Rejection – An Opportunity!

Job search is sometimes cruel.  You go on interviews, tell the prospective employer “all the right things”, and too often they:  a) don’t get back to you at all;  b) take forever to follow up;  c) thank you for your time, and inform you they’ve decided to hire someone else.   Few and blessed are the number of job seekers who get offered jobs every time they interview, everyone else needs to keep their heads up, move on and continue with their search.
What do you do after that rejection?
You keep on looking, of course!  But you can also make that rejection a learning experience!
I think job rejection warrants some “follow up”.  If you really want to know why you weren’t hired, you may have to demonstrate some assertiveness.  Admittedly, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but you should at least make an attempt to get back in touch with your interviewers to learn why you weren’t selected.  This is particularly true if you’ve had more than one interview for a single position at the same company.  After each interview, you’ve left feeling encouraged and positive, thinking that you have a real chance at being hired.  You feel you’ve established a rapport with your interviewers, said all the right things, asked the right questions, and felt that you are going to be treated fairly.  Naïve as that may sound, it is a very normal, real-world emotional response when you think things have gone well.
What’s the purpose of following up after they’ve turned you down?   It is extremely unlikely that they will be totally enamored with your perseverance and change their minds and hire you because you made the additional contact.  So why bother?  You think to yourself, “They don’t know what they missed.  I could have really done well at that gig.  Oh well, time to move on!”
At the very least, you’d like to know if there were any “red flags” for the interviewer.  You want to know if something went wrong in their eyes.  Even though you think you are qualified, and felt you did well, you’re not the decision maker. So trying to find out the perceptions of your interviewers can help you better understand their expectations and thereby improve your interviewing and make you a better candidate.
Through the interviewing process, you have hopefully collected the contact information for all your interviewers; email addresses and phone numbers.  Don’t just discard this information if you don’t get hired!  Reach out to your interviewers with a polite and respectful email and see what you can find out about why you didn’t get the job.
Here are a few questions you can ask when following up after rejection.

  • Did you find me lacking particular skills that you were looking for?
  • Was there something about my presentation or background that you felt needed improvement?
  • Was there something you were looking for that I didn’t address fully?
  • Could I have addressed something differently that would have convinced you I was the right candidate for this position?
  • What was the reason you selected another applicant instead of me?

Barring any discriminatory issues the employer smartly wont address for fear of legal repercussions, your interviewers may take a moment to identify why they selected another applicant instead of you.  Not all employers will take the time to admit their perspective on your worthiness for a particular position, but a few will, and it is worth the effort to get their point of view.
Showing the hiring representatives that you cared enough to follow up indicates that you want to make yourself a better candidate for the next opening (and don’t hesitate to reinforce this as the primary reason you asked why – to be a better applicant.  This could perhaps result in a call back should another position open up at that company, or if the person they hired instead of you doesn’t work out.  Your efforts to learn more about why you didn’t get the job will encourage your interviewer’s retention of your name and qualifications and could also net you a referral to another company.  For that matter, ask them to keep you in mind should there be another opening in their company, or if they hear of a similar opening elsewhere!
You may not gain a lot from this exercise, but if you learn anything, it will have been worth the effort.  Turn an employer’s decision of not hiring you into a positive experience that could help you get hired the next time.
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