Interviewing is emotionally draining on all varying levels. Something, in my opinion, that can be even more emotionally crippling is getting that rejection email after 5 great interview rounds letting you know that your dream company is going “in a different direction.” You read it, you sit there, and all of that time researching, prepping, rehearsing seems like a waste of time for you and them.
In the past year, I have been at that exact position more times than I would like to admit (5 times to be exact). The most heartbreaking one is the time that I interviewed at an advertising company in Philadelphia for the most perfect job that felt like it was created for me. After SIX rounds of interviews plus a real-time assessment of how I would manage a project, I received the rejection phone call (and email) a day before I was officially let go from my first and only big girl job of 6 years due to the dissolvement of my department directly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing prepares you to be hit back to back by two life-altering phone calls that ultimately negatively impact your life.
Let me tell you how being rejected by my dream job a day before being let go hit me worse in the moment, and continued to change my approach in the long run.
You see, through those 6 rounds of interviews, I would always end the interview with my favorite question.:
“Is there anything about my work history, resume, or this interview that would cause you to pause on hiring me immediately for this position?”
This question allowed me to be excited for the best answers and prepare for the worst thus allowing me to prepare a proper argument as to why I would be the best fit for this role. I knew that if they said I had all the qualifications (and more) that I was one step closer to landing that job.
Now, if they answered truthfully, they would be specific and clear about what they wished I had in order to make me an immediate hire. If they were honest about the fact that I was missing one special skillset, or the one extra year of experience they wished I had, then I would at least be prepared for the reality of where I stood.
In the hundreds, yes you read that right, hundreds of interviews I have been on…this question lets me know where I stood within the interview process. It takes courage, but the payoff is huge. Not only can you manage your expectations, but have a very truthful answer to what the next steps might be to best match similar positions.
The only issue with this question is this:
Your interviewer does not answer honestly. That is where you are again at risk of being blindsided by that rejection email.
Out of the 5 dream jobs that I thought would be perfect for me, only 1 answered it completely honestly. The hiring manager let me know that she wished I had more concentrated experience in email marketing. She let me know that if my 7 years of work experience focused on only email marketing, then I was the perfect candidate. She appreciated my ability to juggle and lead so much, but they were looking for someone with a niche in email marketing. In the moment, I was able to provide real examples that could possibly combat my lack of specialized experience in email marketing. The hiring manager was impressed by the maturity it took to ask such a tough question. Thus, she was inspired to answer honestly.
After we finished talking, I understood that I most likely was not advancing to the next level. A few days later, I was not surprised by the rejection, albeit it did not hurt any less.
No one likes to be told that they lack something, but if it better prepares your future self, I’ll take that over being told I was perfect and I had everything they were looking for. I wouldn’t have to deal with the days (or weeks) later of hopeful anticipation that I landed the role only to be slapped by an ugly “we have decided not to move forward …” email.
I encourage those that are in the interviewing process to ask this question during each of your interviews. This question will give you a better insight into yourself, how the company and its employees deal with honest reflection, and it will better prepare you for the news that you will eventually receive after the interview, whether it is great or disappointing to you! We all know rejection hurts and that pain is very real, especially when your career is on the line and your bank account is getting smaller, but know that when you land that job, it will be that much sweeter.
Good luck from your fellow interviewee!