Recently I’ve had several conversations with friends, colleagues, and a couple of nieces and nephews who’ve made it to the final cut of a job candidacy, only to learn, after several rounds of interviews, that the other applicant was hired. Their reactions have understandably ranged from disappointment to frustration to resignation (okay, with a couple of double scotches mixed in).
But even though these reactions make complete sense, they’re not likely to help advance friends and family members toward their ultimate goal of landing that great job. Instead, here’s the approach I recommended they consider:
Immediately send a thank-you note to the person(s) you interviewed with, telling them that…
1. You’re sorry you won’t have this opportunity to work with them, but you’re glad you had a chance to learn more about the organization and the terrific work it’s doing;
2. You hope and expect that the person they hired will do a great job for them, but that if for any reason that person is unable to take the job, you’d still be very interested in working with them; and
3. If another opportunity opens up with the organization, you’d love to be considered and would be happy to make time to speak with the appropriate person.
Why is this a smart strategy? Because…
1. You want them to think good thoughts about you rather than feeling guilty about the fact that they didn’t hire you. If your demeanor in your note is upbeat and cheerful (as opposed to how you’re probably really feeling right now!), they’ll think you’re really cool and that they’d probably really like to work with you.
2. Lots of times the first hire doesn’t work out, but people are afraid to re-contact the second person who was considered and offer them the job, on the assumption that they’ll be ticked off that they weren’t first choice. Although this may be true, you’ll want to quickly move beyond that. This way, it makes it okay for them to call if hire #1 turns out to be a disaster (or takes a different job, which has happened a gazillion times among my colleagues).
3. If they know you still have positive feelings about the organization and they have fond memories of you despite the fact that they didn’t hire you the first time around, they really are likely to think of you if something else opens up, or recommend you to colleagues if they hear of openings. This is just part of building your professional network, and you want to turn the situation to your long-term (if not immediate) advantage to the extent possible.
It’s never fun to be rejected, but it’s most certainly a regular part of every career. So we might as well make the best of it when we can, and use our oh-so-gracious response to help position ourselves for future opportunities.