A failed interview does not equal a failed career says Julie Perrine

The application process was a breeze. The initial interview went well. You began to picture yourself working for this company. Maybe you even started mentally decorating your new office. Now all that’s left is to wait for the phone to ring or the email to ding, heralding the arrival of an official job offer.

Except the news wasn’t exactly what you expected, or worse yet, no news came at all.

You didn’t get the job.
You’re not alone. Every administrative professional has been there at some point in his or her career. What matters now is where you go from here, and how you can recognize (and learn from) your experience before your next job interview!

After the Rejection Email
When the bad news comes, it’s normal to have a range of feelings – everything from sadness to confusion to anger. Take a moment (or even a day) to process these feelings before replying back. The key is to wait until you get your tone right so you don’t make things worse.

Once you’ve composed yourself, then you can compose the email. Keep it simple and respectful. “Thank you for taking time to interview me for this position. Please keep my resume on file, and keep me in mind for future opportunities with your company.”

I always encourage people to reach out to recruiters or company personnel on LinkedIn, as well as follow the company pages on your social media platforms. Maintain an “ambient awareness” of what kind of job openings they post, the personalities of the executives and higher-ups, and the general culture of the organization. These steps will allow you to increase your knowledge base and be the first to know about future opportunities.

If the Rejection Never Comes (But Neither Does a Job Offer)
All too often, the company will maintain radio silence after an interview. This can create a ton of anxiety and internal conflict. On one hand, they haven’t said no, so you cling to hope. On the other hand, it’s been a long time, and that hope is fading with each silent hour.

Don’t sit idly by waiting for a call that probably won’t come. Keep seeking other job opportunities. Step up your admin game by working on your professional portfolio. Register for a class or volunteer for an event that you can add to your resume.

I’m often asked if it’s appropriate to connect with a recruiter or interviewer on social media sites like LinkedIn after the interview but before a decision has been made. My advice? Hold off for a bit. If you haven’t reached out well before the interview, I’d say wait until either a decision has been reached or an ample amount of time has passed. You don’t want to look like you’re desperately clutching at an in!

On the other hand, if you haven’t connected with the interviewer online prior to the interview, then let them know as your interview wraps up that you’d like to connect with them on LinkedIn if appropriate. Be sure to follow through and initiate the connection invitation as soon as you can. Don’t take it personally if it’s not accepted right away, though. They might not want to give you the wrong impression either. And it’s likely they will wait until a firm hiring decision has been made.

What Went Wrong?
The biggest question many ask after a failed interview is “Where did I go wrong?” Sometimes, the answer is as simple as “You didn’t.” A more qualified candidate could have surfaced. The company may have decided to promote from their own workforce or relocate an employee from a different area.

Most of the time, however, there’s…something. Something you didn’t have that another candidate did. Something you could have done that you didn’t. Something you shouldn’t have done, but you did.

A great question to ask at the end of every interview is: “Is there anything – from an experience and/or skills perspective – that you don’t see in me that’s necessary for the person who will ultimately get this position?” Their answer can provide insight to their ultimate decision, and maybe even tell you what you need to do to be successful in future interviews.

If you didn’t have the foresight to ask that question in the interview, you’re completely within your rights to (respectfully) reach out to your interviewer after they’ve turned you down for the job. Send an email asking for feedback about the interview, and what ultimately made them decide you weren’t the right person. Some will respond; others won’t. Even if you do get a response, it’s likely to be a bit sugarcoated – most people don’t like cutting others down!

The only thing you can rely on is yourself – your own memories and honest appraisals of what you did (or didn’t) do. Perhaps consider the following:

  • Clothing: Did you dress to impress? Were you neat and clean? Was your personal grooming and hygiene on point? Your appearance is the first thing an interviewer will notice, and it matters! You don’t have to look like you just stepped down off of the catwalk, but it’s crucial that you strive to look your professional best!
  • Body language: Your mouth may be saying one thing, but your body language speaks loud and clear, too. Did you spend the entire interview fidgeting, drumming your fingers, cracking your knuckles, crossing your arms, or visibly fighting with anxiety? You may not have noticed, but you can bet your interviewer did!
  • Interview tone: What you say matters, but so does how you say it. Were you sarcastic? Flippant? Nonchalant when you should have been excited? Bitter when you should have been friendly? The way you say your words counts every bit as much as the words coming out of your mouth. A lack of appropriate delivery in an interview shows that you may not be ready for the executives and superiors you’d be expected to deal with on a daily basis.
  • Preparation: Did you come prepared to knock their proverbial socks off? Did you have a polished, professional portfolio to pass around? Did you do your homework before the interview by researching the company, having a list of admin-specific questions to ask, and finding out exactly what it would take to become the newest member of the team? Remember, an interviewer is interested in finding the perfect fit for the position, not just someone who wants to take home the paycheck!
  • Personal branding: Your personal brand is probably not world famous, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have one. Were your social media pages full of unflattering memes or “colorful” language? Did a Google search of your name reveal some sordid details from a past long since left behind, but never quite forgotten in our digital world? Did your reputation precede you in a not-so-fantastic way? Often, these things are only discovered after the interview – which means you could have been a shoe-in for the job, had you only taken steps to clean up your digital footprint in advance!

What Now?

The next logical question is “Now what do I do?” The solution: keep trying! A failed interview does not equal a failed career; in fact, learning from your mistakes will make you a better candidate in the future!

My three keys to interview success are: practice, practice, practice! Recruit your friends, family members, or colleagues to stage mock interviews, and video your responses to their questions. Repeat this process over and over again until you finally get it right.

I have some personal experience with this tactic. In the midst of the 2008 economic downturn, my friend decided he wanted to leave his job. Mutual friends said he was crazy – with the economy in shambles, why leave now? My friend persisted, and eventually asked me to do a mock interview with him.

He did well on nearly every question, except one: “Why are you leaving your current position?” The words were all correct, but he just couldn’t keep the grumbling tone out of his voice when he answered.

I kept springing the question on him out of nowhere, time and time again. The bitterness persisted, so we continued to practice. And as soon as he was able to answer that question out loud – smoothly, coherently, and with a professional tone – his next interview was successful! Practice truly does make perfect!

Very few interviewers score the job every time they interview. However, a missed opportunity is simply a learning experience. Do an honest self-assessment using some of the tips shared here. Enlist the coaching and mentoring of experienced colleagues who can help you better prepare for more successful interview outcomes. And ultimately you will land the job you’ve been preparing for!

Julie Perrine is an administrative expert, author, speaker, and all-round procedures pro. She is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, a company dedicated to developing innovative products, training, and resources for administrative professionals ... (Read More)

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