Position Yourself as a Great Candidate Not Just for the Job You Are Applying For

We've all been there: waiting for the phone to ring with the job offer you expect. The company culture felt right, you clicked with the hiring manager, and you've mentally rehearsed giving notice. But then the phone rings, and you're told thanks, but no thanks. It's hard—and you will feel shock and disappointment. But once you can put that aside, you can still position yourself as a strong candidate for the next open position at that company. Here's how.

How to position yourself

Be prepared to respond to a no

As hard as it might be, don't let yourself become attached to a job opportunity before it's yours. Keep applying for other positions—after all, something even better might come along! It's best to keep your brain on the job market (think of it as the equivalent of "playing hard to get" on the dating scene). When you're told no, stay strong, and politely thank the hiring manager for the opportunity to interview. Wish the company the best, hang up the phone, and then scream, curse, or call your best friend to vent. Just make sure to leave the hiring manager thinking about your professionalism and maturity—and wondering if they made the right choice.

When the time is right, follow up

After two or three weeks go by, if you are still interested in the company, send a follow-up email to your primary contact. Reiterate your appreciation for the opportunity to apply and ask for your application to be kept in mind for future openings. You can also ask for feedback about your application—whether they can shed any light on what would have made you a stronger candidate. In today's litigious climate, you probably won't get a response to this, but you never know. You might elicit some useful information. Perhaps you were slightly under- or overqualified for the position. Maybe an internal candidate emerged at the last minute (they're hard to beat). Or you might glean some useful tips for improving your presence in an interview.

It's a good idea at this point to connect with the hiring manager or recruiter on LinkedIn, if you haven't already. Not only does this show there are no hard feelings, but also it gives you an easy means to check in with them from time to time. It's also common for hiring managers to share news of open positions with their networks on LinkedIn.

Two to three weeks after the rejection is the right amount of time to follow up. You've given yourself time to heal—and, if the first choice didn't pan out, you could be a great solution to a sudden problem facing the hiring manager. If your ego can cope with knowing you were the second choice, you might find yourself with a job offer at this point.

Stay in touch with your contacts

In the months to come, if the company still interests you, reach out from time to time. Perhaps you've seen an article that would interest the hiring manager. Or maybe you want to simply check in with the HR manager to share an updated resume after earning a new certification. You don't want to check in too often, lest you seem like a stalker, but you can also work to stay top of mind. It's OK to reach out periodically to find out if any new opportunities have emerged.

Get involved in your industry

Often, the best way to get a job is through your professional network. Find ways to rub elbows with company employees at industry events. Perhaps you can develop a relationship outside the workplace by volunteering together for a professional association. By nurturing these types of connections, you're more likely to hear about open positions before they're posted, and you might have a new friend to slip your resume to the hiring manager.

Rejection is tough, but it isn't necessarily forever. Play your cards right, and you might just end up with the job after all.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market