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How to Turn an Interview Rejection into a Job Offer

Even if that coveted position seems like a lost cause, stay the course. By taking steps to demonstrate that you’re a consummate professional, you can position yourself for a job offer even when you’re not the candidate they initially chose to hire.

How to Turn an Interview Rejection into a Job Offer

With upwards of 60% of new hires failing within 18 months (and often within the first few weeks), you need to make, and continue making, a stellar professional impression, starting with your resume and LinkedIn profile, all the way through to your interview followup and post-interview rejection communication.

You might be thinking, “Wait, you expect me to put myself out there even after I’ve been turned down for a job?” Yes, and we’ll get to the why and how in a minute, but first, I want to share how one job candidate earned herself a second chance in my interview chair.

After collecting input on the vital competencies needed for a key customer-facing role at our firm, creating and posting our job description, wading through the flood of resumes to select five prime candidates and heading up those interviews, I narrowed it down to two.

It was a really close call, but I extended the offer to the candidate whose experience was the most direct match for our needs. She gladly accepted, though it quickly became clear that this was not a match made in heaven. Fortunately for me, my new hire felt the same way and gave her notice in less than two weeks.

This left me with a decision about whether to reevaluate the candidates I’d rejected or invest more resources into reposting the position and going through the process all over again – never something an HR pro really wants to do. So, I went back to my paperwork and notes on the candidates whose hopes I had recently squashed and was reminded of an awesome interview thank you letter I’d received from my standout runner-up (something you can learn to do yourself in Send a Killer Interview Followup Letter).

By sending that post-interview note, my runner-up made me feel confident about calling her in again to talk about the role. It turned out that while the runner-up didn’t have as much direct experience as my initial hire, she exuded potential and enthusiasm and once hired onto our team, she proved to be a fast learner who lasted longer at the company than I did.

By returning to our runner-up, we not only kept talent sourcing costs low and lessened the time-consuming hiring cycle, but we also found ourselves part of a trend. According to LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions, Insights Into How Small Businesses Hire, 80% of small businesses have found success hiring for potential instead of experience alone (something to remember the next time you’re second guessing whether to apply for your dream job).

If you’ve gone through a grueling interview process only to be rejected, here are a couple of examples and tips on how you can turn that shut out into a job offer.

A fellow hiring manager recently shared an applause-worthy proactive approach to turning the tables if you’re initially rejected for your dream job. Not long ago, this hiring rep had gotten a call from a candidate she’d interviewed to whom she’d not extended an offer. This candidate didn’t ask that lame question, “Why wasn’t I hired for the role?” which no recruiter or hiring pro yearns to answer. Instead, this standout candidate informed her former interviewer that her career goal was to excel as a fill-in-the-blank, and Acme Corp. was her top choice firm because… Then, the rejected job seeker asked what skills or areas of experience she could work on to make her a more desirable candidate when a similar position opened up at the company in the future.

Boom. Well done. What the rejected candidate didn’t know when she made that call to her former interviewer was that the supposed superstar Acme Corp. had initially hired wasn’t working out as they’d hoped. By demonstrating a determination to improve skills and add value to the company, the initially rejected candidate earned an invitation to discuss the role again with the interviewer, which snowballed into an offer for the job she had previously been passed over for.

So, even if you get that call or email letting you know that they’ve extended the job offer to some other lucky son of a gun, at least make an effort to wish the powers that be the best with their new hire. It also couldn’t hurt to reiterate that in a handwritten note or email, adding that while you wish them the best, you’d love to hear from them if their initial choice doesn’t work out. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

And if you’ve ever doubted the value of a strong resume to open doors, even doors that were sealed shut, then stop doubting. For full disclosure, this job seeker was one of my resume clients, and in a blush-worthy recommendation she shared, “…[my resume] made me feel and sound so much like a rock star that I was actually called in to interview for a position even though they received my resume AFTER they had hired someone else… They told me that my resume stood out so strong that when they decided to replace their new hire, I got the call to interview, and I got the job.”

By making sure she had a resume that truly exemplified and quantified her value and accomplishments, this job seeker/opportunity maker positioned herself perfectly to replace a recent hire who wasn’t living up to expectations.

So remember, by learning not just how to act, but how to live as a consummate professional, you too might be able to lead your very own career coup.


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