Just about everyone that has pursed employment in the workforce has been there.
You make it all the way to the interview (or 4th interview) and they have decided to extend an offer to another candidate.
Your first instinct may be to blame yourself, or pick apart all of the previous interviews and determine what went wrong.
There are better ways to spend your time, including preparing for the next interview!
First Things, First
If you are fortunate enough to receive a call or email regarding the decision, ask the interviewer(s) what you could've done better. There are many hiring situations I have been involved with where it honestly came down to experience. Everything else was 100% matched in terms of interview preparedness and overall likability. On the flip side, there have been just as many situations where one detail of the interview gave another candidate the upper hand.
The best way to determine their perspective on your interview is to simply ask them.
If you were expecting them to make an employment decision within a certain timeframe that has passed, we suggest sending a follow up email to ask for any areas of improvement they may have. I should note that you may want to wait until at least one week after that hiring period, because there are situations where the hiring decision is delayed by a few days due to daily operations. You don't want to write yourself off so quickly!
Don't Take It Personal
Your defensive reaction may be to immediately proclaim that one of the interviewers did not like you for some reason or another. Often times that is not the case.
Being on the other side of that table, I can tell you that as an interviewer I am looking at your skills, experiences and how you will fit with the team that I am very familiar with. It has nothing to do with you personally, or my feelings towards you. I have hired people that I would probably not hang out with on a personal level, and I have not hired people that I would love to get to know more. I have to keep in mind if it's a right fit for the company - and you.
Organizations spend a lot of money hiring and retaining employees. If the opportunity or team you will be working with does not seem like a right fit for you, it would be unwise of me to bring you on board to a place where you may feel out of place or bored only for your to leave shortly thereafter. That has a negative impact on your career as well as our organization.
Use the Feedback
Any feedback they may provide is free knowledge and opportunity! Use it!
I was once told that I did not receive a job offer over another candidate because I did not bring a pen and paper to take notes. Our skills, experience and likability were 100% matched. In their eyes, her one extra step of writing notes or having notes on the company is what made the decision for them. The next three interviews I attended I brought a pad folio and a pen. I was later offered positions with both organizations I interviewed with!
I should note that I first researched this practice of notepads to gain more universal feedback after the interview. Keep in mind that hiring managers may all have specific things they are looking for in a candidate based on their personal experiences and preferences, as well as their organizational perspective.
It is hard to be rejected in any situation, but it sometimes helps to reflect on the good that has come after rejection. I have been rejected after an interview, only to end up working with a company that had so much more opportunity and success. Even so far as I have been rejected by previous love interests only to end up with my husband!
Staying positive is crucial during a job search. Networking and attending job fairs can be important, but they can be equally as hurtful if you are speaking with people in a negative light. Many employers are looking for positive, forward thinking candidates that will push through hurdles and rejection.
That is not to say you shouldn't take time to be upset or sad if you are rejected, but take that time and then move on. There's no room for your rejected interview in your fabulous new job!
Have A Lot of Eggs (and Baskets!)
Yes, you can have multiple baskets - fill them! By applying for and interviewing with multiple companies at a time, you make the rejection that much less impactful. You should still use every opportunity to learn that you can. However knowing that your chances of leaving your current employer or moving forward in you career are not relying on one interview can really make handling rejection that much easier.
Be Ready for Opportunity
Overall, understanding that landing a job is a process and not riding on one event can reduce the stress of the interview. Know that there are many opportunities out there, and being rejected is not the end. Maintain a positive relationship by thanking the interviewers, gaining feedback, improving yourself and move on to the next opportunity!