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I work at Mega Large Company Inc.

A year ago I was a new hire and very unhappy with my position, so I interviewed around internally in this massive company. I had major anxiety issues at the time (panic disorder) and bombed an internal interview with a tough interviewer.

A year later, I'm still in my original position but loving it now. I was promoted twice. The panicking is over. Things are good. Except the interviewer has switched teams to my own team now.

I'm trying to determine the best approach.

  1. Don't ask don't tell. I won't bring it up first, but if he mentions it I'll say "yeah, we have met before, good to be working with you."
  2. Be proactive and direct and confident. Upon meeting: "Hey, nice to see you again! Remember me? Last time didn't go so well. This time will be better."

Two is the obvious choice here, right?

  • 202
    Whatever happens, I hope you take some personal pride in the fact that you got to the same corporate level as your interviewer (promoted twice!) less than a year after he rejected you! With another year, he could be getting interviewed by you! – user34587 Mar 1 at 8:19
  • Are you two on the same level? One reports to the other? Your answer probably depends on whether you or he has any influence over the other's career. – jmucchiello Mar 2 at 21:32
  • I have to say this question is almost unanswerable by us as the answer almost entirely rests on your and their personality. For example, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, whether the interviewer is easy going and good humoured or not, whether, as others have said, they're even likely to have remembered the interview. – colmde Mar 4 at 11:46
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There's a quote from the Street Fighter film which sums it up:

For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.

The problem with bringing it up first is that you're likely to be reminding them of something that they'd forgotten about. I've interviewed people before and once the decision's made about not offering them the job, I tend to forget what happened in the interview. The manager may not have even noticed the performance as much as you think - I know I'm my own worst critic and blow things out of proportion in my mind that other people around me don't even notice.

Just because it was an important time for you, doesn't mean it stuck in their memory.

  • 44
    Upvoted for the quote and excellent insight but I disagree with the conclusion. It might be fairer to say that this felt like a big deal to the OP but won't be a big deal to the interviewer ('d expect them to remember the event but not to care about it). – P. Hopkinson Mar 1 at 9:52
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    Honestly if the only thing you did was meltdown but didn't do anything personally insulting, I really doubt he'll remember. All of my memorable moments are due to things being personal, and even then, it has to be a really deep level before i remember who it was. – Nelson Mar 1 at 13:46
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    I once had a terrible, embarrassing interview. A while later a friend of mine ended up getting a position working directly under the guy who interviewed me. My friend told me one day how his boss was joking around about bad interviews he had conducted. He recounted one of the incidents he had been told of, and it was unmistakably my interview. I laughed it off because I thought it was a funny coincidence; I've moved on from that interview. But it shows that while it might not be healthy to believe everyone remembers/cares about the embarrassing things you've done...some people unfortunately do – Wmbuch Mar 1 at 14:42
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    The opposite scenario also happens sometimes. I've been told several times that I interviewed a job applicant who turned out to be the all-time star performer in the department during the last decade. I have no recollection of it whatever. Obviously he must have made enough of a good impression to get a "hire" recommendation, but so far as my long term memory was concerned, he didn't even register! – alephzero Mar 1 at 16:44
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    @wmbuch I have a similar story but from the other side. I was on an interview panel and a candidate said yes to an offer of water and then spilled it all over the table. I still relate this story to people who are worried about upcoming interviews in the context of "just relax, it won't be that bad and being nervous won't help". Two points: First I remember the incident but I don't remember the candidate's name or face. I could be working with them now and wouldn't know. Second, this didn't affect their evaluation at all, although perhaps they assume it ruined their chances. – Eric Nolan Mar 4 at 9:55
49

Don't say anything at all. There's no point in bringing up things that happened in the past. You don't want to make the interviewer think that you've been thinking about it all this time.

You've reached the same level as the interviewer is and you are in a role you are happy doing.

If they they mention it you have two options:

A) Joke about it.

B) Acknowledge it and brush it off

This completely depends on your personality. Neither of which are either good or bad, just conversation. Remember you don't owe this person anything, take personal joy that you reached the same level but it doesn't need to be brought up.

  • 3
    This is the tack I would take. Be prepared for them to bring it up, have a couple of low-intensity responses ready, but don't be the one to push the conversation that way. – CriminallyVulgar Mar 1 at 14:18
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    Not making an issue of it is probably the right approach. But comparing levels in the company is an unhealthy direction of thought which you seem to have introduced without any basis on information in the question. The asker knows the quality of their own recent work, and the quality of their work on the coming joint project is what will matter to the other person, or at least what they should hope will if the other person gives any thought to them at all. – Chris Stratton Mar 1 at 16:02
24

I have another option for you. Be:

  • proactive;
  • confident;
  • smart: do not place yourself in a position of inferiority if it is not needed.

You know, I am the "special" guy with the panic, remember?

is never the good way to connect to people - especially in your situation now.

What happened years ago happened years ago. Just interact with the person like you interact with anyone else.

IF the person reminds you about the "panic" situation, acknowledge it, smile, make a comment about it being in the past.

NOTES:

  • you can always improve about being stronger, both physically and mentally; you can learn to control your emotions and panic - as you already learned;
  • there is always a chance that you will panic again in the future; do not fret about it, it can happen to anyone; learn to get over it gracefully;
  • some people just enjoy "crushing" other people. Learn to no not give in to the crushing.

Very good point from @dwizum:

"let your actions and results speak for themselves."

They are a lot more important than an emotion which came and passed.

  • 2
    How is this proactive? – Jonas Praem Mar 1 at 8:55
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    According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proactivity , proactive means to be prepared for what will come. If you refer to a specific action, the part with "Just interact with the person like you interact with anyone else." is actually the proactive part. In this situation, there is no need to do anything special. If I were in this situation, I would not even bother to say anything about the fact that we know each other. It brings no benefit. As I said in the answer, if the other person initiates dialogue on the subject, acknowledgement is enough. – virolino Mar 1 at 9:00
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    "Proactive" aside, I think the important content in this answer is, "let your actions and results speak for themselves." – dwizum Mar 1 at 15:39
  • I used "proactive" as quote actually from the OP's question, but your point is excellent. +1 – virolino Mar 1 at 18:20
8

First an old tip from NLP that I have used before giving presentations and with anticipated difficult meetings. It works!

  1. Decide on where you could possibly meet. (a) In a corridor (b) Formally introduced by one other person (c) At a meeting table with lots of others present (d) whatever else you deem to be likely

  2. Decide on a simple strategy that will work equally well in all the above cases with only minor tweaking for the different circumstances (see below)

  3. Visualise each situation in turn and visualise it going well with everyone smiling at the end of it.

  4. Repeat from 3 until you can only see good results. If you can't sleep one night then do these visualisations of success repeatedly instead of counting sheep. You will feel great and fall asleep with a smile on your face.

Note

Situations we imagine sufficiently vividly have the same effects on our brains and bodies as the real thing. When you enter the meeting, that smile will automatically come back and radiate to others.


The strategy

What is your goal? (a) Be as least embarrassed as possible? (b) put the other guy down? (c) put yourself down before he can? (d) make everyone feel good including you, him and any listeners?

I could suggest strategies for each but the only one that I will talk about is (d)

Think about what was good about the situation.

For you: You gained experience that helped you sail through later interviews. You got a position you enjoy and got promoted, i.e. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"

These are reasons you are grateful to him. He made you a stronger, better person, so tell him!

Why tell him? There are many types of person in this world but (apart perhaps from Buddhist monks) there is one thing they all have in common: They want to feel important and noticed. This is especially true if they are made to look good in front of others.

Presumably you are not a trained psychologist so don't try to mind-read what he was doing during the interview. He could be a bully. He could have watched a video about how to be a tough interviewer. He might be a "Don't suffer fools gladly" type (particularly common in technical fields). You can't know so assume the best, i.e. He was simply trying to be a good interviewer and that was the technique he chose.

An example basic strategy

Note: You have to tell the truth. It must be sincere so adjust the words to fit your personality and beliefs.

You say, "Hello John, I've got something to thank you for. Your interview technique is really tough but I learned a great deal from it and it helped to get me where I am today."

Play with the words so that they are true and natural.

The tweaks

(a) He tries to put you down (maybe in front of others)

John: Oh hello bobby, have you recovered from our last meeting yet? {laughs and looks around for approval}.

You: Hello John, yes, actually I've got something to thank you for. Your interview technique is quite something but I learned a great deal from it and it's actually helped me get where I am today.

(b) He's embarrassed because you're now at his level (if you are).

John: Uh, hello bobby, um, I'm sorry about that interview, er I was a bit harsh.

You: That was a tough interview but to be honest I have to thank you for it, etc.

(c) He pretends you've never met or avoids your eyes.

You (when you have a quiet moment together): Oh hi John. How are you? You know, I've got something to thank you for, etc.


Finally

You can compliment John in his absence by saying, "You know I'm grateful to John. He gave me a tough interview but it made me realise that, etc.

  1. People will think you are a nice person and trust you not to say bad things about them behind their backs.

  2. It will get back to John that you think highly of him and he will be better disposed towards you.


Warning

Don't become overly friends with John until and unless you know him really well. If he is the wrong type then you don't want to keep buttering him up or go for drinks until you are certain.

I hope some of that is useful.


Afterthought

I recommend you never memorise words or sentences whether for a presentation or anything else. They will come out stilted. Practise in your head but don't memorise. Trust that when the time comes you know what you want to say and the right words will come out. Always think of the message not the words.

  • 1
    This is a fantastic answer. I know some people think questions like this are a waste because they seem so simple, and that answers like yours are too long, or 'overkill', but you didn't over-complicate/invent complications and your detailed answer is exactly what my socially-anxious / over analytical brain needs in these kind of circumstances :) – Esco Mar 3 at 6:52
4

Simply do your job.

There's no reason to acknowledge the past, if it does not affect your present situation.

If you become social in years to come, after you've continued to demonstrate your merit, you want to say "hey, remember that time when..." then that is your social prerogative outside of the office to share a joke with a colleague who has become a friend.

4

Emotional maturity is the ability to handle situations without unnecessarily escalating them.

Let's analyze your options:

(1) Don't ask don't tell. I won't bring it up first, but if he mentions it I'll say "yeah, we have met before, good to be working with you."

The issue here is that you are trying to shy away from your past failure even "after" he reminded you. Why not be a little transparent and accept the failure? After all, it's your manager who brought the topic up. Make sure to mention that you learned from that incident and you've changed now.

(2) Be proactive and direct and confident. Upon meeting: "Hey, nice to see you again! Remember me? Last time didn't go so well. This time will be better."

The issue here is that you are unnecessarily reminding him of something that he might have possibly forgotten.

So, the best course of action is a mix of both.

Don't ask don't tell. Don't bring it up first, but if he mentions, be proactive, direct and confident. Say: "Hey, glad you mentioned that. Last time didn't go so well. But I learned a lot from that interview."

  • I had not seen the first quote before: I upvoted for that reason. Emotional maturity is the ability to handle situations without unnecessarily escalating them – javadba Mar 4 at 4:03
1

It depends on your personality, the company culture and how do you want to frame your next relationship with him.

If you just want to be casual and have a somewhat nice relationship with him, I would just break the ice with your second option. Specially since now you are at a higher position than before and you have proved that you have what it takes to hold a job in the company.

On the other hand, if you are socially awkward, and just want a dry, just work related, serious relationship with him, I would just let it be and not say anything. Anyways, your work and day to day interactions are going to be more than enough to prove him you are not a worthless crazy coworker and you will earn his respect with time.

Just don't fake anything. Do what you are more confortable doing.

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I'd go with 2, but don't do it in front of more than a couple of people, ideally one/some of your existing team.

If you don't get it over with you'll be avoiding this fellow for months.

Start off with a handshake, and "Oh yeah, it didn't go so well last year, did it? {shrug} I suppose everyone has off days". Then move the conversation forward. When asked about it (by others in the newly formed group), be honest - "Yeah, I was going through a bad time, and probably shouldn't have been interviewing. All good now."

-1

Keep it super simple but also don't force it. "Hey, you get to work with me when I'm not having a bad day". Laugh at yourself, but it's also suggestive enough that you're not going to just roll over for him.

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