Rebound After Losing The Job Interview

What do you do when you get rejected from a job you REALLY wanted?

My client (I’ll call her Jennifer) was down the other day. She’d just had a third interview with a company in Glenview. She really wanted to work there. Jennifer’s hopes were high. But then, they got dashed. She got the rejection email. She was crushed. Jennifer said, “Dang! I really wanted to work at that company. Too bad.”

To which I said, “Jennifer, if you really want to work at that company, let’s go for it! You got a third interview. The boss must have liked you a lot if it came down to you and one other candidate. Don’t take the initial rejection too much to heart. Let’s put together a game plan.” 

Repair the damage The first step was to repair the damage. What damage? Well, when someone rejects you, it creates a bit of awkwardness. I often say that the job interview process is much like dating. We all know how awkward it can be if one person is interested in dating and the other just isn’t. It’s much like that after the boss chooses another candidate.

Suppose you were to get on the same elevator with that boss. It would probably feel a little uncomfortable. So, you want to heal that relationship by reaching out to the boss. Send a thank you note for the time he/she spent with you. Only a small percentage of people send out thank-you notes after job interviews. Almost NOBODY sends a thank you note after they were rejected! If you do, you are putting yourself in a very elite group.

There are four reasons for doing this. 

  • The person they hired may not work out. One of our clients, who was initially rejected for a comptroller position at a Highland Park company, ended up getting the job. It turned out the man they hired came into work on the first day, went out to lunch, and never returned. True story! Or maybe the person they hired just doesn’t perform well. Things like this happen frequently. If the person hired doesn’t work out, you want the boss to think of you. If you’ve made the effort to reach out to the boss and repair the damage, you may well be the first person who comes to mind. 
  • You want to get the boss to be an ally. Try to add the boss to your network. See if he/she might not be amenable to meeting with you for a referral interview. He/she probably knows a lot of people, both within the company and outside of it. You might find out more about the company you want to work for. How is it structured? What do the various departments do? Who are the key decision makers? Where else might you fit in? You might get referrals to other supervisors or executives. 
  • Turnover is frequent in a lot of companies. For most people, the days of staying in the same company for decades are gone with the wind. Instead, people are constantly looking for new and better opportunities. Many switch jobs every two to three years. So, if this boss has 10 direct reports, do the math. How long is it going to be before somebody decides to make a move and she will have another position to fill? 
  • A boss has problem employees and new needs. Darlene is a smart boss and is always evaluating her direct reports. She’s got a couple of problem people. She thinks, “Susan just isn’t cutting it. She’s not a good fit for this job. I want to let her go, but Human Resources tells me that I have to build a paper trail and document her poor performance so she doesn’t sue the company when I fire her.”

She also thinks, “Mark is really great at his work. He’s too good for this job.” Mark is also a problem. She knows, “I need to promote him or I’m going to lose him to the competition.” But then, she thinks, “But I can’t promote him until I find someone good to take his place.”

Darlene also has a potential problem. Mike has been talking about moving to Alaska for years. Maybe this is the year he actually does it. So today, Darlene has zero openings, but in her mind, there are two, maybe three positions that she’s going to have to hire for real soon.


4) New needs may arise. Perhaps the company landed a big contract and Darlene is going to need to staff up fast to handle the business. Maybe the company got hacked or had a public relations disaster. It could be that two major clients have threatened to take their business elsewhere if the service doesn’t improve. If you have the right stuff to address those new needs, you want to be on the short list of people Darlene—and others in the company—will think of.

Since Darlene is an astute boss, she is always going to be on the lookout for good talent. She will want to have a “bullpen” of people she might be able to contact if/when one of her employees is fired, gets promoted, gets grabbed by the competition, or moves to Alaska. She doesn’t want to get caught short handed. 

Persistence Pays Off For Julia

One of my clients (I’ll call her Julia) recently did exactly this—and it paid off. She was hugely disappointed after not getting the job with a company she’d interviewed with in Skokie. But instead of stopping in her tracks, Julia put the pedal to the metal and reached out to people in the company. She contacted the boss who had rejected her. As I had suspected, she found out the boss really liked her, and it was a coin-flip situation between Julia and another candidate. After a number of referral interviews, Julia was on the radar screen of hiring decision makers in various parts of the company. A couple of months later, the boss she’d interviewed with initially called her and asked her to interview for another position that had become available. This time, she got the job.

So don’t take that “no” as the final answer. If you find a company you want to work for, go full speed ahead! Be in touch. Add that boss that rejected you to your network. Keep abreast of what’s going on in the company. Meet others in the company. Become known. Be persistent. You may well be rewarded.

If you’ve gotten a firm “no” from somewhere you’d like to work, it’s not time to start worrying, you can still land a great position with them, all you need to do is stay diligent. But what if you don’t know how to start or even what your next best step is? The good news is you’re not alone… I’d love to help you put together your game plan for bridging the gap and getting your resume front and center for the job you know you deserve.

Click here to schedule a complimentary discovery call where we can discuss what your next best moves should be to get you the position you’ve been searching for:

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