My takeaway from the jobs I didn’t get

You know what I want to do right this second? Crawl onto my bed and curl up into the fetal position. Nap a little. Then nap some more.

I’ve been job hunting for six months. I’ve made it to the interview round four times, and today, I got my fourth thanks-for-applying-but-we-had-a-lot-of-strong-candidates-and-we-picked-someone-who-isn’t-you email.

(Sigh.) The job seemed like a perfect fit. I was well versed in each of the outlined duties of the position. Though I felt like I stumbled a couple of times during the interview, I was still hopeful … until the rejection notice popped into my inbox.

Hunting for your ideal job can be soul-crushing when it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, which is why my bed looks so enticing. But I know giving in to feeling sorry for myself won’t help me get a job, so instead, I try to home in on what went wrong.

As I’ve done following each rejection, I’ve been replaying the interview in my head, trying to figure out at what point I went from “she looks promising” to “not her.” Was it one of the moments when I struggled during the interview? Surely every one does on a question or two, right? Or do they? Perhaps the candidate they selected either anticipated every question or was better able to think fast on his or her feet.

In each of the interviews, there has been a question or two I’ve struggled to answer. Each time, I’ve spent the next few days working out what I’d say if those questions ever come up again. And you know what? None of them ever has. Not one single time.

But rather than give up, I’m sticking with this strategy. Sooner or later, I should come across one of those questions again, shouldn’t I?

I wrote down the questions that stumped me. High on that list: “Give me an example of how you’ve dealt with a problem with a co-worker.” Now I have a response that won’t start with, “I can’t remember ever having a problem with a co-worker,” followed by several minutes of silence while I wrack my brain to find an example.

I feel better prepared already.

I tackle another from that most-recent interview: “Why do you think you were selected for the buyout?” (I accepted a severance offer from my last employer.) I had expected them to ask why I wanted the buyout but was blindsided by them asking why the company chose me for it in the first place. The best I could do was ramble through ideas about restructuring the department, though because I was rambling, I’m not sure I made my point.

Next time, I’ll have an answer to that question and all the others I believe might have tripped me up, though, if history repeats itself, my next interview will have a whole new set of questions I hadn’t anticipated.

But that’s OK. At the very least, all this practice thinking about my skills and work history should, at some point, make me a better interviewee. Eventually, I’ll be the candidate who doesn’t stumble, right?

Tech writer by day, writer of whatever comes to mind by night. Also former newspaper copy editor, page designer, social media manager and graphics artist.

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