Interview Rejection & the “Springboard Maneuver”

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  Remember the little train from the classic children’s book “The Little Engine That Could” that chanted these hopeful words as it tried so heroically to climb the steep mountain?  Well, that’s kind of what the economy feels like to me so far in 2010.  While we’re not over the mountain (or more appropriately, out of the valley) quite yet, by any means, the market continues to show a few glimmering signs of life.  I’m seeing this both in terms of the spike in interviewing activity many of my clients have reported lately, as well as the data revealed by recent articles like this one here (don’t get fooled by the headline; read further) that suggest some fresh job creation is taking place in the marketplace, as well.

The interesting corollary of this trend?  If you experience a boost in your interview opportunity rate, than statistically speaking, you’re also bound to experience a corresponding uptick in your interviewing rejection rate.  Or to use a baseball analogy, the more swings you get to take at the plate, the more likely it is you’ll hit a home run — but the higher your strikeout totals will inevitably be, as well.   Just ask Mark McGwire.  He’s got 583 of the former and 1,596 of the latter!  So while we could certainly stop and celebrate the the latest batch of folks who have landed new assignments, including 5-6 of my own clients who have knocked one out of the park in recent weeks, this blog post is actually aimed at those of you out there who have experienced a few extra strikeouts lately — and who may have “come close” on several opportunities, but who still haven’t nailed one, quite yet.

In particular, I’ve got a sneaky lead generation strategy I’d suggest for any of you who put your heart and soul into landing a particular job opportunity, but don’t end up walking away with the prize.  Sure, the rejection news is going to sting at first.  And you’re going to feel resentful of the fact that you spent 10, or 20, or 30 hours preparing to knock the employer’s socks off, with nothing ultimately to show for it.  But when this happens, all is not lost.  Before you throw away all of your preparation notes and squander all of your positive momentum, ask yourself whether there might be other employers in town who might be interested in the material you’ve prepared — and where all of the research and preparation efforts you’ve conducted could be fused together into a compelling, confident marketing pitch.

For example, I had one client the other day who had interviewed for a position with a retirement home — unsuccessfully — and who was particularly upset because she said the industry seemed like such a great fit for her skills and interests.  Understandably, she was also a bit perturbed about the fact that she’d spent several days conducting research on the industry and that all of this time/effort was now going to go to waste.  My advice, of course, was to springboard off of this apparent “setback” by immediately tracking down a list of all of the other retirement homes within striking distance and hitting them up with a message such as the following:

“Dear XYZ Company — While this note may be a bit out of the blue, I’m writing to see if you might have interest in setting up a short conversation in the near future.  At the present time, I’m interviewing for an administrative management role with Acme Retirement Home in Bellevue, and my preliminary discussions with them have convinced me that this industry would be an absolutely terrific fit for my talents and one where I could make some significant contributions.  What’s more, my preparation for these discussions with Acme has included a pretty thorough research effort on the local senior housing market that has revealed some interesting facts, trends, and market data.  So in the spirit of exploring all of my options, and not putting all of my eggs in a single basket, I thought I’d reach out to a few other local retirement homes, such as yours, to see if you might have any suitable needs for a person with my qualifications — or would be interested in a quick cup of coffee, at the very least, where I could share my research findings.  If you’d be interested in setting up such an appointment, I can be reached at…”

Now granted, if you’re a stickler for the truth, the part of the letter claiming that discussions with the one retirement home are still ongoing isn’t 100% accurate.  But if you’re willing to stretch the facts a little, or better yet, try to initiate some of these discussions with competitors BEFORE you receive the “final word” from the initial employer you’re chatting with, this name-dropping element can be a real attention-getter!

Just today, in fact, I debriefed with a client who had prepped his butt off for a hiring conversation with a well-known local consulting company, but unfortunately was told he didn’t have quite enough leadership experience under his belt for the target role in question.  Rather than squander his preparation efforts, however, I encouraged him to recycle the data by using a site like LinkedIn to isolate 20-30 other local consulting firms — and then to reach out to these firms to capitalize on his momentum before his research got stale and the positive aura from his current interviews wore off.

So if you haven’t used this “springboarding” technique before, yourself, you might consider adding it to your repertoire.  It’s a great way to maintain the momentum of your job search and to immediately shift your focus in a positive new direction in those frustrating (but inevitable) situations when you get rejected for an opportunity you were really jazzed about.  Since silver medals don’t count for much in the job search process, at least compared to the Olympics, it’s a great way to make the best of a bad situation!

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