Last week I wrote about how to stand out in the interview for a new job. I promised that I would write about what to do when you don’t get the job. I’ve been there before and it’s not easy.
You think you’ve nailed the interview. You’ve met with lots of people. You like them and your potential new boss. You think it’s a great opportunity and you are excited about the prospects. You anxiously wait for “the call”. And then it comes. The hiring manager, HR person, or recruiter says “we’re going in another direction” – that common euphemism to say that someone else is getting the job. They go on to say some nice things about you and that you interviewed well but all you hear is that you didn’t get the job.
Your friends and family are supportive. They may say “it wasn’t the right one anyway”. Or “something better will come along”. They tell you how to feel but what you want to say is what my youngest daughter would say to me – “you can’t tell me how to feel, you’re not inside my body!”
So feel whatever you’re going to feel and then try to move on. Figure out what you learned from the situation and what you can build on for your next opportunity.
Here are some tips I’ve given when helping people at that vulnerable moment – during the wait and when they didn’t get the job:
- Proactive communication – Don’t be shy. If you’ve gone through the interview rounds and they said they’d be in touch at a certain point, trust that. But remember, they owe you an answer or some updated information at a certain point. If you haven’t heard by the time they said they’d be in touch, give it another day or two then proactively contact them.
- Thinking the worst – Just because you haven’t heard anything yet, don’t assume you didn’t get the job. It could be any number of reasons – maybe they are still talking with other candidates or they are still deliberating and need more time.
- Managing your own negative stress – Not knowing where you stand often leads to assuming a negative outcome and worrying. It’s very unproductive and we all know it – fight it best you can!
- Ask for feedback – If you get that “we’re going in another direction” call, ask for feedback. Was there anything in particular that you could have done differently? Are there any experiences or skills you need to develop in order to be successful candidate in the future? You often won’t get feedback but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Learn from each one – If you are unsuccessful a number of times, try to learn something from each opportunity. Turn that negative self-talk about never getting the job you want into a learning moment for next time.
- Build on your experience – Each opportunity is a chance to get clearer about what you really want and to learn more about yourself and your aspirations. What are you passionate about? What kind of position is ideal? What kind of organization do you want to work for?
- The view from others – Use each opportunity to get a better sense of how you are perceived in the market and what your potential really is. Did you reach too far? Are you making a move too soon?
- Give yourself a break – Take some time before jumping into the next one. Job searches can be tiring. If you are currently employed, ask yourself what’s the rush? Do you want to make a change so bad that you’d settle, or compromise?
And finally, remember that you and you alone own your career. You make the choices. It’s your decision to apply for a position or not. You can get advice from all sorts of people you trust, but at the end of the day, it’s your career to manage. Do it wisely!