Yesterday I wrote about the importance of being memorable even if you don’t get the job. Today I’m back to talk a little more about rejection. Isn’t it a fun subject? The thought of it makes me wanna record a Harlem Shake video, in which I’ll do 20 (consecutive) seconds of leprechaun kicks.
In all seriousness, yesterday’s post led me to think about one of the most annoying, crappy, and unsatisfying pieces of interview feedback ever given; not because I enjoy wallowing in disappointment, but because it’s something I’ve heard from jobseekers that have been lucky enough to land interviews, but not lucky enough to land the job. Here are the words that make blood boil and question marks circulate:
We went with someone with more experience.
If you’ve gotten this feedback before, you’ve probably thought (at least) one of a few things:
- This is bullsh*t.
- How the hell am I supposed to get the experience if I can’t get the job?
- Why did you bother interviewing me if you were gonna just go with someone that has more experience?
- What quota am I filling?
I could sit here and tell you about how you need to be optimistic and only see the positive, but the truth is sometimes you’re gonna be frustrated. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve never told the world this, but one time I found out I didn’t get a job and I went home and beat up my pillow. I’m talking suplexes, high knees, and uppercuts. (Then I sent them a nice thank you note.)
The difference between how I reacted then and how I’d react now is that I’ve learned to ask a simple question to uncover if “we went with someone with more experience” is the REAL reason I didn’t make the cut, or if it was something else that the recruiter or hiring manager may or may not be willing to share. Let me tell you a quick story that ties this all together.
One time I applied for a job I was confident I’d get, then within 72 hours, I got rejected.
I was tight. I couldn’t understand it nor believe it. Coincidentally, the same person that rejected me for the job was at a career fair I attended a couple weeks later. Rather that passive-aggressively squint in the direction of his company’s banner, I sucked up my ego and walked over to get a clearer answer.
After shaking hands and introducing myself as one of the many that received his pleasant rejection notice, I asked a simple question that changed the way I’ll seek feedback forever:
“I know that you probably can’t go into much detail, but I wanted to quickly understand what specific experience you guys are looking for? I’m still very much interested in working for the company, so it’d be helpful to know how I can better position myself as a candidate in the future.”
In under 30 seconds, he told me everything I needed to know. I learned that this company wasn’t in the business of dream-crushing. It was that they were looking for a very specific skill set applied in a very specific environment. Though it was unlikely I’d get the job I applied for anytime in the near future without working in the type of environment he described, it helped me gauge how his company and similar companies were thinking about talent.
You can take the same question I asked and apply it after you’ve interviewed and gotten the “experience” feedback. It may not work all the time, but all you need is one quality response to help you tailor your approach to the game. And trust me, it’s easier to get information from someone you’ve built a brief relationship with versus replying to some automated message from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The key here is to not try to convince them why you’re still the right person. It’s about your personal and career development as a jobseeker and business professional. You’re trying to turn a “failure” into an eventual success story. He or she should respect that. And guess what?
You just might make yourself memorable in the process.