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Building Bridges One Interview at a Time

One of my clients recently asked if she should write a thank you note to a potential employer after her interview. Everyone knows that the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes”. But this situation had a twist – the employer had just emailed to let her know that she hadn’t been selected for the position. They had in fact, chosen another candidate. She wondered how she should respond or if the situation even warranted a response at all. What is the right thing to do in this situation?

Job hunting is tough. It can be long, exhausting, and emotional work.  But it is also bridge-building work.  A lot is made about the notion of not “burning any bridges” in the workplace. But bridge-building is just as important. It means looking at every interaction you have professionally as one in which a bridge is being built. Sending a thank you note even when things didn’t turn out in your favor is an important bridge. It’s a way to transform a rejection into an opportunity.

Having spent nearly 20 years in human resources and recruiting, I’ve seen all sorts of things. I’ve had a candidate accept a position and then decline it the day before their scheduled start date. I’ve seen a top candidate remove himself from consideration at the very end of the process because he didn’t feel he was a good fit for the firm. Or there was the time the seemingly perfect candidate moved to the bottom of the pile due to an unflattering reference check. I’ve also seen candidates passed over for a vacancy, only to be called back weeks or months later to interview for another role in the company. In each of these situations, the # 2 candidate quite unexpectedly moved to the front of the line. And how did they get there? By walking across a bridge.

So how do you build that bridge of opportunity?

Learning that you didn’t get the job can be disappointing and ego-bruising. Most people won’t write a thank you note after they get rejected and this is one of the very reasons you should do it.  You will immediately stand out, and that’s always a good thing in a recruitment process. Your thank you note should be gracious, brief, and leave the recruiter or hiring manager with a positive impression of you. You can also take the opportunity to reiterate your continued interest in the position or in the company. You can politely ask them to keep you in mind for future openings. You may even ask them if they’d be open to connecting with you on LinkedIn. And most of all, thank them for their time and consideration.

The thank you note is not the time to express grievances or to demand to know why you were passed over. You also shouldn’t solicit feedback about your interview. There may be any number of reasons why you weren’t hired. That doesn’t matter much at this point. What does matter is that they remember you as a classy, professional, and engaged job candidate.  

That door that just closed may creak open again when you least suspect it.  And if that happens, get on that bridge and start walking.

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