How frustrating is it to get to the final round of an interview process, only to find out that you were the runner-up? While it might make a lot of people say that you should be thrilled you made it that far, the reality is that you didn’t get the job !
When I was a recruiter, I had to let a few candidates I really like know that we were “going in another direction”—and I hated it because there were confidential things I wanted to tell them, but didn’t feel like I could.
1. The Hiring Manager Decided Not to Hire Anyone
I’ve been in countless meetings that went something like this: We’d narrow our list down to our top two or three candidates and feel good about the possibility of hiring one of them.
Then, a few days later, we’d reconvene and the hiring manager suddenly decided that her budget was too restrictive, and that she’d be better off pausing the search. This was frustrating for me as a recruiter, but was even harder for the candidates to understand.
But there wasn’t much I could do, even though we were down to a handful of people we really liked. And because the search got put on pause, there wasn’t anything that the top candidates could’ve done differently.
2. You Were Qualified—But Someone Else Had a Little Something Extra
In another search I lead, I advocated really passionately for someone I thought would be excellent. And the hiring manager agreed, except there was one major problem—the other finalist had a bit of experience that we didn’t call for in the job description, but was clearly something we knew would be incredible for this position.
Of course, that was great news for our company. But for that person I was originally pounding the table for, it was the end of the road—and I had to make the unfortunate job rejection call to someone that to this day, I’m sure would’ve been amazing in the role.
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3. You Weren’t the Right Fit for the Manager
The unfortunate truth about getting rejected is that even when you match every single bullet point on a job description, there are things the hiring manager’s looking for that are difficult to describe in words.
And in those moments, he or she might end up saying no to someone who’s a great fit on paper. And in those cases, that meant the person who was perfectly qualified ultimately got a rejection call from me. I promise you that those were some of the most difficult calls I had to make as a recruiter.
I wish you weren’t in a place where you felt you had to read this article, because that would mean you were getting an offer and not coming in second place for that job you want. But as much as you probably want to fight back against this reasoning—“It’s impossible to compete with people who are overqualified!”—it’s not worth your energy. (If you’re thinking easier said than done , Career coach Melody Wilding shares tips on getting through that rejection .)
While there’s a lot you can control when you’re job searching, there’s also a lot that you can’t. Even though accepting that can be hard, it’s so important. Because odds are that you’re awesome, and talented, and worthy of a great job.
So sure, take a day or two to sulk, but then think about what you liked about the role—as well as what you didn’t. Then use that information as you look for your next opportunity. I know it’ll be awesome.
Photo of person on phone courtesy of Klaus Tiedge/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author