Recruiters love a job seeker with energy and passion. Really, we do. I personally love to see someone with a fire and a drive for the job, for the company, and for his or her career. This energy manifests itself in many ways throughout the interview process. It can come across in a great and well thought out resume filled with exactly the skills, experience and accomplishments outlined in the job description. It can come across in a perfectly written cover letter that offers a hint of personality but doesn’t try too hard. It can be found in an initial phone conversation, when the candidate genuinely sounds thrilled to hear from me but still maintains professionalism. It’s present during the interview process when a candidate takes the time to listen to what I’m really asking and offers up thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful responses. It drives the candidate to ask real and probing questions about the position and the company rather than asking about company culture. It’s there in all of the candidate’s follow-up – energy in the voice-mails, character and professionalism in the emails, personality in the hand-written notes.
But for all of this passion, drive, energy, and near-perfection, sometimes you just don’t get the job. And one of the most difficult parts of the job search can be coming to terms with the fact that it’s not happening. After all, you wouldn’t have applied to the job if you didn’t think you were a great match for it. And throughout the interview process, it seemed like you and that job were meant for each other, didn’t it? And HR, the hiring manager and the big boss all seemed to really love you, right?
It’s so easy for everyone involved to get carried away during an interview process. You start imagining yourself in the job, and your interviewers may have genuinely thought that you were great. But this is no guarantee of anything. You don’t know how many people they’ve seen, and you don’t know how they felt about the other people they interviewed. The danger, and I’ve certainly gotten caught up in this myself, is thinking that you’re home free. Until you have an offer in your hand, you have to believe the odds are that you’re not getting the job. And do you want to know something? It’s nobody’s fault. It’s not your fault for not being a good enough candidate. It’s not the recruiter’s fault for not getting to understand your skills and experience deeply enough. It’s not the hiring manager’s fault for making unimaginative hiring decisions. It just happens. And if you’re in a serious job search, it’s probably going to happen more than once.
That doesn’t make it any less frustrating or any less discouraging. It’s a mini-trauma every time you don’t get a job (and the trauma can be magnified by recruiters who don’t give you information in a timely fashion, thus unwittingly leading you on.) But it doesn’t have to be a tragedy. First of all, you need to know that it wasn’t you. If you made it through HR to the hiring manager it means you weren’t a bad candidate. It means that you had the basic qualifications and culture fit, and it’s likely that the hiring manager just “clicked” better with someone else. And it’s not the company’s fault. The people involved made what they felt was the best hiring decision for the company and the department – there was no malice, and just because you think you were the best one for the job doesn’t mean that you were. The blame game doesn’t help – it just gives you an excuse to wallow in pity and victimization rather than getting on with your life (which is what you need to do).
So instead of blaming, take the time you need to recover – take a day off from your search if you need to and go the beach, watch some TV, chase a few butterflies, whatever you need to do in order to unwind and refresh. Then realize that it’s for the best that you didn’t get that job – it means that it wouldn’t have worked out and that something better for you is right around the corner. Now go get back on that horse and do it all over again. Because one of these times it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be worth the wait.