Can a Great Candidate Give a Bad Interview?

That star candidate with the rock-solid resume and glowing peer recommendations came to your office, conducted an interview – and flat out failed. How disappointing.

Need to Hire?  Post Jobs for Free

But the simple answer is yes, a great candidate can give a bad interview. It happens every day.

But, should that one bad interview automatically eliminate this candidate from contention for your job opening?

That’s where it gets tricky, says Karen Kodzik, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based career coach, author and speaker. Remember: The interview is one data point in the process, Kodzik points out. If the resume – and experience and accomplishments are what attracted you to the candidate, and you have peers who can vouch that this person is truly good or great at their job – then consider taking action to re-interview.

“It’s important for employers to remember that most anyone can look good on paper,” says Kodzik, author of Navigating Through Now What?, a book that helps job seekers navigate through the various career crossroads they will encounter. “Referrals and endorsements are great if that endorsing person has truly seen the candidate in a work environment.”

Here are four reasons why that candidate may have given a bad interview – and what your company can do about it:

1. Did you bring the right people to the interview? Did they ask the right questions?
“Be sure that those conducting the interview are trained in interviewing, are asking questions that truly get at the heart of the core competencies they are looking for and be sure to have a cross representative team conduct the interview to get another set of eyes and perspective on the candidate,” says Kodzik.

Consider bringing in someone new, and work as a team to prepare for the interview before round two. Set up a plan to make sure the interviewee feels comfortable. Put them in position to succeed.

2. Change up the interview format
If they met in your office with a group of interviewers, perhaps the moment was overwhelming for them. Perhaps meet offsite, over lunch, or coffee, and try to make it a more casual environment. Pending on your industry, find a common ground that ties in your business, the job, and their experience and how it fits for your opening. For example, if you are hiring a longtime freelancer try to find a co-working space that is full of other creative types where they can slowly get accustomed to being in an office environment. If they are used to working in a production position, get them on the floor, show them around your company. They might start to shine talking about their experience “on the floor” in a workplace like yours.

3. Consider a video conference
They may have had a bad day. Your team interviewing may have been busy on another project and not fully engaged. Instead of making everyone go through the same routine again consider setting up a video conference where they can interview from where they feel comfortable, lessening the stress of driving into your office, taking less time away from their other job, and simply focusing on general discussion. If they then pass this test, bring them back in for another in-person interview if they advance to the next step.

4. Everyone has bad days
This candidate may have a young child who kept them up all night before the interview. They could be dealing with a few personal dilemmas you may not know about. They could be not feeling well and afraid to admit it. People have bad days. If you still believe in them, give them the benefit of the doubt.

“It may be worth the extra time to re-interview to make sure a good candidate doesn’t slip through the cracks and for employers to realize everyone can have a bad day or there may have been a good reason the candidate didn’t present well,” says Kodzik.

A second chance may be what is needed to find the first choice for your job opening.

“If what appears to be a stellar candidate fumbles an interview it would be worth re-interviewing them,” says Kodzik.

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

More Articles by Matt Krumrie