Employer Loved Me… Then Rejected Me

Good morning Highlanders and happy New Year! With a new year comes a time for change, I’m writing to let you, the readers know, that this will be my last Career Thursdays post. I am leaving UCR and moving on to a position at a different institution. I hope that you have found these posts to be helpful in your personal and professional lives. Job searching and finding a job that you love is a difficult task and I hope that I was able to provide you with some tips to help you succeed in your search. This article hit home for me as I prepare to transition into a new role, especially since some of these scenarios have also happened in my professional life. It’s easy to get discouraged when you think everything went well within an interview and the employer chooses someone else. I will be inserting comments as the article goes on. Originally posted by J.T. O’Donnell  on LinkedIn on January 29, 2016.

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Here’s an email I get at least once each week:

I recently had a situation where I was turned down for a position I really wanted and thought I would get. Here’s the timeline of what happened:

I applied, literally the next day I get an email to set up a phone interview; the phone interview goes great, she sends me a writing assignment (it’s for a Content Marketing Specialist), which I turn around the next day and even do more than was asked (wrote 2 blog posts instead of 1). I get an email an hour after I submit the assignment saying she loved it and wants me to come in for an in-person interview. We schedule it for the next day. I meet with her and 1 other person; it goes perfectly (from my point of view). We connected, they said they could use someone like me on the team, they loved my work, and so on. Then, at the end, they even walk me around to show me the office and where we’d be sitting. I walk away feeling amazing and like I nailed it (and I don’t often believe me!). I go home and wait a few hours, send them a Thank You email and await their response. This was a Thursday.
The following Monday (today) I get the rejection email from the recruiter. I was stunned and heart-broken. I know it’s not personal, but to be lead to believe everything’s great and I’m the right fit for the job, then to be rejected is hurtful. And I have no idea why! So here’s my question – what’s a nice, professional email I can send to the recruiter along the lines of, “wow I’m surprised to hear that but thank them for their time and I’d love to get feedback on what I was missing or could do different next time”?? I want to send a follow-up email that lets them know I was really interested but am confused about why I wasn’t chosen.

Don’t Bother Trying To Guess What Went Wrong

It’s good to see this reader’s not wasting time trying to guess what went wrong. It could be a number of things. It’s possible she missed the mark in the interview and they were just putting on a game face so they didn’t have to tell her she wasn’t a fit while she was in front of them. And, it’s not uncommon for an employer to show a candidate around and even point out where she would sit if she got the job. Yet, other things could have happened too. Maybe the company felt she was such a strong candidate she’d start the job and quickly realize they weren’t such a great company to work for and be disappointed. Perhaps they got word they didn’t hit their financial numbers for the month and were no longer in a position to hire someone after all. They also could have decided to give the job to someone internally. Or, someone called in a favor and got the boss’ son-in-law the job. Who knows? All we know for sure is they decided to pass on this reader as a candidate. *Guessing or worrying about why a company didn’t hire you does no good unless you can think of something undesirable that you said during the interview process. If you’re confident that the interview went well, just move on to the next interview and realize that the job at this company wasn’t meant to be. I always think that me not getting a job is the universe telling me that I wouldn’t have really liked working in that job with that company anyway. Saying that to myself, gets me out of a funk that you get in when you’re rejected from a position.

Can You Ask For Feedback? Sure. Will You Get It? Probably Not.

While this reader can definitely go back to the recruiter and try to find out what went wrong, the chances of her getting an honest response is pretty low. Companies don’t feel obligated to tell you why you weren’t chosen. It’s their decision and they usually like to keep the reasons private. Moreover, it can work against you if you are too pushy. Imagine you bought a really expensive TV. You went to two different stores before finally purchasing it. A day later you get a call from the salesperson from the store you didn’t buy the TV from asking for details on why you didn’t purchase the TV from him. Awkward! You might even be so bothered, you wouldn’t want to shop there ever again. It’s the same with candidates. You are a business-of-one. The employer checked out your services, but didn’t buy. Pushing the employer could leave a bad taste in their mouth about considering you for another role. *Some recruiters or hiring managers are willing to give you feedback.  I’ve hired student employees and sometimes they have asked for feedback and it’s really hard to tell someone if there wasn’t something they did that was completely obvious. When you find the right fit for your organization, it’s sometimes hard to explain that to the other candidates who you didn’t choose. This might be a good time to go in and talk to someone who works in HR either at your current company or someone you know, or to go to a career counselor and explain the situation. Sometimes it’s only a matter of time before that job offer comes around. Getting practice interviewing is good, whether or not you get the first job you interview for.

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Instead, Ask For The Next Steps In The Relationship Process

A better approach for this reader would be to reach out to the recruiter and ask what she can do to be proactive and stay in touch with the employer about future opportunities. Prove to the employer you have the character and patience to build a relationship with them so you can be considered for other jobs down the line. I’d write something like this:

Dear Recruiter,

I must admit, I was disappointed when I got the news I wasn’t selected. I really enjoyed the interview process and was very excited about the role. I’m glad they found someone for the position and wish them the best. That being said, is there anything I can do to be proactive and stay on the company’s radar screen for future positions? I’d love to earn another opportunity to interview with them. I really felt a connection with their mission and culture. What would you suggest?

The response you get from the recruiter will either let you know the door has closed on working for that company entirely, (i.e. we are all set, no need to follow up.). Or, it will inspire you to stay connected to them (i.e. touch base with me once per month to see if any new openings are a match for your skill set). *I might also suggest to connect with the recruiters on LinkedIn if you’re active on there as well. Sometimes, recruiters will use LinkedIn as a place to promote their job opportunities, you might see something that you like come through based on that network rather than emails getting lost in the recruiter’s inbox.

No Doesn’t Always Mean “Never” – It Often Means “Not Today”

One of the things I’ve learned in coaching thousands of job seekers is sometimes you are an amazing candidate, but the company needs to go in another direction. Which means, “no” often means “not today” in terms of hiring you. Short-sighted job seekers get angry and write the employer off. Their pride is hurt. However, smart job seekers understand hiring situations in a company can change overnight. They put aside their pride and show their professionalism to the employer by staying in touch. Just recently, I worked with a woman who interview not once, but two times with a company. Both times they went with another candidate. However, the third time they called and directly hired her for a new position without even interviewing her for it. Why? They already knew she could do the job from the previous two rounds of interviews. Better still, in her own words, “The role was perfect for me. Much better than the first two jobs I applied to.” And, the job paid more too! *This is the exact same thing that I went through with the institution that I’m going to be working for. I interviewed for an internship position about five years ago when I was still in graduate school. I didn’t get it. Then I applied for and interviewed for a full time position about a year and a half ago. The day after my interview, the hiring manager emailed me saying that the budget had changed and they were no longer hiring for the position. I was crushed that I didn’t get the position but I kept optimistic because no one got the position. I replied to her email saying that I was disappointed but that I would look out for any openings that they had in the future. I continued to send thank you emails to all of the people I interviewed with. When I saw a position open, I knew I wanted to apply. I applied and after a phone interview, in person interview and reference check, I was offered the position. Sometimes timing is wrong and it just takes being patient and applying over again to get the position that you really want. I’m not saying to apply for every single opening within an organization, I’m saying apply within a department or position that you know you’re qualified for and maybe one day, you will secure a position within that company.

More Tips For Surviving Rejection

I’ve written several articles here on LinkedIn to help job seekers cope with the challenges of rejection. Perhaps these can help as well:

My Cure to A Broken Career Heart

Didn’t Get the Job? Do This…

Is Rejection Your Career Kryptonite?

No matter what, don’t give up. It’s about putting the emotions aside, making smart decisions, and being proactive. You can do it – just keep trying and don’t let a little rejection get the best of you. Use it to your advantage instead!

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