update: how important is it to answer every question perfectly during a job interview?

Remember the letter-writer wondering how important it is to answer every question perfectly during a job interview? She worried that she’d flubbed two questions in a recent interview and was wondering how much it would matter. Here’s her update.

Your advice, as well as that of your knowledgeable and thoughtful commenters, was extraordinarily helpful to me. The conversation helped me to focus on some of the issues with myself and my interviewing skills rather than how that particular interview went and whether I messed up a couple questions or not.

Since writing in, I have put myself on a self development path in order to improve my situation. In the comments section I had mentioned my interest in changing career fields towards Instructional Design. Some commenters suggested I look into training, so I did that and found that it would be an excellent avenue for me. Since the letter was posted I have been working to develop my skills in this area by reading, taking classes, getting certifications in the field, and joining some national and local organizations.

I’ve also been reading your site daily and bought your book on how to get a job. After zeroing in on the direction I’d like my career to go, I have followed the advice on your site and completely revamped my cover letter and resume. My resume has significantly improved. I am still struggling with my cover letter a bit, though there is improvement there as well. After months of no interest, I noticed a difference almost immediately after I made these changes. Within 2 weeks of applying with the new materials, I was invited for 4 interviews!

Overall, I think my interviews went well. I was practiced and confident, and when I did mess up a few times, I didn’t get bogged down in those details at the time. Instead, I took the errors, analyzed them, and nailed down what went wrong so that I could learn from it and do better next time. There was a noticeable improvement from one interview to the next. Two of the jobs I received rejections, one (about a month ago now) told me they would get back to me in a week and they never did. I followed up and still haven’t heard anything so I’ve moved on.

The good news is that my last interview did pan out. I was offered a position as a contract Trainer with a consulting firm. Now, I don’t think my new interviewing skills got me this position because they barely asked me any questions. They seemed very enthusiastic about me. The interviewer said they were impressed with my resume and they had been asked by the home office to contact me immediately since they were so interested. It was a very quick process and I was basically hired on the spot. I’m not sure whether my resume is really that strong or whether they don’t know how to hire. So it’s tough to take much away from that experience, except that I now have an opportunity ahead of me that I want to make the most of.

I currently have a 10-week commitment starting in January with the potential for more if I do a good job. I’m excited to be making progress in the field and feel more positive than ever about making a career transition.

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Alistair*

    I’m not sure an update can get better than this! Advice asked for, received, OP improves themselves based on advice, great result. Congrats, and I hope you get the extension!

  2. plain_jane*

    “Now, I don’t think my new interviewing skills got me this position because they barely asked me any questions. They seemed very enthusiastic about me. The interviewer said they were impressed with my resume and they had been asked by the home office to contact me immediately since they were so interested.”

    Have you considered this is like when you study really hard for a test, and then wonder why you were so stressed, because it was easy? :) Good luck with the contract.

    1. Traveler*

      Yeah. This is what I was thinking. Maybe not the case in this situation, but I know when I’ve prepped the hell out of it for interviews, I always feel like they are a piece of cake.

    2. OP*

      I actually did not think of that! And I wish that were the case. When I say they barely asked me any questions, I mean they asked me 1 or 2 in the preliminary screening, which was with someone who was also a contractor for the company. Then the follow up interview with the hiring manager at the consulting group was her telling me that the contractor does a really thorough job of screening people and she trusted her, and I was hired immediately. It was a 3 day process from applying to being hired. I was initially worried about it but communication with them has been excellent.

      I do think my resume helped and I happened to have a particular past experience that sets me up perfectly for this position. It is not really common for people to have experience in it, so I think that played a part as well. They mentioned to me how happy they were to find someone with that experience/skill set.

  3. Another ID*

    Yay for you! I am also excited to meet a fellow Instructional Designer out there. Alison posted survey results a few days ago. I am bummed that I did not see the original survey that was sent out, but I’m curious to know if you did. There are at least five of us in the community. I would love to network with you. Instructional design is a fascinating field! Not sure how this would work, but perhaps we can connect on LinkedIn.
    (I’m a daily reader and frequent commenter, but want to stay anonymous overall, hence the different moniker today).

    1. OP*

      Yes! I never meet ID people either. But to be clear, I am just getting into the field and this current contract is as a trainer, not an instructional designer. Hopefully I can work my way towards ID. I would love to network. I hate to ask Alison to do additional work but the only thing I can think of would be for you to email her and maybe she can respond and give you my email address, or forward your email to me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, y’all could connect on the AAM LinkedIn group, which is the best way to do this! But if that doesn’t work for some reason, in the spirit of the holiday season I’ll make an exception to my usual no-matchmaking stance and hook you up via email.

        1. OP*

          I’m sure that would work! I didn’t even realize there was an AAM LinkedIn group. Thanks.

          Also, I didn’t know you had a no matchmaking stance, so sorry about that. Totally understandable that you wouldn’t do that.

        2. ECH*

          I am not on LinkedIn, but I’ve always been curious – how does one connect the posters on here to the posters on the LinkedIn group? Are their names “Jane Smith (a.k.a. AAM poster name)”?

  4. Jake*


    Op, I wouldn’t read too much into their hiring method. When working what amounts to a 10 week tryout period, they are far more likely to hire in ways that would traditionally be red flags, but due to the specifics of the terms of employment this doesn’t seem nearly as unreasonable.

    1. OP*

      I thought of this as well. I figured since it wasn’t permanent and I was essentially going into a 10 week trial, that would be a good portion of my “interview” for future positions. It’s pretty clear that if I do well they will continue to bring me on for future projects. Yay!

  5. OP*

    Hi, OP here. Thanks for the responses! I really took the advice that this community gave me to heart. I was in a really bad situation, out of work for a long time, with not a lot of opportunity, resources, or ideas how to fix it. I realized I just needed to get off my a** and do something about it. I appreciate the candidness of everyone who responded and how helpful people were.

    The new job has been delayed by a couple of weeks, but they have been openly communicating as things progress so I am not too worried about it. It’s looking like I will be starting work at the end of January. Now I just need to focus on doing a good job so they will keep me in mind for future projects.

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