Next to managing the emotional ups and downs of a prolonged job search, Interview Failure can be one of the most difficult challenges of a job search process. After the exhausting roller coaster of emotions that surround the interview process, receiving the bad news is particularly difficult.

Prior to the Great Recession, hiring professionals were still finding their way through a vast ocean of jobseekers. Hiring professionals and jobseekers alike were trying to find a path through a most tumultuous landscape. I watched as both groups found their footing, sharpened their skills and became adept at new processes.

The date of an interview is circled on a calendar so you remember the important meeting with your potential new employer

Hiring professionals quickly discovered that the plethora of applicants for every opening was a tremendous challenge. Under intense pressure from management to find the best candidates, they turned to technology for help and soon found that the best candidates weren’t always the ones that made it through the filters. They changed their interview tactics, and began to test emotional agility and intellectual flexibility. By every right, they demanded higher and higher levels of polish.

Jobseekers poured themselves into a regimen of preparation. Drilling each other on standard questions, setting up mock-interviews, video-taping their responses, and polishing their elevator speeches. As hiring professionals raised the bar, conscientious jobseekers reached higher and practiced harder.

* * *

Today jobseekers know that an interview is hard won. With so much at stake, and with the intensity of preparation that goes into a single phone call, being eliminated can throw the best of the best into despair.

The one phrase that has not wavered in its value is this:

“You will get a job if you don’t stop trying and you don’t stop learning.”

Jobseekers do not have the luxury of negative thinking. Managing these “down days” and finding a way back to productive jobseeking takes a tremendous amount of self-control and willpower. Here are some tips.

How to respond: 
Here is a list for your consideration.

  1. If you receive the message via phone (usually a recruiter) or in person:
    • Be professional and gracious:
      “Thank you for calling. I’m disappointed but I’m grateful you considered me for this position. Is there anything you can tell me that will strengthen my next interview?” (See the note below on this.)

      “Thank you. I appreciate your help. If there are other opportunities with (Name of Company) in the future, I hope you will contact me.”


  2. If you receive an email:
    A standard message might be something like:
    “Thank you for considering a position with (Name of Company). I regret to inform you that we have selected a candidate that better fits our needs.”

    First, as exasperating as it may be, this isn’t a personal message. There are a host of possibilities that contributute to a hiring decision.

    • As the interviews progressed, the company may have realized that their job description didn’t really match their needs.
    • An internal candidate was selected.
    • Internal “reshuffling” of employees brought up unforeseen considerations.
    • The company put a freeze on hiring.
    • Budgets were cut and the position was reduced to a lower-level opening or a different position altogether.
    • The chemistry just wasn’t right. No one did anything wrong and it isn’t personal. It just isn’t a good fit.

    The possibilities are endless and the hiring professionals are likely as frustrated as you are. I know that doesn’t help, but I encourage you not to take it personally.

    • Email response:
      Thank you for taking time to get back to me. I’m disappointed but I’m grateful you considered me for this position. If there are other opportunities with (Name of Company) in the future, I hope you will contact me.”


What to do next:

  • Take time alone or with trusted friends to process the news.
  • Create a communication plan:
    • Communicate the news professionally and maintain your dignity.
    • Write thank-you notes to the company contacts. Indicate something personal that you appreciated during the process. Keep it short and encourage further interaction. Include your contact information.
    • Use handwritten format for small to mid-sized companies, formal businesses (law firms, libraries, local government, etc.) Use email for large companies, corporations, and recruiters.
  • Identify lessons learned and record changes for future opportunities:
    • Reconsider your dress, mannerisms, and verbiage.
    • Make note of the kinds of question you may not have been prepared for.
    • Track you personal thoughts about your interviewing and review past thoughts in light of the current information.
    • Remain positive, move to the next step in your Employment Action Plan. Stay focused.

Manage your mental traffic:

  • Identify what helps you to manage the internal mental traffic in this situation.
    • Avoid “beating yourself up”. (This is a new skill that takes practice.)
    • Maintain your commitment to the process.
    • Monitor your thoughts and avoid negativity triggers.

    Learn Practice Improve Words 3 Red Dice

    Interviewing is a skill that takes practice.

    Should you ask for feedback?
    Unless the source is trusted, I usually advise against this. If you didn’t get the position and you ask for feedback, the person may feel obligated to respond with some comment that might have been problematic. They might be concerned that a lawsuit could follow…so they may make something up or relay false information that has no credibility. These comments can cause pain and frustration and add unnecessary apprehension in your next interview.
    (I make exception to this if you are in the first five years of your career.)

    Have you been rejected lately?
    Every time you manage a job rejection in a positive, constructive manner, you make significant strides towards getting hired. Interviewing is a skill and most jobseekers need a minimum of two or three sets of interviews to become proficient. It takes several more to become an expert. That doesn’t guarantee a job offer, but it reduces the odds of rejection. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Keep learning. You will get hired.

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