It’s a great day in anyone’s job search: A recruiter calls with a new job opening. You hear the details and get excited—it’s sounds like exactly what you’ve been looking for! You go to the interview, hit a home run, and leave the building feeling pretty confident that you’ll hear from them soon.
Two days later, you do—and you hear that they’ve chosen another candidate. Wait, what?
The majority of job seekers would be bummed out, then shrug it off and move on to the next job application. But, not so fast. Not getting a position you want is still an opportunity to get your foot in the door for future opportunities, plus a chance to learn more about yourself as a prospective candidate. If you didn’t get the job you were gunning for, take these four steps to turn your disappointing situation around.
Do Some Reflection
After a few days have passed, try to step back and assess the situation. Were you not the perfect fit for the position? Was the employer seeking a certain qualification or skill set that you don’t have?
Also think about your interviewing skills. What did you do well—and what could you do better next time? Were there questions that tripped you up, or experiences you should have highlighted but didn’t?
No, it’s never easy to rehash the experience, but taking the time to see what you can learn will only benefit you. You’ll be more aware of how you can improve as a candidate, and you’ll be able to apply that knowledge to future interviews.
Now, reach back out. Even though you might not want to think about them ever again, you should send a follow-up email to your interviewers, 2-3 weeks after your interview. Thank them for the opportunity to apply, acknowledge their decision to go with a different candidate, and ask that they keep you in mind for future openings. This lets the employer know that there are no hard feelings and that you’re definitely still interested in being considered in the future.
Also include a line that could elicit feedback—for example, “please let me know if there was a concern or question regarding my candidacy.” This way, without appearing defensive, you let them know that you’re open to learning more about why you weren’t a fit.
Ask for Feedback
That said, it’s rare that an interviewer will tell you directly why you didn’t get the job, but if you’re working with a recruiter, she should. Make sure you connect with her after the interview and ask for specifics on why you weren’t chosen. Maybe you need more education or an expanded skill set, maybe you could improve upon your interviewing skills, or maybe they really liked you, but just didn’t think the position was the right fit. In any case—you’re better off knowing, so that you can refine and hone potential weaknesses, gaps, or mistakes you’re making during the interview process.
Keep in Touch
If you’re really interested in the company, and think you might be a fit for future positions, don’t be afraid to periodically keep in touch. A few months after your interview, send an email to HR or the person you interviewed with to check in and see if any new positions have come up, making sure to include any new experiences or skills you’ve gained in the meantime. If you don’t have any updates, that’s okay—include an article you think they’d find interesting instead.
Remember, timing is everything. If you’re staying in touch with someone, it’s easier for them to keep you in mind for new job openings as they arise.
Whether or not you’re chosen for the job, the most important thing you can do as an interviewee is to stand out from the pack. And by showing that you’re interested in the company long-term and that you’re continuing to improve your qualifications—even when you didn’t get the job—you’ll do just that.