Don't Get The Job

3 Must-Dos When You Don’t Get The Job


You polished your resume and sent it to the right person, along with a stellar cover letter.

You got a call.

You aced the interview.

You were brought back in – twice!

You sent thank you notes after each interview, to each interviewer.

Your follow-up was polite and appropriate.

You were told you were a finalist.

The HR person thought it was looking good for you…

And yet, they gave the job to someone else.

After all that effort and waiting and wondering. After joking with the receptionist about being a “regular” in the lobby. After establishing what seemed like a genuine rapport with the executive in charge of the department. After what the HR person said about it looking good…

3 Must-Dos When You Don’t Get The Job

Yes, it’s a disappointment, but in spite of what you might think, all is not lost. What do you do to maximize your chances of having some good come out of this seeming loss? Here are three things you need to do when you don’t get the job:

1. Be Gracious

Yes, you were obviously the best candidate, at least as far as you could tell. And maybe some of the people on the other side of the interview desk thought so, too. But a decision was made, no matter how difficult. And it’s time to touch base one more time with a thank you to all involved for their time and consideration.

2. Be A Resource, If You Can

If there’s some topic that was discussed and piece of information that the interviewer wished they had, track it down. If the interviewer wanted to connect with someone who you know, offer to make the introduction. There’s not always an opportunity like this, but if there is, take advantage of it.

3. Keep The Door Open

Part of keeping the door open is the thank you and the effort made as a resource. But saying it is important. “If another position comes up – or if the candidate you hired doesn’t work out – I would still love the opportunity to join the team over there.” A sentence like this can cement you in their minds as the backup or as the first person to be called when something else becomes available.

I have personally hired many people who were passed over for the original job they came in for, sometimes for a better position I knew was coming up but couldn’t say anything about. I have also forward resumes of promising candidate to colleagues at other companies for their open positions. Getting the original job is just one good outcome of the job interviewing process. Consider a “near miss” at getting hired one more step in building your reputation for overall career success.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jenny Yerrick Martin

Jenny Yerrick Martin is an entertainment career expert, veteran hiring executive, and the founder of She is the author of, "Breaking into the Biz: The Insider's Guide to Launching an Entertainment Industry Career."


  1. So my situation as well – I got turned down for TWO HR jobs and it left me wondering if it was something I said. First was an inside job when I worked in private sector. They were looking for someone who had a similar experience related to the job. While I had transferable skills, I just have never done one particular thing on the list of requirements. So I asked for feedback because I thought maybe it was something I said during the interview – but it wasn’t. The second was when the govt shut down. I had no idea if I was going back to work (or even when). I landed the interview because a friend told me about it. Funny thing is, she use to work with that manager (as well as my husband). However, the manager hired an internal candidate. I asked for feedback again and she even told me what positions I would be good at based upon my resume. While I am happy with what I do now, I still want to be in HR (the government sector though). For those in this situation, hang in there! ASK FOR FEEDBACK and don’t be afraid to!

  2. This described my situation; I was crushed! One thing that I did that I regret was to stop looking for other work—I just knew I had it! LOL!

  3. We have all been down this road. Be gracious, be a resource and keep your doors open is not enough.
    Most of the time- you have no control and many companies hiring will never tell you the reasons why.

    Some of the reasons why:
    1) Money
    2) Intimidations
    3) Free Consultation
    4) Manager hands off the responsibility to employees
    5) Management lacks the proper experience to make the right decision
    6) Hidden agenda
    7) Management wants you to fix the other fired employee’s mistake
    8) Management has their back against the wall and needs a “hail mary”
    9) You don’t fit the image of their click
    10) You are a perfect fit and more.

    Here are the reasons to get up
    1) Perhaps not getting the job is a good thing.
    2) Learn from it
    3) Update your experience from it.
    4) Revise, revise revisse…
    5) Snap out of it, and get up.

  4. I wonder why they lead people on like that. I have yet to get a second interview anywhere, so I’m still at my current job until I can finally find something more lucrative.

    Part of my problem is that I’m looking in an extremely competitive market, meaning that there are very few middle-class jobs and a lot of educated, experienced people looking for them. If I was trying to work at Walmart or fast food, I could get hired in a heartbeat. But that would be a step down.

    Even knowing that there are more and more people competing for fewer GOOD jobs, they shouldn’t pretend they’re serious about a candidate if they know they really want someone else. Why give people false hope? On the other hand, why would anyone want to work for a company that behaves in such an underhanded manner?

  5. Not too long ago I was brought in on a Monday for face-to-face interviews with the hiring manager and her team at a local division of a large high tech company. I thought it had gone very well, and I was told I’d hear back by the middle of the following week. The hiring manager called me on the Friday after the interview to let me know that they had selected another candidate. However, she said she called to let me know that I should feel good about the interview – that the team thought I would have been great in the position, that I interviewed well, and that everyone felt they would like to work with me. The person they selected simply had a bit more experience in one area and that was all that made the difference. That not only eased the pain of another rejection, but validated that I actually did do a great job of promoting myself. It also left me with a good feeling about the company itself, a feeling that will last for a very long time.

    • This exact thing happened to me yesterday. My interviewer called to let me know that I didn’t get the job and was passed over because the person they chose had 8 years experience in a similar role, whereas I had much lower. They were perfectly happy with everything else and stated that if the chosen candidate had not accepted the job, they would have offered it to me. I was gracious about it even though it stung a bit. However, I was a bit reassured that it was not as a result of something I did wrong.

  6. Very good article. Two comments, I have been fortunate to be the one who was not chosen but because of good advice, I was gracious and thanked the interviewer in a handwritten note for the opportunity for a job that I really wanted. I was hired when the chosen candidate turned the job down. I have also had the wonderfully considerate recruiter who took my call when I wasn’t chosen to interview and gave me excellent feedback on my resume…the information I thought was obvious she said was buried, then explained how to make it better. I am now able to use the information when I send out resumes, share the information with my students and others who come to me for resume assistance, and recognize how to redirect student resumes when I hear what they are looking for in a job.
    (Now, only because of the number of resumes that end up in the trash because of typos, so that I can say “we are all human and make mistakes,” I have to mention two that I noticed 1st “I have also forwardED resumes of promising candidate to colleagues..” and a less known, and almost accepted would be the use of who instead of WHOM, “If the interviewer wanted to connect with someone who you know, offer to make the introduction..”

  7. It is exceedingly rare for companies to tell you why you were not hired. If they tell you anything, it’s usually something like “you were not a fit” or they “found a better match”. Most companies have been told by their legal advisers that to say anything else is to risk a lawsuit even if it’s something like “you came up short in this area or that area”. So, if you hear little to nothing as to the reason for the rejection, don’t blame the hiring manager or the HR recruiter: blame the lawyer.

  8. I was interviewed each for a job at the same company and ended up not getting any of he two positions. When I sent emails to them as follow-up and trying to get an idea about my shortcomings in the interviews, plus thanking them for thanking them for their time and effort, I got no answer. I also expressed my strong willingness to keep trying to land a job there.

    I failed in two interviews and still don’t know what my shortcomings were that were deal-breakers. I think knowing at least the major reason behind failing in an interview can make job-seekers more prepared in future interviews by avoiding making the same mistakes, if any.

  9. Hi Jenny – thanks for the helpful post, and for your insightful comments, everyone else.

    I recently was one of a few short-listed candidates for a position, and unfortunately the runner up. I did call one of the interviewers after having been notified I was unsuccessful, to thank him and request feedback. He was good enough to offer me some, which was very valuable: apparently I was “the preferred candidate” on paper, but I fell short in convincing the panel on one aspect or the job requirements. It was about an area in which I am very knowledgeable and experienced but somehow I failed to explain all the process involved, in order to demonstrate my understanding. I have since reviewed the interview conversation, and either I misunderstood the question, or I assumed my knowledge was self-explanatory and did not address it fully enough.

    In future, I will take that extra breath before speaking, ensure I understand the question (and ask, if not), then explain clearly even those things I may consider self-evident. I was very grateful for the information, if a little annoyed at myself for having missed out this time, and will be better-prepared for the next interview.

  10. I was out of work for almost three years after being laid off from a job I had for seven years. I interviewed over forty times. I had many interviews where I was a finalist. I got a few canned rejection letters. I NEVER got any feedback, any at all, from either recruiters or hiring managers or hr persons. Not EVER. Most of the time I had to call the company or recruiter to find out that I wasn’t selected. Talk about adding insult to injury. “Oh, you? Yeah well, we filled the position.” You feel like dirt, and although I agree you need to move on, that’s about all you can do. My follow ups with articles, friendly emails or anything else were always rebuffed. Honestly, when people treat you that way, you should not give them more of your good stuff, whether it be information or advice. These days people do not send your resume on to other companies or opportunities. I found the job I have now by literally begging a former boss to help me, which she did only after she herself lost a job – two years from the first time I asked. Sorry to be a downer, but if you are at all qualified you are potentially facing age discrimination (if not other forms of discrimination as well – sexism, racisim, etc.) and the desire of employers to cut their losses by paying under-valued salaries to under-employed desperate job seekers.

  11. My comment deals specifically with a scenario where you have been told, or it is implied, that you are “perfect for the job” etc, and then are told someone else got it. I agree with the article that you must be gracious and all, which is just business basics. What I suggest to my clients is after accepting their decision cracefully, you say this: “That’s too bad, I really was looking forward to working at your company/ in this industry. Since there wasn’t a exact match for me at your company could you suggest anyone I could talk to to get their opinions and advice about this field? I am bound and determined to find a good position in this field and have found that talking to new people gives me insight into working in the field” (or something similar, use your own words/style). DO NOT ASK FOR JOB LEADS!!!! Asking for additional contacts for advice and opinions often works (they give you a couple names) because they are feeling a little bad that they didn’t hire you (unless they were totally lying to you about how great you did in the interview). So they are usually eager to help, even if in a small way with a few contacts. Plus it makes them think more highly of you if something should open up at their company in the future. “Never let them see you sweat”…in fact by showing you have the guts to come out and ask them for contacts you come across as a mover and shaker, not a person content to just wait for the next opportunity to come along. You are “making your own wake”.

  12. Eric, Great advice. I personally have obtained positions that I had not applied for using the technique you describe, as well as went back to a number 2 candidate based on their professionalism and follow-up even after not obtaining the original position in which they applied. Great tips!

  13. It is all well and said but in all reality but I am all 3 of because of the Karma I believe it is true. You are one of those rare recruiters that sees beyond the paper but today’s economy is fickle and there is no time anymore for imperfections.

    i been out of work for a over 2 years so my resume isn’t even a fleck on the windshield. I change a few words to get in the search but the question is why and being out 2 years it is looked at that you are not a good candidate anymore. Companies do not want to hire someone who has been out for a long period time being afraid that they will be not be able to perform.

    • Vicky, I hate to say it, but you need to find some sort of job in order to get a job. I realize this makes no sense. After being unemployed for nearly two years, I ended up going back to a job I had years ago that I swore I would never do again (one of those jobs where they hire just about anyone, and everyone who ever worked there before who left on good terms). It is part time and not steady hours, but I feel that I have gotten more interviews and also, interviewers are no longer focusing on things like the gaps in my employment because they see I am working now. I have not yet found the decent-paying, full time job that I have been looking for, but I feel I am a lot closer. Good luck with your job search.

  14. I’m sorry, am I missing something. I see anything about feedback, as two respondents wrote. What I read was–as painful as it might be–being gracious and cementing opportunities for networking and possible employment at the company. It’s happened. Great topic, Jenny.

  15. I have communicated with hiring managers regarding candidates that came in for face to face interviews that did not make the cut for various reasons. I was told specifically why they were not considered. So, I followed the conversation with the question, “Did you tell the interviewee why they were not considered?” The answer surprised me. The hiring manager did NOT offer anything to the interviewee. The first concern is of course legal ramifications. I can hear shouts of discrimination, intolerance, etc.
    The way I look at the process of interviewing, it appears similar to a test. You do not tell the prospect what you are looking for, because they will just parrot back what you said. The result would not be truthful, or genuine. The test subject would give the correct answer without any understanding of the why behind the “correct” answer. Similarly, in the interview process, you simply cannot expect an honest assessment of your weak points. From the employer’s perspective, it simply is not worth the risks.
    We live in an oversensitive society that is afraid to speak truth. It might hurt someone’s feelings. Free speech is not really “free.” Until we can deal honestly (and compassionately and responsibly) with people, I do not see this scenario changing any time soon. As a reminder, the responsibility for our personal improvement is still ours!

  16. I always follow the three do’s you’ve listed. I just wish companies should the same courtesy to its applicants.

    I recently interviewed for a position that was very promising. After three interviews, giving me the required start date, telling me not to take any other job without talking with them first, and being told that I was one of two finalist they asked for my references. After two weeks of not hearing anything, I checked with my references, who told me they never heard from the company. I contacted the company, who has yet to call me back, but I noticed on the website an announcement of their new hire. It’s fine that I didn’t get the position and I know that a company can’t contact everyone, but what kind of company doesn’t contact the finalists and tell them that they didn’t get the job? I mean it was only two of us so you only had to call one person to give bad news. That’s just unprofessional.

  17. Great article with some great advises,but we should also remember that a company that send a reply to a job applicant that was turned down has more consideration for people than those who ignore you even after two or three face to face interviews, and then the need for a lasting connection can be decided.

  18. Many clients do not provide feedback to the recruiter. Hence there is no feedback to provide. In some instances the reasons are illegal and the recruiter makes a conscious decision to refrain from telling the candidate the “real” reason they were not hired.

    I have been told by hiring managers that they only want a certain type of candidate. ie. Young and perky. No foreigners…too fat…

    It’s horrible to think that qualified candidates are being passed up because they have an accent or are over the age of 50.

  19. I went through this cycle several times before getting hired on at a great company. One of the interviewers even went as far as to tell me the positions in question had been “tailored for me” after having had to pass me over for a previous position. A good friend (who happens to be in HR) helped me keep my spirits up and keep looking. She gave me a lot of insight on why things sometimes happen the way they do and why recruiters can’t always take the time to contact every candidate that didn’t get the job.

    The best thing one can do is to just keep going. Don’t let the jobs you don’t get make you seem desperate in your next interview.

  20. High time someone wrote “3 Must-dos for Recruiters” which should include conveying to job-seekers of rejections, and perhaps even state the reasons thereof over telephonic inquiry by the candidates interviewed & rejected.

    While most “experts” harp on the importance of sending out “Thank you” notes / letters following an interview, none mention that recruiters too should convey rejections (preferably with reasons) to candidates interviews. Or am I asking for too much ?

    • Hi, I have been a recruiter for more than 10 years now and – I couldn’t agree more! It gets very frustrating to hear how “the recruiter never called me back”. It can be frustrating to candidates and puts another negative notch in their minds about recruiters. Keep in mind while recruiters do speak with probably close to a hundred or more candidates possibly on one position – if there is an interview or even a phone screen a follow up call to the candidate is not asking a lot.

      • In all fairness, the way it is considered “professional” of job-seekers to send out Thank You notes to their interviewers, it is equally professional of interviewers / HR staff / recruiters to atleast respond to job-seekers who call back after an interview to know what their short-comings are, if rejected. And I am not even saying that HR / recruiters should call job-seekers, but merely be kind enough to respond to calls FROM job-seekers interviewed.
        Sadly, have never read any article from so-called industry veterans who highlight HR / recruiters’ “professionalism”.

    • A recruiter doesn’t work for you, a recruiter works for the organization; whether it is a third party recruiter or a corporate recruiter. Its high time job seekers stop blaming HR, recruiters, or someone else falling short themselves.

      Feedback is apparent in the interview. If one doesn’t recognize that feedback is being relayed to the interviewee by the interviewer’s body language and follow up questions, that person isn’t paying attention.

      • Jordan, I disagree with your last part, a candidate can be perfect in every way but still get beat by someone later in the process or something unrelated to them at all. These items will not come across in body language.

  21. While I agree with the suggestions in the article, I guess it’s high time someone wrote “3 Must-dos for recruiters” as most hiring managers or agencies who short-list candidates on behalf of the hiring company almost NEVER respond to post-interview queries about a job-seeker’s chances of progressing in the hiring process. Having been thru the grind myself, not being told why I am not hired despite going thru multiple rounds of interviews can be highly frustrating. It would help a job-seeker if he/she could get genuine feedback preferably directly from the hiring manager/team on the perceived shortcomings which may after all be a result of a miscommunication. I would have no qualms if my Resume is rejected outright and I am not called for the interview, but having gone thru one, it is only fair that the recruiter conveys subtly (over phone) for rejecting a job-seeker. It is as professional for a recruiter to do so, as it is for a job-seeker to send out “Thank You” notes to interviewers for “sparing their valuable time”.

    • Can not agree more with you. I had the same experience interview went well have the right person for reference but did not get the job send email and phone call to find out what my shortcomings was never received any reply. Very hurt and disappointed.

  22. I had an interview for a contract position at a local company which I thought went fairly well. I followed up with thank you notes to the people who interviewed me. Yet I never heard a thing afterwards.

    I was working with a recruiter, who in turn was working with a local agency that handles the contract jobs for that company. The recruiter would never say who that was, only referring to them as “our client”, but I knew anyway.

    I followed up after a reasonable amount of time with the recruiter, who just gave me the run around, and said they’d let me know if they got any feedback from the hiring manager (Never mind that there were at least three different potential jobs and more than one hiring manager). And that was the last I heard from them. Very frustrating!

  23. Sometimes one can do all the “right things” , and just not be hired. It has happened to me repeatedly for going on 7 years. Just have to keep on keeping on, cross the fingers, and maybe someday ????

    • Thanks for this comment Lake… I am at the start of a job search that I hope will only last a few months… while still holding down my present job. I keep saying, 3-8 months… but I say with every month that passes, it may still be 3-8 months :) But it is nice to hear that indeed I may think I am the best candidate multiple times before I get the next job of my dreams.

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