No matter how careful and well prepared you are, mistakes are bound to happen during the job search process. Maybe you practiced a spiel for the wrong job and got your interviews mixed up, or you took the time or date down wrong, or you found an error on your resume. Whether it was a monumental or a minuscule screw-up, there are ways to recover.
Here are four of the biggest and most common mistakes job seekers make and how to survive having made them.
You’re applying to so many different positions and, rightly, you’ve carefully tailored your resume to each. Trouble is, now you have 20-some-odd resumes on your laptop and you sent the wrong one to this particular recruiter.
If the one you submitted is only slightly different from the one you wanted to send, then it’s best to let it go. But if you submitted your Corporate Giving resume for a Marketing or Communications position, then it’s time to draft an email ASAP, kindly asking the recruiter to replace the resume in your file with the updated one attached. Nine times out of ten, they’ll do it and no one will be the wiser.
When in doubt, bring multiple hard copies of the correct resume to your interview and make sure to give it to everyone with a simple, “here’s a hard copy of my most up-to-date resume.” No other explanations needed unless they ask. And if they do, focus on the material in the resume, not the fact that the first one you sent wasn’t perfectly spot on.
This happens to everyone at some point in their lives—and almost always with something important like an interview. You’ve got a lot to keep track of during a job search—multiple positions at multiple companies, multiple resumes, and hopefully multiple interviews. If you messed up and got the time or date wrong, here’s what you do: immediately reach out to the hiring manager, state your mistake (without drama), express your sincere regrets for the mix-up, and pivot immediately to offering to reschedule at their earliest convenience (then take whatever time they give you). You can follow this email or phone apology with a handwritten note for an extra touch. With any luck, they’ll see you as proactive, humble, and responsible, even with your mistake.
Best avoided, obviously. But sometimes, even when you’ve left ample time, you’ll end up facing unforeseen circumstances out of your control, and you’ll end up late. The best strategy here is to reach out to the recruiter before you’re late, i.e. as soon as you realize you might not make it bang on time. Explain whatever situation you’re in—huge accident and traffic, broken down subway, etc. Don’t waste any breath on excuses, just state what’s happening, give them a heads up, offer preemptively to reschedule if their schedules are too tight to accommodate the delay.
Even if it isn’t your fault, apologize for the tardiness, then put the ball in their court. Most of the time if you’ve projected calm and control in a time of crisis and have behaved responsibly under the circumstances, you’ll be fine. Remember to take a deep breath rather than run into the interview in a flustered, blind panic. Keep your head.
Fumbling a question
As soon as the answer to an interviewer’s question is out of your mouth, you realize your error. You’ve rehearsed the perfect answer to this question—or you haven’t, but you know you’re flubbing it—and you hear yourself saying something all wrong. Stop. Pivot. Say, “Sorry, let me rephrase that.” Or “Actually, let me say that again in a different way.” Your interviewer might not even notice the stumble. And you won’t have to walk out of the interview regretting your answer.Bottom line: no matter what mistake you made, recovery is possible in most cases. Just keep your cool, remain professional, and focus on the task at hand.