When you are not the first choice for your dream role, it is all too easy to shut down all those hopes and dreams that had gradually been developing. If they don’t want you, then more fool them, why should you spend any more of your energy wondering what might have been? Emotions are high, and it is all too easy to fire off a terse email or become monosyllabic if any direct feedback is given over the phone.
Bridges are all too easily burnt at this crucial point.
The simple fact is that most offer stages are in still in the balance for a while after you have heard those fatal words “we won’t be pursuing your application further.”
The successful candidate could have multiple reasons to renege on their offer at some future point. They might decide that the commute is too onerous. They could accept a counter-offer from their current employer. Maybe they only end up working for a week, but they decide that it isn’t for them. These and many other reasons are improbable enough that you shouldn’t pin your hopes on them, but they are possible enough that you should assume that you still have a glimmer of a chance (and behave accordingly).
When you get to the final stages of any interview process, there is often little to separate the candidates in any case. All will have their strong points, and just because you are “second choice” doesn’t mean that you would do a second rate job. I can honestly say that some of my most successful placements were initially rejected, only to eventually secure the role for various reasons.
You need to keep your emotions in check, but this is far from simple.
It all comes down to rejecting the assumption that the employer doesn’t think you are any good if they don’t offer you the job. Assumptions are dangerous in any event, but they are especially dangerous when you know so little about the other party (as is often the case with potential employers).
This is where a decent recruiter can help to take the sting out of the “thanks, but no thanks.”
HR professionals have to say “no” more than most in their day jobs, but when it comes to hearing “no” about themselves, it is surprisingly hard to take. I dislike the phrase of “keeping a candidate warm” because the other candidate might not have firmly accepted, but as it is often the case that these things don’t go exactly to plan, I am a firm believer in remaining positive until the process has reached its definitive conclusion. It is surprising how quickly a “no” can turn into a “yes,” but only if a candidate is able to keep their emotions under wraps.
This advice equally applies to me as I live and breathe the search with each candidate, and no matter how many times things have turned around in the past, it is always a struggle to get past that “no, really?” moment when the rejections come along.
You have to get past it though. Offers follow rejections more often than you would think.