Looking for a job is stressful for even the most prepared career seeker. Often the pressure of making the perfect first impression combined with the Murphy's Law-aspect of life results in mistakes. Here are four ways to make amends after your job-seeking errors.
1. Catching an error in your résumé after you already submitted it. Few things are as frustrating as realizing you have a mistake in your résumé that is now in a hiring manager's hands. Let's be clear -- it's a must to thoroughly proofread a printed résumé at least three separate times before sending it, to prevent errors. However, the only move remaining after sending a botched résumé is to send an email asking that the reader "Please use the attached updated résumé." Resist the urge to include an explanation of your error or why you have made a change. You can include a simple, "My apologies for the inconvenience. Thank you." Anything more than that is too much. The stickler manager may still pass on your résumé because you made a mistake, but the everybody-is-human manager may actually appreciate that you caught your mistake, owned it and remedied it. The clueless manager is likely not to notice or care either way.
2. Bad reception during your phone interview. Phone connection issues occur to job seekers and recruiters alike. However, suffering through an unintelligible call will almost always result in a poor interview. Don't let your bad connection result in no professional connection. Whether it is your fault or the interviewer's, acknowledge that the reception isn't clear and ask the interviewer if one of you can call the other one right back. If you have access to a landline in a private setting, use that number instead. No interviewer wants to suffer through unnecessary awkward silence or the wasted time caused by an interviewee who cannot hear the question or misunderstood what was said. Address the problem quickly to salvage your phone interview.
3. Running late to an interview. It happens. It is better if it doesn't, but tardiness is an unfortunate part of being a busy (or ill prepared) job seeker. The first thing to do as soon as you realize that you're going to be late is get a message to the interviewer that you're running behind. You also need to ask if the delayed timing will still work for the interviewer. Be prepared that you may get to the interview and be asked to wait for a long time or be told the meeting will be rescheduled to another date/time. But, no matter what the penalty, it's critical that you display your consideration of the interviewer's time by alerting him or her to the delay immediately. As with the résumé error, resist the urge to give a long explanation or to concoct a dog-ate my-car-keys excuse. A speedy and short update is your best defense.
4. Forgetting to send a thank-you note. After a phone, Skype or in-person interview, it is expected that the interviewee send a note to the interviewer thanking him for his time. Thank-you-note slackers can rejoice in the knowledge that many job seekers have no idea they need to send a note or have no intention of doing so. Similarly, we should all drive the speed limit, yet many of us don't although we recognize the penalty for getting caught is an expensive ticket. Skipping out on a thank-you note is similar.
Although many people do not send a thank you, prepare to be denied an offer if you happen to interview with a manager that views this as a critical part of the process. If you realize a week or two after your interview that you really should send a note, send one as soon as you recognize your error. It's never too late to thank someone for his or her time and remind him or her of your continued interest in the job. You'll find some managers that will hold the tardiness against you -- but that same manager would have denied you all together if you never send a note. Most other hiring authorities will have the same opinion of you or better after receiving your note. It is a chance worth taking.
In summary, mistakes happen while job seeking. Most often, things go better if you are swift, short and honest in your response. Choose responses that show you are considerate of the interviewer's time and know how to use professional restraint when digging yourself out of a hole. Blunders happen -- but what you do next truly defines your character.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.