When the Job Offer Does Not Come

There is no worse feeling in your job search than finding out that you did not get the job. Whether by mail, phone, or email, the message always seems the same (and probably is, since most companies use standard form letters for candidate rejection).

But all is not lost! Before you start papering your walls with rejection letters, consider the following "resurrection" ideas.

The Rejection Reversal Technique

You go to your mailbox, hoping for mail. And there it is. A thin envelope bearing the return address of the company you interviewed with last week. A rejection letter. Not exactly the kind of mail you were anticipating. Rejection can be difficult to bear, especially when it comes from the employer you were interested in pursuing. However, you can use this as an opportunity to grow, learn, and possibly reverse the rejection.

Upon receipt of a rejection letter, immediately call the person who wrote the letter and request feedback. "What was I lacking in meeting your needs?" Then listen closely. If you are provided with a valid area of lacking, take note of it and politely thank the manager for taking time to speak with you. However, if the answer is based on an incorrect assumption, you may have an opportunity to correct the error. For example, if the manager states that you did not have a high enough GPA for their requirements and you simply failed to put your GPA on your resume, you have the potential for a turnaround.

A recent example of a turnaround occurred when a student received a form letter rejection after the company-site interview. She was very interested in the company and had been certain that an offer would be made. When she called to inquire as to the reason, she was told that the position required that the person be available for travel in the first two years. "But I am available to travel. In fact, I would love to travel." Her contact seemed puzzled, but promised to get back to her. When the contact called back, he explained that one of the managers had written on an interview form, "Will not travel or relocate." She explained that while she wanted to reside in the metropolitan area where the company is located and not relocate elsewhere, she was more than willing to travel as needed for the position. What had been a simple interview misunderstanding had almost cost her the position. The company reassessed and made her the job offer by the end of the following day.

As difficult as this call may seem, it can potentially produce excellent results. Minimally, you can learn about an area of deficiency which you may be able to correct for the next employer. Maximally, it can provide you with the opportunity to reverse what would have otherwise been a dead end.

The Isolation Technique

If you are not sure you are getting the real reason(s) from the employer for your rejection, you can test the validity by isolating the specific reason given. For example, if you were told that you were rejected because of low grades, ask, "If my GPA were higher, would you have been willing to consider hiring me?" If GPA is the only issue, the answer will be affirmative. If not, other issues may come creeping out. This technique can become especially valuable when the primary answer is simply a smoke screen for something the employer is not initially willing to share with you.

A recent graduate, Peter, was rejected after final interviews due to what was termed "high salary requirements." So he probed further, saying that he was flexible on salary requirements. "Actually, salary is not the only issue. We also received a rather poor report on you from one of the recent graduates from your school." Ah, the truth comes out! The "poor report" had come from a graduate now working at the employer who had difficulty working with Peter on a team assignment at school the prior year. Peter had not spoken with him in over a year, but it was now making the difference in getting the job he wanted. Peter took the initiative to contact the former classmate and invited him to lunch. Apparently, much of the "poor report" had to do with the classmate's dated view of how Peter would fit into the company culture. Peter used to dress rather shabbily for classes in prior years. All that had since changed, but that was the last image the classmate had of him. Peter brought him up to date on his accomplishments and even convinced him to write a letter of recommendation. Does all of this seem like a lot of extra effort? Possibly. But the bottom line is that that company did eventually hire him.

Isolate the real reason. And change it if you can.

The Kamikaze Technique

A more aggressive version of the Rejection Reversal Technique and the Isolation Technique is to commit yourself to turning the situation around and getting another interview. The Kamikaze Technique works well when you have been closed out at an early point in the process, especially with on-campus interviews that have gone awry.

What happens if you blow the initial interview with Human Resources or some other non-hiring manager? End of the line? Roll over and die? Not necessarily. Try going kamikaze. It's not necessarily crash and burn, although it does help if you have rather daring tendencies to help make it work.

What you need to do is contact the Hiring Manager (not the person you blew it with in the initial interview) and explain the situation. You have already met with the HR person and they have informed you that your background is very interesting, but not what they are looking for at this exact moment. If you sincerely had a bad day (illness, recent brain surgery, dog was dying, etc.), let them know. Valid excuses do count. The key is to let them know that you really want to go to work for their company and you would be willing to fly, drive, hitchhike, whatever, to be there and meet with them, even if just for fifteen minutes. "Would you please give me the chance to prove myself with you personally?" You can even play to what is hopefully a giant "I am the manager" ego with the "After all, you are the Hiring Manager, right?" line. Let them know you truly want to work for their company and will do whatever is necessary to make it happen.

Crash and burn? Sure, it happens. But remember, you have already taken a direct hit. So why not go kamikaze? The results might surprise you.

A recent college grad used this technique to secure a company-site interview after he got the standard rejection letter based on his campus interview. He called the Branch Manager, told him he would be in the Chicago area the following week, and asked for further consideration so that he could show his full experience level, including a recent project he had completed. The manager agreed to bring him in and put him through the paces. He aced the company's aptitude test, impressed the key managers, and had a job offer in hand by the end of the week!

Yes, miracles do happen. Especially when you do your part in bringing them about.

The Second-Place Technique

If you are told that you were "second place" or "second choice" in the hiring process, do not despair or give up all hope. Call the company back in two to three weeks to emphasize again that you are still interested in working there. Why? For two reasons: (1) their first choice may not have worked out (the new hire may have gotten a counteroffer, a better offer, or just plain cold feet), and (2) it keeps you under consideration for any other position or future position that may come available.

The reality is that for every one hired, there may be five to ten others that were told they came in "second place." But if that is what they told you, take them on their honor and give it a shot.

The Squeaky Wheel Technique

One of the more difficult situations in conducting a job search is attempting to move the process forward with a less-than-enthusiastic employer. You can get caught in the waiting game, hoping for the phone to ring. Your job search is your number one priority, but it may be far down the list for the employer. And most job seekers simply give up. Do not include yourself among the quitters. Many jobs have been found through simple diligence and consistent follow-up.

If you have an employer who is unwilling or unable to move forward, continue to make regular contact with them. You may find yourself on a weekly schedule of calling only to hear a "nothing has changed" response. If their interest in you has not changed, but has simply stalled, continue your efforts to move the process forward. It may be at the lowest point that the wheel begins to turn.

An example of this was a college student who did not meet the initial company profile. In fact, she was sent an immediate rejection letter based solely on her resume. She had only an Associate degree, while the company usually only hired Bachelor or Master degree graduates. To make it even more difficult, her degree was ten years old. However, she kept in touch with the employer and asked what she could do to prepare herself for work in their field. They suggested further training to update her previous schooling. After she completed this training, she called back, asking to take the computer-based testing to measure her increased knowledge. She did well, but they still had no immediate openings for someone with her limited skills. Bottom line, she kept in touch with them until an opportunity became available. Instead of starting a search for available candidates from scratch, the employer went forward with the simple solution: they hired the squeaky wheel. And now she is on her way in the job of her dreams. But only because of her tenacity. Her rejection letter proves that "No" does not always mean no. Sometimes it simply means "Not yet."

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All job search information at our site is written by Brian Krueger, best-selling career author and former VP Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon.com. All of our content is unique and only available here at CollegeGrad.com.

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