I got turned down for a job for the first time ever, now what?

Believe it or not, I heard this phrase uttered to me several weeks ago by a friend and former co-worker in my days in the hospitality industry. Now 29 and a recent college graduate with ambitions of graduate studies, this aspiring corporate drone had an opportunity for a full time role with benefits, a competitive salary and job security.

The scene was set and the script was written. Unfortunately, he got the proverbial:

“We decided to go another direction with this role”
“We really enjoyed speaking to you but we chose another candidate that more closely matches the requirements”
“Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, if we feel there is a fit we will reach out to you.”
“Unfortunately, we did not feel your skills matched well with the requirements of the role.”
“Insert your own rejection correspondence.”

Don’t fret. No reason to shed a tear. He is still currently on contract with a very reputable firm with the potential for full-time conversion in his future.

He was very disappointed to say the least. The responsibilities sounded challenging, the benefits were very competitive and this was a company that pursued him. To think, just out of undergraduate studies and a large global company was seeking him out. This is a dream come true. Unfortunately, after he clicked the ruby slippers three times, he was still in the middle of an economic global meltdown.

What advice could I give him? I should have words of wisdom as I am the seasoned veteran and I sure did.

I said, “Get used to it. This is the first of many rejections you will receive. Be happy you got some type of feedback, even if vague and take away the confidence that you were aggressively pursued and you got some great interview experience under your belt”

Each interview is an audition but it is also an eight week course, mid term, final and feedback all wrapped into one afternoon. It is the rarest of educational experiences and one we should take advantage of anytime we can get it.

Let us break this down for a moment. You get a call for an interview and now the steps to assessment begin:

1. Time to study – Learn about the company, the job, roles and responsibilities, culture, benefits, growth and challenge.

2. Practice – Whether you video tape yourself being interviewed, or answer questions in the mirror or do a mock phone interview, you should rely on a friend or family member to run you through a simulated interview.

3. Impression – Whatever the culture of the organization, your first impression is critical and should be business professional. Pick out the right outfit, time your pre-interview prep and ensure you are certain where the interview/assessment is being held and plug it in that GPS or smart phone.

4. Nervous energy – If you don’t have any, either you have been doing this too long or you have veins of ice. Expect some jitters. You are competing with top talent against a specific requirement in a difficult employers market.

5. The hunted is the hunter – Take advantage of YOUR time during the interview. When the assessor asks you if you have any questions, pounce on that chance. Challenge the interviewer with non- traditional questions about the business, challenges of the role, long term expectations and if you have ideas to grow the business, share them.

6. Waiting, waiting, waiting – You may be the first of many to interview or the last. There may be budget approval process issues, the team may be indecisive about how you did or many other reasons that could delay the process. The entire time you are waiting by your phone. Now that we are all mobile, that part isn’t as bad. Be patient. No news truly is good news.

7. Feedback – This isn’t exactly like giving the teacher an apple, but the thank you email, card or call can put you over the edge. If you are neck and neck with another candidate, the right business “thank you” could give you the slight edge to get you over the finish line first. Make it short, powerful and spelled check.

8. Grow from this. If you get an A for the course you celebrate. So if you get the job then we can break open the bubbly (unless they low ball you on the offer). If you did not, never take it personally. This is business. Walk away knowing you were one of only a select few even chosen out of potentially hundreds that applied. Being in the top 1% or 5% is better than being in the bottom 95% to 99%. You have already won by getting this audience.

Will my friend be ok?

Of course he will. He may have been down for a few days, but I can see his confidence level rising knowing he had such a reputable company seek him out for a role that he would have loved. More will come in time and when the right fit is found, he will have a long and successful career.

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