So you interviewed for a job, started to see yourself in the position and feel it within your grasp, and then didn’t get the offer. This article will share step-by-step instructions on how to get the best insight out of your rejection and increase the likelihood of getting to “yes” next time.
First, acknowledge your disappointment and put it in context
Not getting the offer should feel rough. You put your heart and soul into testifying why you were perfect for the position and it was perfect for you. Allow yourself a moment to feel that disappointment.
But once you have, remind yourself that the job search can entail five to ten times more “No’s” than “Yes’s;” rejection is part of everyone’s job search experience. Recognize it, normalize it, and get ready to use it to your advantage by learning to ask the right questions and bounce back smartly.
Then, ask your interviewer -- and yourself -- the right questions
There are two types of reasons why you won’t receive an offer once you’ve made it all the way to the interview: in-person reasons, or on-paper reasons. Immediately after receiving a rejection, shift into learning mode and ask the right questions of yourself and your interviewer to diagnose where you should focus your next efforts.
The 5 most important questions to ask yourself:
- Did you wow your interviewer?
With the best interview skills you can overcome almost any on-paper deficiencies. Remember, you made it to the interview -- so if you didn’t get the offer, chances are there’s room for improvement. Replay your interview in your mind and ask yourself: did they seem inspired, engaged or excited, or did they show expressions of confusion, boredom, or worry? Did you articulate why you were still the best person for the job, even if your background made the position a stretch? Note what played well or poorly, and which specific skills or responses you may need to work on.
- Did you build the right relationships in advance?
85% of jobs today are found through networking (as reported by LinkedIn). You want people within the organization advocating on your behalf when decisions are being made. Don’t have those relationships? You can build them by asking team members for a brief conversation to hear about their experience. This gives you a chance to make a good impression, demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment, and turn individuals from passive reviewers into active advocates.
- Did you really want the job?
Interviewers can tell the difference between genuine enthusiasm vs. your interest in leaving your current job for better conditions. And a job you really want is one you’ll fight for with compelling testimony and the best possible job search tactics. Ask yourself if your sincere interest in the position is there, and how you succeeded or failed in fighting for it with all your might.
- If yes, which experiences or credentials will better position you for similar positions, and are you willing to do what it takes to get them?
Get a sense of what you may be missing by reviewing the background of the individual hired, the background of other professionals in similar positions, and whether the job description itself listed a ‘preferred’ or ‘required’ credential or number of years of experience. Ask yourself what it would take to raise yourself to that level, and whether or not you’re able and willing to make it happen.
- If no, which positions should you be going after instead?
Sometimes not getting an offer provides an impetus to reflect on what it is we really we want in our next step. Try using the Next Step Careers Diagnostic to evaluate which opportunities may be more in line with your personal path.
The 5 most important questions to ask your interviewer:
Once you have gleaned honest insight from yourself, it’s time to go verify it and get more feedback from your interviewer.
Yes, interviewers are reluctant to share the real reason why you weren’t hired, and hiring managers at larger companies may only provide a standard reply. But this is still worth trying hard for. At its best, it can offer insight into what you couldn’t or might not want to see yourself, and guidance on how to focus your continued development. I’ve even seen cases where asking for feedback leads to a long-term relationship with your interviewer and future job opportunities.
Give it your best shot by emailing a request to discuss briefly over the phone. Feedback over the phone is better than by email because you don’t want your interviewer worrying that what she writes could be shared more widely.
The email should convey that you are sincerely interested in her opinion and will take up very little of her time -- appealing to her ‘pay it forward’ motivation:
“I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate your candid feedback on my candidacy. I’m hungry to find the right opportunity to contribute my skills and passion and eager for any feedback that will help me improve. If you have 10-15 minutes for a brief phone call, I know I could learn a lot from you.”
Once you have her on the phone, get to the point and be specific and direct to make the most out of your time together:
“Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I want to be mindful of your time, and reiterate how appreciative I am that you’re willing to share your candid feedback. I have a few specific questions prepared, if that’s alright.
- Can you share any feedback on my interview -- are there areas where I could have been better prepared or better articulated my interest and experience?
- Can you share details about the candidate you hired and what stood out about him?
- Do you think I’m pursuing the right types of opportunities given my experience? If so, do you have any guidance on additional experiences or credentials that would improve my candidacy?
- If not, do you have thoughts on other opportunities that may be more fitting for me?
- Is there someone you know who would be helpful for me to speak with as I continue with my search?”
Always wrap up the conversation with another big “thank you” and a request to stay in touch about potential future opportunities.
Lastly, use your answers to move forward quickly and smartly
Reviewing your notes, ask yourself what were the underlying in-person or on-paper reasons you didn’t get the offer. Moving forward your next step might be:
- Refine and practice your interview skills to rock your next interview
- Make a commitment to strategically networking during your next interview process to get advocates on your side
- Create a plan for getting the experience or credential you need to be better positioned for similar roles
- Return to the drawing board to dig deep and define your career direction
As always, each step you take in the right direction yields new learning, momentum, and connections -- all of which will help you get to “Yes” for the right gig as quickly as possible.