A friend and I were talking recently about her job search efforts. She had recently gone on an interview for a job she was well qualified for and was subsequently called back in for a follow-up interview. She was sure she would be offered the position, and confessed to being taken aback when the hiring manager told her they were going with another candidate. Fortunately, after doing some soul searching, she realized that the position would not have been right for her in the long run and she quickly got over her disappointment by accepting the rejection as a blessing in disguise.
Let’s be honest – job rejection sucks.
Her experience is not a unique one. Most of us have had the experience of interviewing for a job, feeling confident after a good first interview and then being completely convinced after being called back for that second interview only to hear that the potential employer you thought you hit it off with didn’t feel the same way about you for some odd reason. If you’re casually searching for a job because you have some curiosity about trying something different, this type of angst about professional rejection likely doesn’t apply to you. But if your job-hunting reasons are more profound – you’ve been unemployed for a while and your money situation is critical, or you’re fresh out of college and super nervous about getting your career off the ground – then this feeling can be all too real.
Try not to feel too bad.
Luckily for my friend, she was able to soothe her hurt feelings by accepting the fact that she would have been making a mistake if she’d accepted that particular position had it been offered to her. She came to this conclusion because she realized that her main motivation for applying for that position in the first place was because she was desperate to get out of the job she was currently in – not because the new job was something she had a deep interest in doing. In fact, the two positions were so similar, that it would likely only be a matter of time before she began to feel the same sense of dissatisfaction.
But it’s not always so clear to us as job candidates that a particular job is actually not the right fit.
It sounds good on paper, sure. But how much does a job description really tell you about a company’s corporate culture, or a manager’s personality, or even the true day to day nuances of the job? The interview process is an opportunity for a potential employer to get to know you beyond the skills listed on your resume. And conversely, it’s a chance for you to get know them as well. Those couple of conversations about suitably may be enough for the interviewer to determine, that maybe, you might be over your head in this position – and wouldn’t you rather know that now then to be in the job sinking? Or maybe she can see that your fun-loving personality might die a slow death in their ultra rigid corporate culture. These things matter, and maybe you just can’t see it from your position.
Use the experience to your advantage.
If you’ve been successfully doing your due diligence as a job candidate, then by the time you’ve been called back for a second or third interview, you’ve already established a respectable, open stream of communication with the recruiter or hiring manager. When you get the phone call or the e-mail telling you they’ve gone in another direction, use this as a chance to see what you can do to strengthen your appeal as a job candidate in the future. Thank them politely for their time and ask, sincerely, what it was that made them choose someone other than yourself. And then use that feedback. If they say someone else had more experience – make more of a concentrated effort to highlight all the applicable skills and experience you possess. Or consider applying for positions that call for less experience – perhaps you’ve been looking out of your league. Maybe it was your interviews skills that did you in – if so, brush up.
Whatever feedback you can get out of a failed interview process, use it. That way, while you may not have gotten the outcome you wanted, at least the entire experience would not have been for nothing. And take some solace in knowing that everything happens for a reason, and chances are the position wasn’t really the right one for you.