I was late, badly prepared, and cried at an interview — why did they offer me the job?

A reader writes:

I’m usually quite good with interviews and do things according to the book, but I went for an interview yesterday with no sleep, killer back and muscle pain (serious injury from hiking the weekend), goofed out on medications, and 20 minutes late for said interview (a design position) and no preparation. I was in a mentally really bad state and have been struggling with light depression for the past few months. I tend to bottle up. Naturally I had a complete emotional breakdown, to the point where the security guard had to hold me as I was starting to hyperventilate. I think the physical exhaustion and back pain triggered everything. I had a complete loss of control of myself. I already accepted at that point that it was over, and I was just going to see the secretary out of courtesy to apologize and accept if they didn’t want to see me because of my tardiness.

However, the interviewers were prepared to see me and really friendly. The man carried my bag and is a hiker himself so he understood my pain, gave me water and time to calm down, and told me I should have rescheduled. We proceeded with the interview, although I thought it was out of politeness more than anything else. I managed to talk, but was completely bumbling and babbling with some of my answers. I was mentally exhausted and at a breaking point because of accumulated stress.

Two hours later, I got an email saying I got the job along with the salary I asked for. WHY?

This company is quite prominent. It’s a small but elite outfit and a big name in my industry. I am struggling to understand why they would pick me. I think my skillsets are quite standard, nothing exceptional and I generally depend on my personality to carry me through and not my portfolio. Apparently there was a massive pool of applicants. Crying and breaking down do not constitute being very mentally and emotionally stable as far as I’m concerned, and I remember they particularly spoke to me about working under pressure (which ironically is usually one of my strengths).

Why would someone be picked when they’ve broken so many taboos of what not to do in an interview?

Three possibilities:

1. Your work is a lot better than you think it is. People dealing with depression are prone to de-valuing their own work, so this is a real possibility.

2. Your breakdown didn’t come across as badly on the outside as it felt like to you. People dealing with depression are prone to thinking they suck a lot more than they actually do, so this one is a real possibility too.

3. They’re terrible at hiring. This is startlingly common, so this one could be the explanation (or part of it) too.

Regardless, you probably didn’t have much of a chance to evaluate them and their culture during your interview since you were rattled (and were assuming it was a lost cause too, I’d imagine). I’d be wary of taking a job without having the chance to do some real evaluation of the employer, the manager, and the details of the work, so one option is to ask for a phone conversation with them to get more questions of your own answered as you think over the offer. That conversation will probably leave you feeling better equipped to decide whether you want to take the offer, and why you got it in the first place.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

    1. Nashira*

      Depression takes the idea of undervaluing yourself and adds poisonous fangs. I have to fight off a loop of thoughts that goes something like “Not only are you not good enough, but you’re so stupid for thinking you might ever be! Why would they hire a horrible person like you?” and on and on into stuff I really don’t want to write about.

      It doesn’t feel anything at all the same to run-of-the-mill undervaluing of your skills. Depression turns any minor weakness into a referendum on why you should go eat worms.

      1. Helka*

        Very much so, yes. It can also really specifically poison your assessment of social situations, so that’s another point toward #2 being a factor.

      2. Jake*

        I didn’t mean my comment to undermine the validity or severity of depression, just to point out that this advice is valid for everybody.

        I’m lucky to have never suffered from depression, but I know some who have, and that thought process sounds familiar.

        1. Nashira*

          Oh, gotcha! Thank you for clarifying. I hope it was clear that I was just trying to express what the depression version was like, and how it differs from the low self-confidence that anyone can feel. I don’t expect people who’ve never had a disease like depression to understand the intricacies of it, mostly because some parts make no sense til you’ve felt them or something similar…

      3. Felicia*

        Depression has caused me to do this (and still do this) with the job I got 2 months ago and am still doing. I believe that is my JerkBrain (a term I believe i learned on Captain Awkward) talking, and nothing rational to cause me to believe htat

        1. Nashira*

          Thanks to Captain Awkward and her commentariat, I refer to my depression- and anxiety-fueled thoughts as brain weasels. It’s turned into an elaborate joke with my husband and my best friend, where they describe ridiculous disposal methods when I’m feeling anxious. The current favorite is six weasels tied into a Newton’s cradle. With click-clack sound effects and irate squeaking noises.

  1. PEBCAK*

    The job offer two hours later (and via email) is a little bit of a yellow flag for me. That makes it sound like they were really set on the OP before she even got there. I bet his/her work is awesome, but still, that smacks of bad hiring.

    1. misspiggy*

      I’m not sure why that would automatically be bad hiring. The OP may have answered some of the interview questions in a way that other candidates didn’t, in addition to a high quality application. Being late and flustered isn’t necessarily the kiss of death, if an employer really wants certain characteristics that other candidates don’t have.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve ended interviews knowing that that’s the person I want to hire (subject to reference checks). I wouldn’t make a job offer two hours later (partly because of reference checks and partly because I’m aware of the optics of that kind of thing), but I don’t think it’s crazy to know after the interview that that’s the person you want to hire.

      1. AdAgencyChick*


        Also, OP said the hiring manager is a hiker. Don’t underestimate the power of empathy.

        1. victoria*

          I have to agree with this. I have a friend who accidentally blurted out in an interview she was recovering from depression, realised what she’d did and then got completely flustered and was holding back tears when she was finished and shaking hands. She got the job anyway. On her first day, the person who hired her took her aside and told her that he himself had depression for 5 years and if there was anything she needed to please not hesitate to come to him and HR would accommodate her as best as they can and assured her she was not a ‘pity hire’, but they sincerely believed her application was the best one.

          Hiring managers are people too and sometimes they can relate to your situation and sometimes they understand you might have just had a bad day, but the potential was there.

      2. PEBCAK*

        Right, but the OP says she did poorly in the interview. Maybe they are misjudging their performance, but if it was indeed bad, it’s usually not a good idea, as a hiring manager, to discount that.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          OP THINKS she did poorly in the interview — doesn’t mean that’s how it came across to the interviewers.

          1. pseudonymous writer*

            Yeah. My last three FT jobs, every one of them I thought I’d bombed the interview.

            Kind of an interesting paradox there, actually: when you think all is lost, you often loosen up and become a lot more honest and interesting as an interviewee.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I gave up trying to guess whether I’d done well at interviews. I got jobs where I thought I’d bombed, and I didn’t get the job where I felt like I’d rocked and been given what amounted to an hour’s training on the software for the job.

            2. Karowen*

              I’m pretty sure I landed my current job because I had finished talking to everyone I wanted to talk to at the job fair and decided to just go up to someone who looked lonely. I was super relaxed and straightforward, which landed me a real interview.

        2. businesslady*

          of all of my husband’s job interviews, he’s performed the best in a couple he had no choice but to attend while feeling unwell. sometimes when your body (or mind) is in physical crisis, your overcompensation can come across as more polished &/or authentically “real” than your usual interview self. plus, I can imagine a rationale like “well we’ve seen this candidate at their worst, & they were still really good” coming into play here.

      3. Adam*

        Out of curiosity, how long do you typically wait before you make the call? I was once offered a position just an hour after I interviewed. I had driven to a college campus directly after the interview to walk around and clear my head when they called me.

        Granted it was the second interview, so they’d already had time to discuss me and other applicants, but in retrospect it does seem kind of funny to decide to offer me a job and not say so at the interview but wait thirty or so minutes after I left. Waiting for final seal of approval or something?

        1. Kyrielle*

          Or having to discuss it with each other or ask HR a question or…any of the above.

          After one of our candidates leaves, the 2-3 managers that were in the room discuss their impressions to make sure they’re on the same page. That has to happen before an offer can be made, even if they turn out to all think we need a new lake so the interviewee can show off their walking-on-water skill on site.

          Of course, we would never call only 1-2 hours after the interview, because it then has to go to HR for processing and the turnaround isn’t ideal, but. It’s not at all inconceivable that someone could leave, all three managers would be secretly going ‘YES, that one!’, and then they’d discuss it and reach out to HR within an hour or two. (That’s most likely if the candidate was the last scheduled interview, or any remaining interviews are really clearly inferior skill sets or something, because otherwise they’d finish the scheduled interviews before turning it over to HR, I think. Just in case there were three people who walked on water and only one position.)

        2. Sunshine*

          I’ve done it. We had pretty much made up out minds prior to the second interview, and we knew the guy was talking to other companies. We didn’t want to lose him, so I called pretty quickly afterward.

        3. JM in England*

          My last job was offered to me the same day as the interview. I thought that I’d done OK but not stellar. Was a pleasant surprise nonetheless…………….

        4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I always. Always. sleep on it. normally, nothing changes. but a few times it has, and I was glad that I made myself take that time just in case something in my subconscious popped up.

        5. manybellsdown*

          That’s how my husband got his current job. He traveled for it, so they did two days in a row of interviews, the second on Friday. At 5pm they said goodbye and “we’ll let you know probably Monday.” 45 minutes later as we were sitting down to dinner they called him with an offer.

      4. Beth Anne*

        I had a 2nd interview once and I got a phone call probably 2 hours later with an offer. I took it. I really didn’t see it as a yellow flag though. My mom once went on an out of town interview and her now supervisor told her he was going to offer her the job before she ever left.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Sometimes it’s ok to break rules though :). I emailed my fiance a couple hours after our first date just to let him know what a good time I had. Could have seemed desperate, but it worked.

      1. chewbecca*

        My fiance called me about 20 minutes after he dropped me off from our second date to ask me on a third. It worked for us, too.

      2. anon for one comment*

        Ten years ago I slept with my now-husband on our first date. I did not do things like that. Turned out great! Not that i’d necessarily recommend it.

    4. kac*

      2 hours later is potentially a flag, but I definitely don’t think email is. Some prefer there to be a written record of this sort of thing. Also, as they knew the OP was in pain and out of sorts, they might not have wanted to make her feel rushed or pressured on the phone.

      1. Jady*

        I agree with this. I’ve dealt with many HR people via email. It can be quite difficult to catch people via the phone (especially if they currently have a job when they are interviewing). Typically I will have at least 1 phone call with them, but after that working via email shouldn’t be a flag anymore unless they just refuse phone conversations completely.

    5. Leah*

      She mentioned that the the interview was for design, so I imagine that having a great portfolio plus the fortitude to go on with the interview after apologizing may have sealed the deal. Very few people are the same in an interview as they are every day in the office. The company may have decided, “Well, if that’s her in an awful state, that’s pretty good.”

      I feel the LW on the self-esteem. My last boss did a number on me and then the job I left them for fell through*, so I felt pretty damned awful. It’s still a struggle and I wish you the best.

      1. brightstar*

        I was thinking along the same lines, that her portfolio is better than she thinks and they were impressed with how she came off in the interview on her worst day. If she can bring it in pain, etc, they might think they’re getting someone who will be great at the job on good days.

        1. Lynn*

          The OP also could have stellar references and connections that reinforced the idea that this off-kilter behavior during the interview was an unfortunate but isolated event. Plus, everything else people are saying about how the OP was probably underestimating his/her own quality.

      2. Molly*

        Also, maybe “she comes in physically injured and having a terrible day, even though she doesn’t even think we’re going to interview her. And we both like hiking!”

        Some people are charming, even (or especially) on their worst days.

        OP maybe you just come across as a trooper having a bad day, not a mess.

  2. Maggie*

    Is it possible that OP has exceptional references (that are also personally known by the hiring manager)? Also, they might just appreciate your ‘candidness’ and felt you would be good for the team. Who knows.

    1. Bill*

      This is what I was thinking as well. If the LW has a reputation in the industry or if the hiring managers know of her already through other contacts they may have already been pretty sure about hiring her before the interview. Things like the LW’s portfolio and particularly good rapport during phone screens and other pre-interview evaluations might have swayed them in that direction as well.

  3. MommaTRex*

    Perhaps the people hiring were moved by OP’s ability to act like a real human being. They may have bonded and felt an air of openness that they weren’t getting from other candidates.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That, and they may have been impressed with her effort, and her ability to still get through the interview. If she was as bad off as she said and she came across even OK (and as we said, she probably coped much better than she thinks), I would be very impressed with her control and her dedication.

    2. Crazy Me!*

      I was thinking the same thing. When a lot of your time is spent interviewing, it’s a breath of fresh air to come across someone whose human-ness shows through. Plus, they were probably impressed that you showed up at all (you’d be surprised the number of no-shows we see) given what you were going through. Plus, you must have a great background/portfolio, or none of the above would have helped regardless. I really like the idea that another commenter made about going back in and checking the place out before you accept. Good luck!

    3. themmases*

      I agree. I was once part of the final round of interviews for a person who wouldn’t report to me, but who would be trained by me and work very closely with me. The woman I liked (and whom we did hire) was definitely nervous– so nervous that my boss told me he’d given her advice about it after her first interview and reassured her that she was qualified and would just need to work on that if she were called back.

      For one thing, it really humanized this person that I’d been totally intimidated by based on her resume. For another, whether I do or not, I *feel* as though I come off exactly that nervous in interviews (like the OP I have depression). Not only did I relate to that, her demeanor actually made me feel like we were going to click on a personality level– pretty important when you will be training someone, sharing an office with them, and giving them all their work. I was right, we quickly developed an understanding about our work, and we still keep in touch now that we’ve both moved on.

      Lots of people are nervous or uncomfortable in interviews, but have just gotten good at hiding it. It doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten it or won’t find that sympathetic and even appealing in someone else.

  4. PharmaGirl*

    Ten years ago I interviewed at a company about 60 miles away from my home. I got lost and I ended up being over an hour late to the interview (I had also forgotten my cell phone at home, so couldn’t call). I was flustered and annoyed by the time I arrived, but no one seemed to care that I was a) late; and b) flustered and annoyed. To my surprise, they asked me back for a second interview. On the second interview, I underestimated rush hour traffic and was – again – over an hour late for the interview (had my cell phone but did not have the forethought to bring the hiring manager’s phone number with me – talk about ill-prepared!). Same thing – they didn’t seem to care. It turned out not to be the right fit for me and I accepted another job. When I notified my recruiter, she said that I was the frontrunner for the position. I was shocked.

    1. CTO*

      I was once quite late for an interview–I had trouble finding my way to the right spot on their campus, and the hiring manager had to give me directions over the phone while I was walking around. Of course, I was flustered and embarrassed when I finally got to the right place. After the interview I was still his first choice candidate. I accepted the position and both he and I had a really terrific experience working together. I’m sure he quickly forgot about the lateness debacle.

      Granted, it was an undergrad internship so the hiring manager was probably accustomed to candidates making some errors along the way. But don’t underestimate people’s ability to be sympathetic and understanding when job candidates are simply human and make mistakes. Maybe they were really impressed by your tenacity to show up when you were in pain and under stress and to pull yourself back together enough to have a good interview (your answers may have been better than you think). It sounds like the hiring committee didn’t see the worst of the incident (the hyperventilating part) either, so even though you felt that you were a trainwreck they just saw someone who was a little stressed and flustered, which is a pretty common, perfectly human way to be during an interview.

      I like Alison’s suggestion to have another conversation with them. Ask some of the thoughtful questions you probably didn’t get to ask in the interview and see how they answer. It’s entirely possible that they are bad at hiring. But maybe they’re just really kind, empathetic people who see beyond the occasional stressful day, and that can be a really great quality to have in a boss.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I got my first job out of college after calling to reschedule it for an hour later…because I’d locked my keys in the car, and had to wait for the spare set of keys and/or a locksmith service to help me unlock my car and get back in. (I think I maintained enough poise to not say “my Mom is bringing my spare keys” which in fact she was. I wanted to melt into the ground…especially because I’d only stopped at that store to kill time and calm down before the interview so I wouldn’t be super-early and/or flustered. Augh!)

    2. MaryMary*

      I once completely missed an office visit/final onsite interview because I was flying into the city where the job was located that morning, and due to bad weather and delays I never left the airport. I thought they would hire someone who actually made it to the office, but I ended up getting an offer two weeks later without the office visit/in person interview.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    I think there’s real value in compassion in the workplace if someone’s work is otherwise good.

    I’ve told this story before, but I had an employee who fell asleep his first day on the job, and made a few other rookie mistakes. A lot of people wrote him off but I thought he was really smart and just needed some help. So I made it my project to help him along and fix his reputation since he got off on the wrong foot. He was with us for 5 years and one of my best, hardest working, and most loyal employees. I was at his wedding (he was falling asleep his first day because he’d met his now-wife the night before and they stayed up all night talking). He’s still one of my close friends.

    If someone seems driven, enthusiastic, curious, smart, and capable – I’ll give them a second chance.

    Maybe this guy saw something in you :)

  6. Stephanie*

    From what my designer buddy tells me, your portfolio is a huge part of the interview and application process, so your work may have been good enough to compensate for a less-than-stellar interview.

    1. fposte*

      That’s what I was thinking. In a results-oriented position, they may not care if you sent your dog in to the interview instead as long as you can turn out good work on time.

    2. AVP*

      I was thinking something similar. For a lot of design and creative positions, employers really have a set aesthetic and style in mind and, if OP was the #1 candidate that fulfilled that aesthetic, the interview might just have been a formality. Or at least, much less important than we’re used to thinking.

  7. A Non*

    I’d be wary. It’s possible that the hiring manager is a jerk and thinks you’re someone who will be vulnerable and easy to push around. If you take this job and that turns out to be the case, don’t be afraid to start job hunting again immediately. I’ve found myself in situations like that enough times to be cynical, so YMMV. I hope further conversations with them clarify things for you!

    1. kac*

      They also might have been genuinely impressed by her during the interview, and thought “If this is her flustered and in pain,her and we are very impressed by this, imagine when she’s on her A-game.”

      I had an interview a few months back, and thought I did a pretty terrible job. Halfway through, I said to myself, “You’re not getting this job, and that’s okay.” The very next day, I got an offer. I think two things happened: a) my version of “being a mess” is not actually that bad and b) when I told myself I wasn’t getting the job, I relaxed and in doing so, was a stronger candidate.

      1. A Non*

        Yes, they might, and I hope that’s the case. I’m just leery of the opposite, because I’ve seen it happen.

      2. BRR*

        I recently interviewed a candidate who had an awful experience with a cab driver on the way to the interview. I was impressed how she pulled herself together.

    2. Biff*

      I’m concerned that it’s this. Not convinced that it’s this, but concerned. The interview I ‘nailed’ I ‘nailed’ because I came across as docile and easily cowed, which were absolutely necessary for dealing with the big boss at that job. He was a nightmare that very much preferred his employees to be vulnerable and scared.

      At the same time, it could be the other way around. I’d say research, and maybe call and ask to come observe the office one afternoon. That will help you decide if they chose you for you, or if they chose you because of how you might have appeared then.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      I’m hoping this will get yanked. It’s inappropriate. And her writing skills are fine.

    2. BRR*

      Totally uncalled for. That’s not how we treat each other here (and really you shouldn’t treat others that way anywhere). Not to mention it’s a question to an advice blog, the writing in the letter was perfectly fine and did a good job explaining everything while being brief.

    3. Wo Fat*

      Uncalled for and unwelcome here? Sure. No argument there.
      But how about giving some specifics? Explain what is not right with the writing. Grammar and/or punctuation? Some kind of communication weakness? What?

      Before you deride or criticize something about a post, build a case. Never just say something negative about it if you are not prepared to give your reasons.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In general, I agree that people should give specifics rather than just criticizing. But I want to be clear that in this case it still would have been unwelcome and inappropriate; even with specifics, I’d rather people not critique letter-writers’ or commenters’ writing, unless it’s actually relevant to the topic (for example, if someone was upset that their boss was criticizing their writing).

          1. Ruthan*

            … Definitely just envisioned 30 seconds worth of comedy skit featuring a Serious Businessman Wearing a Suit and a wheely office chair that tips over, rolls away, and collapses under him when he tries to sit on it. X-D

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think better than half of us would give up if we had to have our writing critiqued here. I know I would probably give up. It’s not the point of the blog and it’s not why I read here.

    4. Molly*

      Ummm, I guess that IS pretty clear, because she said it was a design position right in the letter.

      Clearly no one’s hired you for your sunshiny personality or likability, eh Kev?

  8. M. in Austin!*

    OP, I think being a designer/having a portfolio helps you out a lot here. You have a visible history of your work. I think if you were interviewing for a different type of role (one that doesn’t have a portfolio of work to prove your awesomeness) things might have gone differently. So be proud of how awesome your work must be!

    I’m really self critical too, but being aware of that helps me a lot. Watch out for impostor syndrome!

  9. Adam*

    As someone who’s struggled with depression before (with a hint of OCD which is like self-doubt inflated by black magic) I think it’s very possible your work is better than you think it is and you didn’t come across as bad as you thought you did.

    But that quick a turnaround means you probably should learn more about the company and what to expect before you decide to accept the offer or not. Good luck!

    1. Jean*

      Nice description of how depression totally distorts one’s self-image (especially if the depression also includes a touch of OCD).

      1. Adam*

        A doctor told it to me once which both helped and made it stick. Everybody experiences self-doubt, but for a person who is having troubles fueled by OCD it really can feel like someone put a curse on you.

  10. Lizabeth*

    I second Alison’s suggestion of a phone call plus consider going in to freelance for a day (at your freelance rate) to get a feel for the company. With design jobs this is (or was) very common thing to do and I’ve never regretted going in for a day or two to see if the fit was right.

    That said there’s some places that I’ve freelanced regularly I’d never consider working full time.

  11. Blue Dog*

    Be happy you got the job offer and don’t over-think this too much.

    In fact, the statements that you should by wary of the fact that you were offered a job reminds me a bit of the old Groucho Marx comment, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me for a member.”

  12. Meg Murry*

    One thing I noticed is that the OP says they had an “emotional breakdown” and started to hyperventilate. But I don’t see anything about crying or other things that I would associate with an emotional breakdown, and OP told the interviewers about her pain. So its possible that the interviewers didn’t see OP as having an emotional breakdown at all, but rather as hyperventilating due to extreme pain.

    Its also possible that they had already pretty much decided to hire her, but just had one last step to accomplish at the interview – such as reviewing her portfolio in person, or having the hiring manager meet her. Its also possible that they viewed “showing up despite being in pain” as a positive, showing that OP is willing to go above and beyond.

    OP, since you didn’t really get to ask your questions or get a good feel for the place due to your state, could you ask if you could meet with the hiring manager before you accept the job?

    1. James M*

      I was thinking the same. OP could ask for an additional meeting to get more information about the company & culture. A great second impression would also help OP’s negotiations.

  13. Language Lover*

    I once had an interview that involved a presentation. I know I left for the interview with my jump drive and presentation materials but when I got to the interview, I could not find my jump drive. I never found it.

    I had to cobble together a different presentation( we had optional categories) based on some material I had online but for which I hadn’t prepared. I was dying. My heart was racing. I felt myself making presenting mistakes that I trained to avoid.

    I didn’t get the job but I spoke to a member of the hiring committee a while later and shared my interview horror story. That person said I was actually the second choice and thought my presentation was really good.

    The moral of the story is that you probably weren’t the disaster you thought you were. If you work well under pressure normally, you may have developed an instinctual outer appearance of calm even if you feel like a mess internally. And your portfolio may have won them over.

    1. Melissa*

      I’m always really impressed with people who can do a decent presentation on the fly, especially through technical difficulties or other mistakes. (But on that note, this is one of the things I always try to prepare my students for when we go over presentation skills in class – What to Do if Your PowerPoint Suddenly Doesn’t Work/Is Lost.)

  14. KayDay*

    It’s also possible that the OP was head and shoulders above the other candidates, and the hiring manager was reasonable confident that the “bumbling” interview was a one-time fluke (and/or attributed the emotional symptoms to physical pain, as Meg Murry suggested above) especially if it wasn’t as bumbling as it felt to the OP at the time. I’m not sure if that would be bad hiring or not–occasionally one candidate really is significantly better than all the others, or maybe the hiring manager is the trusting go-with-the-gut kind. Like everything in hiring, it’s really hard to tell without actually being in the hiring manger’s shoes.

  15. L McD*

    I would bet the whole thing didn’t come across as badly as the OP thinks. Having dealt with panic attacks and such, they usually seem WAY worse internally, and especially if they were writing the whole thing off as having to do with physical pain from an acute injury/reactions to a strong medication, it could have very easily been blown off as no big deal. I mean, if somebody came into an interview with their leg in a cast and seemed really stressed and out of it because they were in physical pain, if I were in a hiring position I wouldn’t dismiss them out of hand for that.

    Don’t get me wrong – it’s unfortunate that mental/emotional issues are so stigmatized while physical pain is not, but it’s a reality in most people’s minds, and might go a long way in explaining this.

    1. Melissa*

      Yes, I’ve had a panic attack in public more than once and most people don’t even notice that you’re having a panic attack.

  16. Mona*

    Could it also be that seeing OP in a less than ideal state but OP still handling the interview with grace, tact and professionalism, even though OP doesn’t see it that way, (we as humans always overthink and nit pick what we think went wrong after an interview, first date, planned event, whatever) that they decided OP was the person for them? It’s fine to hire someone with all the skills and a fit for the company, but you never know how they are going to handle a crisis until it happens, they saw how OP handled that situation and thought OP handled it fine obviously, they offered OP the job. It’s a possibility.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a similar thought. They wanted someone who can work under stress. If that interview was not stress then I don’t know what stress is. OP, you went forward with your interview knowing it was going to be a rocky road. That takes brass. They probably admired your determination. And they probably said “If this is what OP can do on a bad day, her good days must be awesome.”

      Sometimes you meet people that can see through the extraneous stuff and see what is truly inside you. I’m thinking your going to find you are with a group of good people that you will stay with for a while. Check back in with us and let us know how the job is going for you. Maybe in a while you can ask them why they hired you or maybe they will volunteer that info.

  17. MsNoodle*

    I was just talking to a psychology professor about positive bias. When we like someone, we tend to construct a positive spin on anything they do, even if it’s a negative behavior. In the context of a happy marriage, one spouse says, “Oh, my spouse forgot to unload the dishwasher again. The pressure at work must really be piling up. I’ll cover this time.” The converse is true as well. In an unhappy marriage, the spouse says, “Why did my spouse send me flowers? Trying to butter me up? Probably seeing someone on the side.”

    What one person sees as admitting a flaw is seen as being honest by someone else. What one person deems unqualified another calls potential. Inexperienced? I can mold them. It’s really easy for people to justify their decisions, and frankly, an interview doesn’t garner much information about the candidate or company. Hiring is not a science.

  18. AnonyMouse*

    I agree with the previous comments about overly harsh self-criticism (especially when depression is involved), your portfolio’s probably much stronger than you think! And I also agree that you may have handled the stressful situation much better than you thought, or your behaviour just didn’t come across that badly. This isn’t a work example, but once I went on a date with someone I’d only been seeing for a little while right after hurting myself pretty badly (actually had to go to the hospital later). It happened on the way there, and so I was really out of it. I thought I came across super flaky, unfocused and self-absorbed because I was distracted by the injury, but apparently it was kind of grimly endearing after I explained and made me come across as less cold than I’d seemed until that point. Now, I know an interview and a date aren’t at all the same situation, but generally I think seeing someone handle an obviously uncomfortable moment relatively well can actually give you a better impression of them.

    But really, just like with any other interview, you’ll never know why they liked you. The fact is, they did – maybe your portfolio was far and away the best, maybe you had experience with a specific type of thing they were looking for, maybe your references were great, etc. But the main thing now is to decide whether you like them, too. I definitely think it’s a good idea to arrange a call to talk more, like Alison said, but I’d use it to answer your remaining questions about the job, not about why they liked you.

  19. lalla*

    I can’t even begin to describe the number of times that depression has stopped me from applying for a job I really want. If there’s one thing on a specification that I don’t think I can quite meet, I give up, assuming my application will be laughed out of the building. So I can say (in a completely non-patronising way, because I have totally been there) that even applying for a job and going to an interview when you’re depressed is a massive achievement (side-note: I suffer from bipolar disorder. I once spent a cheerful, slightly crazed hypomanic episode applying for every job that sounded half-interesting, sending applications left right and centre regardless of how qualified I was, listing how amazing I was and all the things I could do for the company and how I would revolutionise their work…then by the time I was being offered interviews I was severely depressed. I went to the interviews slightly unkempt, jumpy with anxiety, finding it virtually impossible to look people in the eye and every time I said anything positive about myself my brain screamed “LIAR” at me, which I’m sure must have shown in my face. Funnily enough I did get one of those jobs and spent a very productive couple of years there, which just goes to show that you don’t always come across the way you think you do).

    OP – you probably did fine in the interview. From what you describe, if I were the interviewer I’d think:
    – Here’s someone who turns up when they’ve said they will, even if they’d probably be better off resting up at home (so ticks in the reliability, commitment and work ethic boxes)
    – This person has given me an idea of what’s wrong, so they’re not the type to hide all their problems and pretend to be okay when they’re not if it’s going to affect their work (so they’re more likely to ask for help if something’s going wrong, and give me updates on problems, so there’s some ticks in the honesty and communication boxes)
    – This person is being open about who they are and what they’re like (so I feel I can get to know them and have a strong working relationship with them – and we can talk about hiking, yay!)

    Add that to your portfolio, and your experience and skills (which they’d know about prior to the interview, and must have liked because otherwise you wouldn’t have got an interview), and the fact that even if you thought you were rambling in answer to the questions, you probably still gave lots of relevant information (and the job doesn’t sound like it’s necessarily one where you have to be verbally presenting information all the time, so maybe they were willing to let you off a little if your answers weren’t quite perfectly formed, concise and immaculately worded). It’s easy to see why they’d have enough information from that to give you the job.

    I’d definitely agree that it’s worth getting in touch with them to get more information about the company and the job before you accept it though. And because the interviewer knows the state you were in during the interview, they’re going to completely understand if you call them and say, “I wasn’t quite at my best on that day so I was hoping to ask a few questions now that I’m feeling a bit better” – and they’ll probably respect you for doing that because it’s sensible and thorough, which most employers like.

  20. nicolefromqueens*

    Sounds like they were pretty intent on hiring you before you came in, based on your portfolio. They just brought you in to make sure you were not creepy.

  21. MR*

    I’d almost file this under the scenario where ‘I felt I completely blew the interview…but received a job offer.’

    It’s certainly better than the ‘I kicked ass in the interview…and it was the last I heard from the company.’

    I’m sure most of us can relate to where we thought we did terrible in an interview and received an offer…and other times where we thought we hit a home run, and yet nothing happened after that. I wouldn’t stress out about it…keep your head up and enjoy the ride!

  22. Climbing the corporate ladder*

    I rarely do well on interviews. Heck! I’m HORRIBLE at them and I’m a HR MANAGER!!

    But for the positions that I really want, I tend to do the worse and end up getting the job.

    I just thank God and prove that I’m an asset to the organization. I’m a firm believer that if something was meant for you, no matter how much you mess up, it’s going to be yours at the end of the day.

Comments are closed.