One of the tougher parts of my job is giving bad news to the ‘almost’ candidate. You may have been one yourself: you’ve progressed through multi-stage assessment, made it to shortlist, acquitted yourself well and, more often than not, have the credentials to perform in the role. However, given the hirer’s specific needs, you were pipped at the post and missed out on that exciting next career step. For both giver and receiver, discussing this news is unlikely to be the highlight of their day!
For the candidates involved, it’s an unavoidable feature of these processes that there’s only one ‘yes’ and a number of ‘not-this-times’. So, if you’ve been shortlisted but missed out on a role, be reassured that this is unlikely to be the result of a glaring shortcoming in your candidacy. While there were likely to be candidates with greater role alignment, meeting with a Board or hiring manager is itself good evidence that you were seriously considered for appointment.
Although easier said than done, it’s useful to not take these outcomes personally. This is particularly difficult given the absence of information you, the candidate, have about other candidates, making it hard to contextualise your credentials against fellow shortlisters.
It’s because of this that I recommend seeking feedback from those leading the process. A good recruitment consultant will offer feedback in person or over the phone (in this and many other contexts, nuance is often lost via email). This is your chance to hear frank feedback as to how you presented and how, subject to privacy constraints, your credentials stacked up against others in the process. In committing to a process to the point of shortlist, you’ve earned the right to comprehensive feedback, so do take the opportunity to seek out a consultant’s insights on your performance.
You’ve earned the right to comprehensive feedback.
The feedback will help you to sense check your career plan. Are you, for example, a generalist, or are you after a technical leadership role? Was the role aligned with your goals? How was your interview technique? After receiving feedback and reflecting on the process, you may feel differently about where you’re heading career-wise and what it is that drives you professionally. I and my colleagues hear from many candidates for whom these reflections are a welcome silver lining to a disappointing process outcome.
This engagement may also encourage broader thinking about your career. Do you need to take advantage of other development opportunities? Did you miss out on the role because you needed exposure in another sector? Or did the role place an emphasis in an area that wasn’t your speciality? Again, now is probably a good time to reflect on where you’re heading and what (if any) development opportunities could work for you.
I encourage shortlisted candidates to capitalise on their involvement in an appointment process – regardless of outcome - and maintain ongoing contact with their search consultant. Given the benefits of keeping in touch with well-performed and active candidates, a good consultant will also be keen to keep you on their radar.
While I have a system for remaining engaged with former candidates, I certainly appreciate it when they reconnect. This is because I meet a lot of people and it can be difficult to maintain contact with them all. It also demonstrates proactivity and a commitment to authentic networking.
While you may worry about coming across as too eager, or even pushy, it’s likely that your ongoing contact will be a welcome benefit to both parties, providing you with useful insights and market trends.
So, next time you’re pipped at the post, take heart and make the most of an otherwise disappointing outcome. Obtain feedback and, if necessary, review your career plan in light of this information. If you have further queries, engage with your search consultant - they are well placed to provide support.
Nicholas Buck is a senior consultant at Sheffield, and can be contacted here. Nicholas' original article can be found on LinkedIn here.