The Interview Snafu

How to turn someone else’s mistake to your advantage

Your dream job is about to become reality. A recruiter gave you the heads up about the perfect position at Humungous Conglomerate, Inc. You went through five interviews as well as a battery of psychological tests mandated by their HR department. You passed everything with flying colors and the hiring manager told you that you were a lock for the job. Dreams of a 30% salary increase were already dancing through your head.

And then came the call. You picked up the phone expecting to hear congratulations and instead the words coming through the receiver were, "I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but we messed up."

It turns out to be a snafu on the part of the recruiter as well as the hiring manager. Company policy is to post all jobs openings internally before going outside and this wasn’t done until just a few days ago. Someone from another department applied for the position and got the job today. Your dream job, stolen! This is so unfair!

How you respond now is critical. You can take the easy way out and be bitter and angry. Scream at the recruiter about how he wasted your time and how you’ll never work with him again. Sit at your desk and stew about the lost opportunity and how far behind you’ve fallen in your work. Do any number of non-productive things out of frustration.

Or you could think long term and turn this disappointment into an opportunity to help your career.

You’ve always wanted to work for this company and now you’ve got your foot in the door. Not only have you made a good impression on the hiring manager and HR director (and whomever else you interviewed with), but they both should feel that they owe you a favour for the trouble you’ve gone through.

Take advantage of this goodwill by asking for their help. Of course, you first want to thank them for their time and the chance to interview for the job. This should be done by phone or even in person, if possible. Otherwise, an e-mail will suffice. Also, ask them to keep you in mind for any other openings that they think you’d be a good fit for.

Then follow-up with your request for a (small) favour. This could be any number of things, depending on the company and the industry you’re in, but keep it small.

For example, if you’re a writer or editor, ask them if they would make themselves available to be quoted in an upcoming article. If the company runs events or conferences, ask if you could get a complimentary invite to one that interests you. Or, maybe all you ask for is an introduction to a manager in another part of the company in order to extend your referral network.

Don’t ask for anything unreasonable here. You’re only trying to extract a tiny pearl out of this rotten oyster of a situation that didn’t go your way in the first place.

After you’ve thanked them, reminded them to think of you for other positions and asked for a small favour, remember to stay in contact with them going forward. Networking is the best way to find your next job and it’s important to keep your contacts warm using a regular communication schedule.

While your dream job didn’t come through this time, by focusing on the positive you’ve gotten something out of it, gained new contacts at a great company and set yourself up for future success.


Craig Iskowitz is a free-lance technology and management consultant who escaped from the corporate grind over ten years ago. He has assisted many Fortune 500 companies to increase the efficiency of their software development and customer support processes and is a proven strategic thinker and former alto saxophone player.

Editorial Team at Geekinterview is a team of HR and Career Advice members led by Chandra Vennapoosa.

Editorial Team – who has written posts on Online Learning.

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