-by Jaclyn Westlake, Founder of The Job Hop
There’s no way around it: getting rejected from a job is the absolute worst. Whether you made it to the final round of interviews or never heard a peep from the recruiter, you’re probably struggling to figure out what the heck went wrong.
Losing out on a job you were really excited about is a total bummer, but it could also be a golden opportunity for growth. Taking time to reflect on where things might have gone wrong will undoubtedly make you a better, more confident job seeker and interviewer.
Ready for a little honest self-reflection? We’ve rounded up seven probing questions that’ll help you get started.
#1 Was I Actually Prepared?
This’ll look different at every stage of an interview process. If you weren’t granted so much as a phone interview, you’ll want to take a long, hard look at your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and networking strategy. Is your resume customized and error-free? Do all your public profiles and portfolios accurately reflect your most relevant qualifications, and are they consistent with each other? There’s nothing more confusing or discouraging to a hiring manager than to see a candidate position themselves differently in a resume and online – what’s the truth, they’ll wonder? Did you take the time to craft an engaging follow-up e-mail when you tracked down the recruiter’s contact information? Did you even find out the name of the hiring manager?
If you were able to score an interview (yay, you!) but didn’t land an offer, you’ll want to reflect on your preparation for any phone calls or in-person meetings you participated in. Did you provide compelling, well-thought-out responses to your interviewer’s questions? Did you prepare thoughtful follow-up questions? Were you 110% ready to chat about how beautifully your skills and experience match up with the opportunity?
#2 Was I Realistic?
It’s entirely possible that there may have been a gap between your expectations and the reality of the position. Sure, it’s great to apply for jobs that’ll challenge your abilities, and you should absolutely do your homework on competitive salary rates, but is it possible you weren’t totally reasonable?
Did you ask for way too much money? Only want to work from home? Need four weeks of vacation within a month of your start date? Were you actually qualified for this job?
#3 Did I Really Understand the Role?
It’s obviously not possible to know the role you’re interviewing for inside and out (that’s why you interview, duh) but cultivating an in-depth understanding of the job description will help you to ask compelling questions and enable you to highlight your most relevant transferable skills.
Were you able to speak to how you can make a tangible impact? Did you understand what would be required of you? Did you make a point of highlighting your most relevant experience?
#4 Was I Legitimately Excited About the Company?
Recruiters and hiring managers love to find candidates who really get their company. Demonstrating a genuine enthusiasm for the organization or its mission will score you some serious brownie points.
Did you research the company, the CEO, and your future boss? Were you able to articulate why you wanted to work for this particular organization? Did you expand on why the mission resonates so strongly with you?
#5 Did I Present Myself Appropriately?
There’s a reason some anonymous job search genius said that you should dress for the job you want; that trick actually works! Look, we aren’t saying you need to get a blowout and a brand new outfit every time you interview (although if you do, we’re sure you look fierce), but you should take the time to research the dress code prior to every interview. Showing up in an outfit you look and feel great in will give you a serious confidence boost and help your prospective manager envision you in the role. Looking sharp can go a long way.
So, did you take the time to scope out your prospective employer’s typical employee attire? Did you set aside enough time to get yourself ready and show up on time feeling confident and unrushed? If you don’t feel like your interview presentation game is on point, consider treating yourself to a new outfit, shop a friend’s closet for something more appropriate, or ask your bestie to help you figure out what to wear next time.
#6 Did I Even Want This Job?
Be honest: did you phone it in because you didn’t really want this job? Were you wary about the commute? Lukewarm on the hiring manager? Feeling a little meh about the industry? It’s possible that the hiring team picked up on your uncertainty.
If you just weren’t that into the role, it’s pretty likely that your lack of genuine interest hurt your chances of landing an offer. And for good reason! Why would a hiring manager want to bring a lackluster candidate onboard?
#7 Was I Clear About My Intentions?
If you really wanted the job, did you put it out there? Don’t leave your prospective employer guessing when it comes to your interest in an opportunity – tell her in no uncertain terms that you’d love to move forward. It’s as simple as saying, “After learning more about this role and your team, I’m even more interested in this opportunity and would be eager to move forward in the process. What are the next steps?”
If a hiring manager is deciding between two equally awesome candidates, chances are she’s going to go with the one who asked for the job and demonstrated a genuine enthusiasm for the role. Make sure that candidate is you!
#8 Would I Hire Me?
In light of these questions, did you truly feel that you put your best foot forward? If the answer is yes, great! Maybe this one just wasn’t meant to be. But if upon further reflection you know you could do better, that’s OK, too. Now you know what you’d like to do differently and can take steps to prevent the same mistakes moving forward.
#9 Now What?
Getting rejected – regardless of the reason – is the worst, but now that you’ve taken the time to reflect on where things may have gone wrong you can take action on the areas you want to improve. Does your resume need some updating? Get to work! Do you need to get more proactive about researching the company or understanding the role? No sweat – just build in some study time before your next interview. Are you feeling a little shaky about your interview skills? Ask a trusted friend or colleague to run through some commonly asked interview questions with you!
No matter what your answers to these questions are, don’t be too hard on yourself. Finding the right job is no easy task – it can be a grueling process, and it’ll probably take some time. We know the right job is out there, waiting for you to find it. But in the meantime, why not leverage the experiences you encounter along the way to become an all-star candidate?
You’ll get ‘em next time. You’ve got this.