When the Job Offer Falls Flat
After a lengthy job search, you’ve connected with an organization that fits you like a glove. You respect the company, the people and you know the industry. Everything is fitting together perfectly.
You’ve met several times, have gone to lunch with the Managing Director and have been introduced to the executive committee. Your resume has been vetted through the Board of Directors and you hear positive rumblings.
You are feeling positive about an imminent job offer. You are even planning your daily commute, mapping out your first 90 days on the job and imagining that dream vacation with your family.
Then the job offer falls flat. They’ve selected someone else.
Time and again, I see this outcome deflate the most confident and accomplished executives. Here are a few things to think about as you plan your next steps.
- Understand who the company is hiring. Companies hire you and your networks. The company is evaluating your access to companies, clients, regulators, and other stakeholders that will benefit the company. As business author Harvey Mackay says, “The closer you get, the deeper they’ll look.”
- Understand the strategic value of references. It is estimated that 25% of references will be negative. Know what your references will say about you, because even if they agree to be your reference, there is no guarantee they will provide a stellar evaluation. Back-door references can be problematic when a former employer sabotages your credibility.
- Understand that another candidate came into the selection process toward the end, perhaps an internal candidate or someone who is better connected in the industry.
- Understand the executive team, who they are, their backgrounds, how you will complement the dynamics of the team. This is challenging, but good investigation and professional sleuthing will help.
- Understand that hiring decisions at the executive level is a collaborative effort—everyone has a stake in the decision, from sales, marketing, operations and customer service. It is possible that the hiring committee disagreed on your candidacy and majority votes won.
There are many variables that are simply out of your control during this process. Although from your perspective, it is highly personal, understand that the selection process is less about you and more about the company and its specific challenges.
Develop Your Action Plan:
- Follow up with a letter to the firm, expressing your appreciation for their time. Let them know you remain interested in the firm and if anything should change, you are open to a future conversation. Keep in touch with them because turnover will create new opportunities.
- Have a look at who they hired. What does this individual bring to the organization? How does his or her value proposition differ from yours?
- You can ask for feedback; however, understand you will not often get helpful feedback. Companies are not willing to risk potential legal action if a candidate doesn’t like what they hear.
- Know who the decision-makers are. Ask for a proactive reference from a former boss or mentor providing specific evidence of your credentials and abilities.
- Understand specific challenges which may only be known among the executive committee and the board and they may be looking for someone with unique skills that they are simply not willing to publish in a posting or with the recruiter.
Information is power and if you can uncover the real challenges in the organization early in the process, you can prepare to address them at every step in the selection process.
Not every company will hire you—in spite of your impeccable credentials—so plan to pursue several companies simultaneously. The more companies you target, the greater the chances of success. Job searching is a numbers game and as famous former hockey player, Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Think back to a time when an expected job offer didn’t come through. Which of the actions suggested above would have made a difference to the way you led your job search?
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