Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater: Turn Job Search Rejection into Opportunity

throw baby out with bathwaterHave you heard this lately in your job search:

“We have decided to move forward with another candidate.”

“Our search has been put on hold.”

“We think you’re a great fit for our company, just not the right one for this position.”

“Let’s keep in touch…”

I know how frustrating the job search can be, and these statements usually take the wind right out of you. Today, we’re going to talk about a few techniques to turn this into something positive — sometimes immediately.


Every Time You Make a Connection in an Interview, Think of It As Building Your Network

All too often, we look at the interview process from a static, linear perspective: submit information, get the interview(s) and either get the job or not. I will grant you that not getting the job is frustrating. But how you handle losing the battle can result in you winning the war. (Like this thought? Tweet it!)

A huge part of the interview process is establishing rapport — winning hearts and minds. Instead of seeing another door closing when you don’t get the job, look at it as another door opening. You’ve worked hard to make a new connection–professionally, sometimes even personally, bonding with the people in the company where you interviewed.

Shouldn’t you capitalize on it?

Here are some pointers on how to do so:


1. They Know You’re Looking… So Ask for Help Networking

If you’ve just impressed them enough to have multiple interviews, they should give you high marks and gladly refer you — but you have to ask.


2. Keep in Touch

Create a system to reach out to each and every person you talk to throughout your job search. This is no different than a sales campaign. The person who isn’t buying today may be ready to purchase (read: hire) tomorrow.


3. Get to Know the People With Whom You Interview

This personal connection will get your calls, emails and requests answered quicker. Frankly, it’s pretty difficult to get any  results networking without making a connection personally.


4. Set Reciprocity in Motion

Find out what you can do for them. Helping someone first is the quickest way to endear yourself to them. This is a super powerful social construct; put it to work for you.


Parting Words

Not getting the offer — particularly after several rounds of interviews — is frustrating, no doubt. But you’ve worked hard to make it this far. In this economy, getting to the first round of interviews is tough enough. So when you do make a connection, treat it like gold. Managed well, these relationships can drive your job search for you.

How have you changed job search rejection into opportunity? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Image: Flickr

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  • Meg Allen

    I totally agree with you on using rejection as a chance to network. Thanks!

  • Scott Kaufman

    Very insightful suggestion that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in print. Great “lemon-aid out lemons” reaction.

    Funny story that relates: I used to work for a top-tier exec who consulted with large companies, flew on corporate jets to attend golf outings, etc. At the suggestion of a friend of his, an exec in transition sent him an email asking for networking help. My boss didn’t want to take the time, so he forwarded to me with a note saying “get rid of her.” Problem was, he accidentally copied her. Oops! (My boss was actually a great guy, and he had never responded like this before. She just caught him on a bad day.)

    He was embarrassed, but what could he do? The offended exec had the choice of not taking herself or the situation too seriously/personally…and LEVERAGING the heck out of my bosses mistake. Given his connections, this would have been a really smart thing to do! Instead, she chose to play the “I’m offended” card. She got to vent…but squandered a chance to turn lemons into lemon-aid on STEROIDS ;-).

  • Bob Maksimchuk

    “Create a system to reach out to each and every person you talk to throughout your job search.” Any suggestions on how to do this that is not labor intensive (e.g. transcribing all the contact information on EVERYONE that you talk to, capturing all their interests, tracking when you contacted them last, when you should contact them next, etc. can consume a great deal of time), easy to maintain and use?

  • Eileen

    We have passed on people and turned around and hired them at another time. Sometimes you have two great candidated and need to make a choice/ But as soon as another position becomes available, that great candidate will be foremost in our minds. Great advice.

  • Vickie Elmer

    Good advice, Kevin, on making the most of a no.
    It’s also important to be clear how much you still want to work for the organization, in a full-time or contract job or even as a vacation or maternity-leave relief. Start with some small project and build it into a full-time assignment.
    Use what you learned through the interviews to target an employer’s growth areas and needs.
    Some people in my network are the runner-up candidates who never got hired. They’re great people – and we still connect seven or more years after they went through an interview and tryout at Newsday and other places.

  • Susan P Joyce

    And, send a thank you! Yes, for rejecting you! It works! Just in case candidate #1 disappears, there you are, top of mind. More information on writing this thank you note:

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  • Norman Reiss

    Great perspective on a situation we all face many times during a job search.

  • Doug Phelps

    Great advice, Kevin. Thanks! I used the process in one occasion that helped me make a new connection and continue my discovery. And, who knows, if the other candidate doesn’t work out…

  • Angela Loëb

    Bravo! I constantly advise clients to take the ego out of a “rejection” by turning the new “contacts” they make during the interview process into members of their professional network. Also, by indicating to them in your own words/actions that you don’t mind being “second choice” and would like to hear about future opportunities, they might just call you back for new opportunities at the company. Excellent advice, Kevin!

  • Don Orner

    Kevin makes another great point. Why not try and build on these connections we have worked so hard to obtain. Making another connection is a wonderful thing. What a great way to showcase your talent by helping someone else. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  • Susan

    No matter how nicely worded, rejection always stings, but it doesn’t always mean that you should hang your head and meekly say, “Okay” and look for the next opportunity. An opportunity is right in front of you, even if you don’t get the job, and you’ve already made a great connection during your interview alone.

  • Sherri

    Thanks, Kevin. This is great advise! And thanks to Susan Joyce for the suggestion of thanking them for a rejection. As someone who has recently been responsible for recruiting, I can tell you these are rare. Remember though, the thank you must be geniune!

  • Denise

    I have a question along these lines. I interviewed for a position within my company. I thought it went very well and was interested in the position even more after talking with the manager. After touching base with HR I was told they were checking my references. About a day later I was told that they were no longer hiring for that position – there were to be two people in the same newly created role. I find it hard to believe they didn’t find qualified people and believe the company decided not to hire because they are being very careful with hiring and having to let people go. I contacted the manager after I found out to thank her again, ask for feedback should the position open again, etc. The email was meet with an out-of-office reply, she was to be out for a week. Because of the vacation and lots of emails, i never heard back. This was a few months back. Would it be ok to contact the manager again at this time?

    • Kevin Kermes


  • Barb Buckner (@BarbBuckner)

    Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater: Turn Job Search Rejection into Opportunity #jobseeker #jobhuntchat

  • Say Hello There (@sayhellothere)

    Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater: Turn Job Search Rejection into Opportunity #jobs