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What Did I Do Wrong?

Copy Of New Years

Jill Henderson, Director of Executive at Sharp & Carter sat down to write an insightful piece about the question often received from many candidates after finding out they didn't get the job, that question being 'What did I do Wrong?

See her insightful piece below:

​It’s a question I get asked at the end of a search process. It’s the worst part of my job. It is asked after I tell you, a highly capable and experienced executive, that you haven’t got the job.

I make this call more times than I make a call to extend an offer. This is the reality of my job. To make it worse I have most likely approached you about the job. I have tapped you on the shoulder and have asked you to consider an opportunity you didn’t know you were looking for. I ask you to take a chance to further your career. I want you to open your mind to this role, be vulnerable, put yourself out there to be judged and to commit to a process to enhance your career.  You become intrigued. You do some more research; you are curious and now you want to be considered and you put your hat in the ring. You connect with the brand, the position, and the people you meet during the interview process.

You get to the final stage and it’s here when I let you down.

I make that call. I tell you I’m sorry and that I’m going to disappoint you. I tell it’s not an easy call to make but here I am and then I say it - you haven’t got the job; they’ve offered the other candidate.

I’m sure many of you have had this call at some point or you’ve made this call yourself. It’s not pleasant. I don’t like making it and nobody likes hearing it.

What is interesting is most people respond with ‘what did I do wrong?’. The reality is you often haven’t done anything wrong, and you couldn’t have done anything better. At the executive level, and in search, it is a game of comparisons. Every process is different, and I don’t mean to generalize however, often its more about the person you were up against, who offered something different. Not better, just different. This doesn’t mean you did something wrong or that you are not capable of doing the role. It just means that another candidate offered something else. What’s more interesting is that, in my experience, it is often women who ask that question, more than men. We immediately blame ourselves when really there is nobody to blame.

In several processes, I ran last year I couldn’t get specific feedback from the client. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen. Usually in this instance I’m told that they are splitting hairs as both candidates are right for the role. In the end they must decide. Often, we will get commentary unique to you however when there is no specific feedback the conversation is more difficult.

My advice, when you receive the rejection, and you instinctively think what did I do wrong? is to stop and ask another question. Ask yourself, what did I do well? Was it the great presentation you gave or the information you learned during the process or how you held yourself in the interview and responded to difficult questions? Be proud of yourself and know that you don’t get invited to an interview unless you have something great to offer. Every interview is a learning curve and enables us to feed our curiosity and meet new people. Every conversation is one step closer to your next career role.

So, if you are ever in the unfortunate position of getting that call from me take comfort in the fact that we will focus on that great question – what did I do well?