In the March 14, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says rejection isn’t so bad, if you learn something about your career objectives in the process. I think rejection can lead to a whole lot more.
I found work that I love and that I’m good at, at a small, award-winning company. My meetings with the hiring manager and her team were very positive, and we hit it off very nicely. I was called back for a third interview, with the general manager. He yawned a lot and clearly did not want to be interviewing people, but went through the motions. Perhaps he had already decided who would be hired. In any case, I did not get the offer. I don’t have a question. I just wanted to tell you that even rejection can produce a pretty positive attitude, because now I know that such places are still here, and I just have to find them!
Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)
Most job interviews result in rejection. But smart job hunters learn from every experience.
I think the most common lesson is that the candidate applied for the wrong job to begin with…
Your case is different, and it’s an important lesson of another kind. You actually found a job and a company that seemed to be right for you. You clicked with the manager and her team. And you walked away with renewed confidence that you’re going after the right kinds of companies — and that the jobs you want are in fact available. That’s all good news.
So this really is a win for you, and you should not waste it. I know that you will now go look for other such companies, but I’d like to suggest something even more powerful.
…Forget about the general manager and his poor attitude. Focus on the hiring manager and her team. These are people with whom you clicked. Focus on the good match you found with the company itself.
There are more such managers and companies. And they know one another!
So let’s get to work. Don’t waste your momentum… The hiring manager and her team members are potentially your best references right now.
Go back to your new friends at the company that didn’t make an offer. Thank them again for the stimulating meetings, and let them off the hook for not hiring you. Start with the manager, but then follow up with the other interviewers you clicked with.
How to Say It
“I know you can’t hire everyone, and I’m not troubled that I didn’t get an offer. But I’m glad that I met the kinds of people I’d like to work with. Thanks.”
Then let them talk. They will probably wish you well in your job search. But don’t let it end there.
How to Say It
“I wonder if I could ask you for a professional courtesy. You didn’t make me an offer — but if your appraisal of my abilities was high enough, I’d like to ask if you would be willing to serve as a reference for me. I’m planning to apply for jobs at companies X, Y and Z. Is there any one there to whom you’d be willing to recommend me?”
All you need is one referral and recommendation. If no referral is offered, don’t fret. Just say, “Thanks, anyway. Again, I enjoyed meeting you. I’d be glad to talk with you again if another position opens up.” But, if you get a referral, don’t just say thanks.
How to Say It
“Your faith in me means a lot. If I can ever repay the favor, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’ll let you know how it goes. I want to make sure I…” [The rest of this How to Say It is in the newsletter, which includes lots more suggestions. Want more? Subscribe to the free newsletter, which will tell you more each week.]
Close with a thank you. Then contact the person you’ve been referred to, using the methods we’ve discussed here on Ask The Headhunter. (For a nice, neat package about how to apply the Ask The Headhunter methods when you’re talking to a prospective employer, check How Can I Change Careers? It’s for anyone who wants to stand out, not just career changers.)
…This is a very powerful way to leverage one good contact into another. It’s not such a long shot as it might seem. Since you made it through several rounds of interviews to the final one with the general manager, it seems the hiring manager and her team thought a lot of you. So my guess is, they may be willing to help.
If you get an interview based on this referral, remember that the reputations of the people who recommended you are on the line. Make them look good!
Now I’ll give you one more tip about how to make a rejection pay off, even months, if not years, after your interview. Stay in touch with the nice folks you met, and do them a favor. When you hear about an interesting opportunity — maybe it’s a job they’d be interested in, or a professional event, or even a sales opportunity for their company — , drop them a note (or call) and tell them about it. “You made an impression on me when you interviewed me a few months ago… and I thought I might return the favor by telling you about this…”
This is what makes the professional world go around.
The rare job interview turns into an offer. And few interviews yield friendships, or even mutual respect, between the employer and candidate. But even when two people click, they usually lose the momentum they’ve just found, and they both miss an opportunity. A rejection based on a strong interview can be turned into a powerful referral, if you know how. What do you take away from a great job interview, even if you are rejected?