Dave Conrad: Didn't get the job? Do your best to learn why

Dear Dave: I just found out that I did not get a job I really wanted. I thought I was perfect for the job and I am discouraged and somewhat angered. Many people in my department have been promoted to management or have taken higher level jobs. I am starting to think my superiors see me as unpromotable. Maybe I just need to vent, but how can I deal with this? — P

Dear P: I am sorry to hear about your predicament. There are few things worse in one's career than to have your hopes built up about getting a new job and being told you did not get it. But, at least you still have a job and there are many people these days who have been shown the door because of company "downsizing."

There are many reasons why people do not get jobs they believe they qualify for. One thing that comes to mind is someone already has been slotted for a position and the department has to go through a formal candidate search process just to show they are "open-minded" about recruiting and hiring the most qualified candidate. This is a no-win situation, except for the person already picked for the job.

Another reason why qualified people do not get the job they want is they might have come across as self-absorbed and irritating in the interview process. You might think you nailed the interview when, in fact, the interviewers did not see the substance or personality characteristics they wanted to see.

The truth is, people hire people they believe they would really enjoy working with day in and day out. You can have all the credentials in the world, but if people see you as boring, opportunistic, sloppy, or a poor team player, your file is 86ed in a heartbeat.


Finally, interviewers might suffer from a dangerous interview disease called "candidate transference." That's my term, but it explains something that happens all too often. This is when the candidate reminds at least one person on the interview panel of someone they don't like. You could walk in and give a simple greeting and someone might be thinking, "Holy crap! This person reminds me of my brother-in-law and I cannot stand him." End of story.

What you can do

As long as you did not get the job, I would try to find out why not. You could simply ask the search leader what you could have done better to represent your qualities and inquire about what types of things were they looking for you might need to develop. Be prepared for either a fluffy answer that tells you nothing, or a response that is very humbling and hard to digest. I think every candidate should be able to inquire about their not being chosen and what they can do to improve themselves for future job openings.

I think you might need to do a personal autopsy and clearly, honestly and candidly assess your skills and how they truly fit the jobs you are going after. You might find you are lacking in education, knowledge and abilities that would set you ahead of the candidate pack. Accordingly, go back to school for a degree, pick up some challenging work assignments and seriously improve your ability to be productive, work well on teams and get projects completed.

Finally, I would learn how to network like a maniac -- without turning people off or making them very uncomfortable. I would sign up for special projects that might utilize your skills. I would attend company events and converse with people about who you are and what you do. But, I recommend you show an interest in what the other people do, so you don't come across as "it is all about me." I would routinely seek out any company educational offerings and get to know your classmates. They might end up being people that are influential in your future job pursuit.

In summary, when seeking new jobs, we need to level with ourselves about our ability to perform and achieve excellence in the role. Our ability to obtain the job might not rest with just our knowledge and experience, but also with our ability to build relationships and bonds.

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