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Keeping Your Emotions in Check During a Job Search

July 17, 2010
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Let’s face it – we all like to win. It’s part of how most of us are wired and for some of us - it becomes a score-card. Losing is, well, never fun. Especially - when your emotions are in play during a job search. You go through the entire interview process, meet your (potential) future boss and members of the search committee (some include employees you will likely manage). It feels right and you feel very good about the entire situation. All you need now is for the phone to ring to let you know – you won!

Yep – just if you could only get the offer out of the way you could begin planning for your new job, environment and a fresh start. Mentally you are there. It’s sort of like counting your strokes in golf – standing on the green just before you make that final putt. And then you miss. oops!

The phone rings and you can hear the word I'm SORRY the callers tone. “I’d like to thank you for your time” blah, blah, blah – but my client has decided to move forward with another candidate. You freeze. Mentally you are saying to yourself – WHAAAAT? How could that be? We connected in every way and they liked me. I don’t understand. WHY is the next question? All of the sudden your emotions take a different turn and you need to be careful on how you handle the news.

Make sure you think about the following before you react to the news:

· Relationships MatterYou have a natural tendency to become upset with the search consultant that you have been working with. Don’t. Trust me – it’s not their fault. The employer (hiring manager and the interview team) decides who wins and who does not. You don’t want to burn a bridge with the search firm by displaying your emotions. They will either call you back on the next opportunity – or they won’t. I recommend you keep strong relationships with people that are genuinely trying to advance your career. BOTTOM LINE: Don’t shoot the messenger!

· It Ain’t Over Until it’s OVER – Blue Ribbon winners don’t always work out. Yep. There all sorts of things that can go wrong post offer/acceptance. The candidate that accepted the offer could still turn the other cheek and accept a counter-offer. Family situations could change and all of the sudden the successful search has the potential to blow up at the very end. Make sure you have handles yourself in the most professional way possible – and you may get another call with better news!

· Follow-Up With a Thank You Note - You heard me. Gwen Darling agrees. Even if you don’t get the nod, be gracious in the way you handle the news. Remember, the client, their team, the search consultant and their team invested their time and energy in interviewing you, talking to your references and other activities to support your candidacy. Let them know that you appreciate their interest. It’s amazing to me how some candidates revert back to their childhood behavior and just “lose it” and let their emotions get the best of them. Not smart. NOPE!

Losing is never fun – I get that. Losing and then tanking your reputation and future chances with a search consultant or their client is well…like losing twice. That’s dumb. Really dumb!




Great advice! And so difficult to follow sometimes! I've spoken with "rejected" candidates who were literally in tears (both male and female) because they were 100% sure they just missed out on their "dream" opportunity. And we all understand that it's hard to keep the faith when college tuition, an overdue mortgage, and just basic living expenses are knocking on your unemployed self's door. The good news is, though, when I circle back around with these passed over candidates later, 9 times out of 10 they've landed a better fit, and are now convinced it all happened for a reason!

Joe - I love your instructions on how to convert your loss to a win - attitude is absolutely everything!


Great feedback Joe! And yes, I agree, we (recruiters) are very cool people! In the end, if you are in the final slate of candidates being presented, you have a 33% chance of getting an offer (and that's a high % in total). But, if you don't get the nod, you have to keep on swinging the bat until you get a hit. Period.

Gwen - Have you hugged your recruiter today? I too, deal with candidates that do not take bad news very well. The best way to deal with bad news is to try to learn the reasons why an offer was not extended and to walk away with a few nuggets to take to the next dance.

Great stuff guys!

You've really nailed blogging! You consistently share advise that you'd clearly give your best friend. You set a great precedent regarding being consultative, direct, honest and succinct in all of your blogs. This is another one of those great posts. Thank you for putting the energy into sharing your experience and thinking.

My take on losing is complementary to yours:

1) One should only engage in a search that appears to be an interesting and worthwhile career fit. That enables the candidate to genuinely engage in research about the position. That takes multiple forms and I'll leave it to Tim to elaborate on best practices on that topic. Bottom line here is that, even if you lose the position, you win as a result of the learning and relationships you built in the research, discovery, and energy that you put into the social side of the search.

2) No matter how competitive you are, the odds are against you. If there are more than two, fully qualified or strong candidates, each will be a better fit from different frames of reference. This is another career learning opportunity. Did the winning candidate have a skill or knowledge that you didn't? Specific career experience is one such form of knowledge, and includes role responsibilities that you may be able to develop. Go back to your day job and look for opportunities to up your game. If you can get paid to become the more attractive candidate, you've converted your loss into a win.

3) Patronizing aside, without exception, recruiters are seriously cool people. Their personalized career feedback, if you can listen to it, will improve your performance at your next search. With everything that's going on in HCIT and Healthcare Reform, recruiters are very busy serving their clients today. It's highly likely that you will get calls back, on either the same search (per Tim's it aint over guidance), or on their next ones where you're one of the better fits. This is a win-win. The recruiter already knows you, both on paper, by interview, and from feedback from their prior candidate. You already know the recruiter, you know how well they prepared you, and how professionally they ran the search.

Don't interpret a lose as a lose. That leaves you looking at the floor, rather than to the horizon.