I prepared for the interview for weeks, researched the position and the company, tried to anticipate questions, practiced answers to anticipated questions, and spent way too much money on new clothes at Men’s Wearhouse.
I prepared for that interview like it was the last interview I was ever going to have, and told myself that I absolutely needed the job. Then I found out that I didn’t get it. I was devastated, and, honestly, angry and resentful over the lengths I had gone to to get the job.
That night, after I found out that I had been passed over, my wife and kids and I went to a shopping center near our house in Phoenix. While walking through a crosswalk a car passed a little too close to my family, and, filled with a lot of simmering anger, I kicked the door of the car as it drove by. The driver stopped, got out, and probably saw that I was a bit unbalanced at the moment.
The driver left without a confrontation, but it could have been very ugly.I have had a lot of low moments in my career, but that was one of the lowest. It’s never easy when you don’t get the job, but we all have to learn to cope with career rejection–preferably without kicking the doors of passing cars or getting into fights in shopping center parking lots. I am not an expert, but here are some things I have learned since that time:
1. Telling yourself “It was meant to be” or “Things happen the way they are supposed to happen” is a bad idea.
When something doesn’t go our way it’s comforting to say that events occur the way they are supposed to. But in the context of a job interview that takes away the ability to evaluate your performance, your qualifications, and everything that contributed to the outcome of the interview.
If you assume there was nothing you could have done to have gotten the job, and that it was fate, then that logic would extend to your next interview. And no one really believes that. So, don’t assume there was nothing you could have done differently.
Analyze your performance and your resume, but…
2. Don’t analyze too soon. Give yourself some space.
While kicking car doors isn’t a normal reaction, being bitter, angry, hurt, or disappointed is. When you view a situation through the lens of these emotions you are not seeing clearly—and because of that you are either wasting your time, or risk reacting to inaccurate conclusions. Either one is a bad idea.
3. Analyze your performance and your qualifications, not the mindset of the company or hiring manager.
I have sat in hundreds of interviews in my career as a hiring manager. The idea that there is some objective “best candidate” is a false construct. The best candidate depends on a host of factors, and you, as a candidate, will never know them. Spending any time wondering what the hiring manager was thinking is a waste of time. Focus on you, and how will take what you learn to the next interview.
4. Don’t quit.
One week after I kicked that car I posted my resume to a job board, and got a call from a recruiter. That call changed my career, and I am very happy doing what I am doing today.
The temptation to say “it was meant to be” in my personal scenario is high. But I don’t think the path I am on is the only possibility, or that I would have been terribly unhappy if I had gotten the other job. They are two separate roads. No matter what though, don’t quit. If you try and learn something when you fall short, and focus on yourself and not the hiring manager, the economy, or any other external factor you will eventually find success.
5. Don’t lose your temper and kick a car door.