Career Advice – So You Didn’t Get The Job: What to do next

Feb 3 2011 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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When you’re a finalist for a job, but you weren’t the one picked, what do you do next?

Today’s career advice describes a strategy to continue light contact to remain front of mind for future opportunities with the same company that just passed you over.

You were a finalist for a great position where you were well qualified. You went through the whole process – networked (or applied), sent in your resume, got through the pre-screen, killed the interview, got the ask back, went through additional interview rounds, but in the end the company chose someone else.

At this point, you’re probably disappointed, because you really wanted that job and felt you were a great fit. It’s natural to feel disappointed that the hiring manager preferred someone else.

If you talk to the hiring manager or HR after the decision, it’s ok to let them know you’re disappointed. Don’t dwell on it, thank them for considering you and send a thank you note. But there’s more that a smart candidate can do to stay in the mind of a hiring manager.

Certainly it’s wise to move on to new opportunities. But there are also some ways to continue light follow up that could turn into a surprising future opportunity with a company that didn’t choose you as their top candidate.

The company that just passed you over obviously thought you met the job qualifications, or you wouldn’t have gotten the interview and you certainly wouldn’t have been asked back for round two or more. In most new hires, the actual difference between the candidate chosen and the other finalists is often less than a 1% difference – the winning candidate often had just a slight edge.

There are many reasons that the company that just passed you over could go back to the marketplace looking for someone with similar skills. Here are some typical reasons:

  • The person hired didn’t work out: Recent studies show that 30-60% of company hires are considered mis-hires. While hiring companies keep some of these bout mis-hires, a sizable percentage don’t work out, either quitting or being terminated. The easiest time for most companies to make this termination decision is within the first 90 days. Following this logic, a good percentage of companies are back in the job market within 90 days to refill the same job, somewhere in the ballpark of 15% or more.

    As a prior finalist, staying in touch likely places you as a lead candidate for the replacement position, especially if you’ve continued to build trust with the hiring manager.

  • The person hired moved to another position within the target company: Companies with open positions typically look first to internal hires. If the hired candidate was tapped to fill another position within the company, the company may look to refill the original position.
  • The target company is expanding the number of positions they are hiring: Occasionally initial hires are done to test a new business strategy. Once the target company sees that the strategy is working, the company may add duplicate or closely related positions to build out a team.

Few candidates devote the time to continued follow up with companies that have rejected them, missing out on some opportunities with pretty good odds of hire. Sometimes it’s due to discomfort, disappointment or anger – often it’s simply due to time management choices. The odds might even be better in a new round of interviews from a company that has already rejected you – These companies have already asked the you back, you’ve already begun to establish trust, and if you’ve stayed in touch then you are continuing to build trust.

Here’s today’s career advice about how to follow up effectively after you’ve lost the job. When candidates do try to stay in touch with the hiring managers who have previously rejected them, they typically use one of three methods. One of them is a great way to increase building trust and comfort level begun during the interview process. A second way doesn’t do much other than keeping the hiring manager from forgetting the candidate’s name. The third way is a great way to scare away most employers, causing the hiring manager want to forget you.

Three ways candidates try to stay in touch with hiring managers:

  1. Stalking: Unfortunately, this is how most candidates try to stay in touch with hiring managers. Calling weekly, emailing weekly, taking up the hiring manager’s time, and making the hiring manager and/or HR feel like they are being cyber-stalked. Stalking gives the impression that the candidate lacks common sense, sensitivity, listening skills, and could be a little nuts. Would you hire a stalker?
  2. Just Staying In Touch: Just staying in touch provides no value to the hiring manager, yet the candidate is asking for something in return – the hiring manager’s attention and time. About the only difference between staying in touch vs stalking is frequency. All staying in touch really does is to repeat your name on voice mail/email to the hiring manager once a month. While staying in touch keeps your name in front of the hiring manager, it does nothing to continue to build trust, so the candidate doesn’t improve the hiring manager’s impression.
  3. Demonstrating Value: Continue to research the target company and it’s industry, both through inside contact conversations and publicly available information. Every time you leave a message or email for the hiring manager (about once a month), don’t just say you’re staying in touch. Instead, mention that you’ve discovered some information (best if it’s information about a competitor or large current/potential customer) that the hiring manager will find valuable. Make sure you do have information that will be valuable. Don’t leave the information itself on the message, but do ask to schedule a time for a phone conversation to discuss.

    Even if the hiring manager doesn’t call you back the first time, it’s highly likely that they will after the second or third time – just to satisfy their curiosity about your information. If you’ve done a good job of research and have thought through some analysis to go along with it (in other words, you’re prepared) you’ll impress the hiring manager, you’ll build trust, and the hiring manager is highly likely to return your next message.

    In this way, you’ve got a reason to call, you make it worth the hiring manager’s time to talk to you, you’ve paid it forward, and you’ve built trust with every call. If the hiring manager needs to hire an employee with similar skills to the job you almost got, there’s a high likelihood that they will consider you even before they place an ad – so you’re ahead of the curve

    By demonstrating value as the purpose of each post-hiring decision call, even if you weren’t the second choice, you give yourself a good chance of being remembered – and being considered even before candidates ranked higher during the initial hire process.

Candidates – What tactics do you use to follow up?

Employers – Can you share your career advice on the subject? What’s the best example you’ve seen of candidate follow up after they weren’t chosen for a position? How about the worst? What impression did each make on you?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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