Rejected candidates: here's what you need to do
Every middle manager trying to make it up the corporate ladder has experienced this common range of emotions at some point in their career. Middle managers are in a tough place. On one hand, you’ve proven yourself as professional, competent, and hard-working - many of the crucial professional development goals for managers. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been promoted so far. So as you apply to more senior jobs, your first thought is that getting the next promotion will be as easy as the others. But my 30 plus years of experience tell a different story.
As you rise in the managerial pyramid towards the top, getting promoted becomes harder and harder. And naturally, the interviews do as well. So there’s no need to get down on yourself if you’ve been rejected recently. Statistically, this happens more often than not. So should you just give up and remain complacent in your middle management position? Well, that’s up to you, but for those who really want to ace that next interview, you’ve got to find out what happened after you finished the interview and closed the door behind you. This is part of the professional development goals for managers who want to get promoted. Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but based on my experience, at least one of the following happened:
1. Your interviewer couldn’t really pin down why you’d be the best person for the job.
I don’t mean that you forgot to send in your resume or that you couldn’t answer the basic interview questions. I’ll give you credit for that. But consider this: did you demonstrate passion for the position? For example, did you move beyond portraying yourself as qualified and show how the position fits in with your professional philosophy? This clearly shows why you’d be the best person for the job. Other candidates might have the same (or better) qualifications than you do, but your interviewer was left wondering why YOU.
2. Your interviewer wasn’t sure what extra value you’d be bringing to the table.
After you left the interviewer’s office, the interviewer began writing a summary of the interview. While they were able to check all of the boxes - education, years of experience, decent performance reviews - there was still something missing. Other candidates had brought up special projects they’d initiated or recognition they’d earned for exceeding targets. But your interviewer couldn’t recall anything outstanding about you. And unfortunately, this kept you off the shortlist for any further interviews.
So armed with this insight, what should your game plan be if you want your next interview to go well? My first piece of advice is to answer the two questions above. They are critical to your being able to sell yourself next time. Without both answering these questions and then formulating how you’d integrate the answers into your next interview, the cycle of rejection will just continue.
Next, once you’ve done this homework, approach the interviewer and flat out ask them why they’ve decided to continue with the other candidates (and not you). Yes, it’s extremely uncomfortable, especially with your tail between your legs, but you’ll derive a couple of immediate benefits. First, you’ll be showing that you’re open to constant learning and improvement - a must for today’s super competitive environment. Second, you’ll be gaining crucial insider information about how senior members see you - not something that necessarily comes out in performance reviews or casual conversations. This information, along with the self-analysis I described above, will help you power up for the next interview opportunity.
Being rejected for an interview - especially after you’ve come this far - can be a pretty tough experience. And because of this, many middle managers decide to shy away from future advancement opportunities. But if you’ve got your mind set on climbing the corporate ladder, knowing what happens once you leave the interview is your key to success.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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