the number one essential thing to do. Here is what I know now following this experience that might help you through this trying time, or teach you how to avoid ending up like this altogether.

1. Being Realistic Helps

Most people would define themselves as either optimistic or pessimistic by nature. In my case, I walked into that interview with the former on my lips and walked out shrouded by the latter. But neither of these will help you in locking in a job or recovering from not getting it. The best thing you can do for yourself and those around you is to be realistic at all times.

Looking for a new place to work? Apply to listings which cater to your specific skill set. Don’t undersell yourself, but don’t aim too high either. If you’re a Literature graduate, don’t expect to get hired as an IT specialist or a nail technician. Different people have different skills, so you need to be aware of yours and know how to emphasize them.

Did you already apply to one and they rejected you? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at the situation objectively and determine what went wrong. This will help you prevent the same thing from happening during future endeavors. If you can, try to be as much of a realistic optimist as possible. But the classic, cold kind also works.

2. Attitude Matters Most

As I mentioned it being the case for me, my attitude was my biggest setback. My past boastful self would have made a horrible retail employee. Imagine if I had treated customers that way. It would have given the entire company a bad rep, and I understand that now. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have hired me either.

But with the right behaviort, you will ace any job interview you walk into. Some companies might even provide you with actual tests assessing your personality and your judgment. Having chosen to apply for a position that realistically fits you comes into play heavily here alongside attitude.

Although there are certain things in this department that are entirely job specific, some traits are appreciated by employers across the board. You need to display ambition and maturity, as well as a healthy dose of respect for that particular profession. I kept those in mind the second time around and, needless to say, the outcome was far more positive.

3. Failure Is Not Permanent

If you’ve botched one job application, this doesn’t need to mean that it will keep happening. Of course, if you don’t do your best to learn from your mistakes, then it might. But with the right amount of trust and self-respect, you can surpass this difficult moment in your life and move on towards bigger, better things.

In my case, it felt like this damaging bout of erroneous judgment would stain my professional life forever. I was ready to call it quits and move back in with my parents. However, being able to assess my experience objectively helped me tremendously. I understood that no one’s failure is permanent, let alone my own.

Over the course of history, people have recovered from worse things than messing up an interview. This means that, in time, so will you. Allow yourself some space to breathe for a bit and reconsider your choices, and don’t forget to do it realistically.


Failing one tiny job interview is by no means a career ender. In fact, in the grand scheme of your professional life, it won’t even matter soon enough. You need to understand that your mistakes are not written in stone and you can recover. Be realistic about it, and don’t forget to have the right attitude. Good luck!

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