A Graceful Exit
During a job search – possibly many times in succession – you’ll almost certainly face the rejection and disappointment of being passed over for a job. Heck, ‘disappointment’ sometimes doesn’t even come close to describing how that feels. If you’ve been through interviews where you felt like you and the other people just clicked, if you’ve started to imagine working in that job, if you’ve started to picture a long-term future with that company, it can feel like you’ve just been crushed. Compound that many times over if you’re unemployed, already feeling down, and really need the job.
Conversations where I had to deliver bad news like this have been some of the most difficult throughout my career … but of course it’s far worse for the person hearing it. When this happens, whatever you’re feeling on the inside, you have a choice about how you react outwardly. And that’s what I’d like to talk with you about today.
The first thing to recognize is that when this news is being shared with you, the decision has been made, and it’s final. On more than a few occasions through my career, candidates have tried to reopen the decision, to make a second argument for their candidacy, or to see if there are points to negotiate. Some have been outright obstinate or petulant. This will not help you. As quickly as you can, accept the news so you can respond in a way that will reflect well on you and your professionalism.
If you get the news by email, this is easier. You can take the time to get your emotions in check, and keep editing your reply until you’re sure it sends the right message. It’s far more difficult when the news comes in a phone call – especially when you’ve been expecting good news. It can be incredibly difficult to hide your emotions when you’ve been taken off guard and have to respond in the moment.
In either case, verbally or in writing, there are three things a good response should communicate.
First, that you’re disappointed. There’s no harm in letting the bearer of bad news know you’re disappointed. Just leave it at that – don’t argue, don’t plead, don’t negotiate. Remember, the decision has been made.
Second, that you’re still interested, if anything changes. You might be surprised at how often ‘runner up’ candidates get a second shot – usually at a similar job, but sometimes the same one. This is the main reason your response to rejection needs to be graceful and professional; if it wasn’t, you won’t get that second chance.
Third and finally, that you’re open to feedback. We can often learn far more from our failures than our successes. This kind of debrief can be really valuable, often in unexpected ways.
A courteous and graceful exit takes a great deal of self-control, managing your outward reaction despite what you may be feeling inside. It’s difficult … and it’s worth it.