Most often, a job search rejection is an emphatic “No.” But sometimes, “no” can mean “not now” or “I’m not sure yet.” How you handle rejection can make the difference in turning  “no” into an offer. The key is to react in such a way that gives the person rejecting you a reason to re-think their position.

walking out the door – Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

At the end of an interview for a sales position fresh out of college, the hiring manager told me, “Unfortunately, we don’t have any needs right now.” I responded: “You will at some point. And when you do, you know where to find me.” I was hired two weeks later.

Alan Carniol, founder of Interview Success Formula, shared a story with me from the other side of the table. He needed web marketing support and was looking for part-time help. The choices came down to an outside agency and Juan. He chose the outside agency to give him greater flexibility. But when the agency couldn’t start immediately, he had Juan fill in on an interim basis.

When the agency was ready, he nicely told Juan goodbye. As Carniol related to me:

Juan was disappointed and suggested that if things didn’t work out with the agency that I could begin working with him again. I offered one better, suggesting he spend a few hours that month reviewing the work of this new agency to make sure they were on track, and to keep me posted. 

Three days into working with this new agency, it was obvious their work was not up to standard. So when Juan emailed to ask how it was going, my response was pretty clear…

Carniol hired Juan.

There are a couple of lessons here.

For the hiring manager:

  • Keep your options open by treating everyone with respect and fairness, and letting them know what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and why.
  • Leverage interim resources to keep you from jumping to the wrong choice just because it’s more convenient. This way you can take your time, think things through, create more options and have a lot more confidence in your final decision.
  • Manage transitions with care, making sure not to burn bridges you don’t need to burn. This is particularly applicable to people to whom you are rejecting. You never know when your first choice won’t work out, or when circumstances will change and you need to activate more than one of your options.

For the candidate:

  • Do great work all the time – in permanent and interim roles. Even if the permanent role ends, you never know when you’re going to bump into people you worked with or for again. You also never know when they’ll recommend you to others. Interim roles are often really extended interviews. Bring your “A” game every day.
  • Manage rejections with care, making it as easy as possible for people to change their minds. Make them sorry to see you go. Make them think “what a great person” and give them an excuse to keep in contact with you, contact you again, or for you to contact them. Keep in touch, respectfully, so that when things change (and they will), you’re top of mind.
  • Invest in your own onboarding to keep yourself from being part of the 40% that fail in a new job.

This is a good example of step 1 of The New Leader’s Playbook:  Position Yourself for Success

There are several components of this including positioning yourself for a leadership role, selling before you buy, mapping and avoiding the most common land mines, uncovering hidden risks in the organization, role, and fit, and choosing the right approach for your transition type.  (Including an interim role.)