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No Thank You Might Not Mean Never

What to do when you don’t get the job – it starts with being proactive

don't get job proactiveIt’s always disheartening when you don’t get the job. Particularly if it was your dream job and you were one of the final candidates. Yes, it’s OK to be disappointed – even angry and hurt. But don’t let your feelings get the better of you.

Even more important don’t take out your anger on the employer. You know what they say about not burning bridges. There are many ways that you can be proactive in your approach even after they’ve offered the job to someone else.

Just be sure that you’ve dealt with your emotions before you start.

“First and foremost, take a minute to grieve. Especially if it was your dream job, your first reaction is going to be sadness, anger, frustration, etc. and you want to allow yourself a chance to get it out,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. “Once you’ve calmed down, THEN it’s time to follow up with the employer.”

Lida Citroen, personal branding expert agrees, “It’s important to maintain your integrity and personal brand, look past the short-term disappointment, and turn the negative into a positive for future job opportunities.”

One way to show how gracious you are is to send a thank you note. While everyone knows you should send a thank you note after a job interview – the majority of people don’t bother. So sending a thank you note when you don’t get the job makes you really stand out in a good way.

That’s why many career professionals suggest doing just that.  “Even if you didn’t get the job, they still took their time to speak with you, and it is common courtesy to thank them for the opportunity,” says Citroen.

Ronald Kaufman executive coach and author of Anatomy of Success agrees, “Let them know you appreciate learning the status of the job opening. Repeat your strong points as an employee. Always leave the door open.”

“If you’d like to be considered for future opportunities, say just that,” suggests Fell “If you were one of the finalists for the job, there’s a good chance that they’ll keep you in mind for other possibilities in the future.”

One thing most career experts don’t recommend is asking why you didn’t get the job. Why shouldn’t you ask? Most experts say you’ll probably never really know. There are many possibilities. Maybe someone else just interviewed better. Maybe you didn’t click with the hiring manager. Generally, if you do get an answer from HR it will be only a vague response because companies are afraid of litigation.

In some cases asking may work against you.  “Never ask why you didn’t get the job.  It could put the hirer on the defensive and make them feel uncomfortable, pretty much ensuring that they won’t contact you about other possibilities,” says Kaufman.

Others disagree. “In order to learn from this experience, it’s important to find out why they decided to go with another candidate,” says Citroen. “Whatever the case may be, in order to see if or how you can improve, it’s important to determine why you weren’t the top pick.”

Dream Job or Dream Company?

Even if this position didn’t work out you never know what the future may bring. There is always the possibility that the person who was hired may not work out. It does happen. More likely however, another position will open.

The secret to staying on their radar is to nurture the connection. Make sure you get the email addresses of everyone you meet during the interview process so you can contact them later, whatever the outcome. As long as your follow-up doesn’t develop into stalking it’s OK to stay in touch.

“Read publications that pertain to that company’s industry, and with well-timed and polite ‘conversational’ messages, forward the person articles of interest,” suggests Dawn Rasmusssen career expert and founder of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. “If you see their name in a publication, clip the article and forward it to them to say, ‘Wow- congratulations!’”

Rafe Gomez, The Rehirement Coach, refers to this practice as sending cheesecake – something sweet, appetizing and irresistible that will be of value to the person. “The cheesecakes could be news of a solution that you delivered or made possible, a blog post that you’ve written about an industry trend or development, original research you’ve done, a new customer success story, or new business that you helped to close,” says Gomez. “The best cheesecakes are concise, infrequently delivered, and offer highly interesting info about your exploits.”

It’s important to also consider whether it was the job or the company that attracted you. If your primary goal is to work for XYZ Company you need a strategic marketing plan. Connect in person whenever possible. Many industry associations have monthly meetings – go and be visible. Find out where the people in your target companies hang out online and connect with them through social media.

“You should also start drinking the social media Kool-Aid to show interest in the company, “says Rasmussen. She recommends that you  1) Follow them on LinkedIn  2 )Look up their company’s Twitter handles and follow them 3) Like their Facebook page and 4) Find out where they blog and make positive, helpful comments.

The important point is to never give up particularly when you’re targeting a particular company or companies. The job market changes daily. Company needs change frequently as well. As Rasmussen says, “If you really want to work at a company, you aren’t going to let one ‘NO’ turn you away from them forever, right?“

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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