Five amazing things employers have done for a job applicant who didn’t get the job

Whether it’s an employer’s market or an employee’s market, the things people do (and don’t do) impact reputations of all parties. This impact happens whether or not there is a match for the position under consideration.

Most career consultants say that it is how the applicant conducts him or herself that is the most important marketing—”personal brand” is the term of the day.  But it is important to note that how the company conducts itself admirably (or not) is also marketing.

At first, I was going to write an essay about the sheer crappiness of things people have done to me over the years during various career searches. But that’s been done to death. Instead, here are five amazing things companies and people have done over the years during career searches that was plain-old free, good marketing for the people and companies involved.

1. “I don’t have a position for you, but I was so impressed with your outreach, I’m passing your package on to my network”

After a paper-based “pain letter” and “human voiced resume” (modified by me from Liz Ryan’s Human Workplace approach) went to a large number of VP’s of marketing, I received this reply (real and unedited):

I wanted to personally reach out to you to say thank you for sending me your resume.  While I don’t believe your experience is a fit for what I am looking for, I wanted to say that your resume caught my attention and I spent 3-4 minutes looking for some way to see if you could fit into this organization.  3-4 minutes may not seem like a long time to you, but when you consider most resumes get 30 secs, I really focused on both your resume and cover letter.
So, why you ask did I bother to respond at all?  I am emailing because I thought your approach unique enough to say that I admired your style and ”marketing sense.”
You got my attention and I felt it worth letting you know that your tactic worked and to keep doing this.  I am in need of someone that has significant expertise in marketing to <xyz> buyers and I did not see that in your resume. 
However, my promise to you is to send this packet to my network and let them know about your goals for employment. 
Good luck in your search and best wishes moving forward.

Pretty amazing, huh?

2. Reminding you that your story is amazing

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are “supposed” to do in a career search that we end up creating materials that don’t set us apart. On numerous occasions, I was coached by some great people into getting away from “standard” stuff to let my personality shine through.  Here are the key lessons they taught me:

  1. There are real people at the other end of the resume and cover letter, and they are interested in the human side of how you’ll work for their team.  It’s perfectly OK to show your human side and likely will get you more credit (and at least noticed in a pile of “same old same old” materials) for being authentic.
  2. If you show who you are in a phone call, cover letter, resume, and interview and the employer doesn’t like what they see, that’s OK.  It’s really better than trying to “fake your way” into a job. If you present something that  “isn’t you”, you may end up getting the job.  But what you sold the employer isn’t really you. If you do happen to succeed, you are going to be miserable as you know have to be someone you aren’t for a really long time. Besides, any good hiring manager or HR person worth their salt will detect insincerity fairly quickly.

3. Providing useful and detailed feedback about why you didn’t get the offer

It really sucks when you don’t get an offer for a position you really want.  But it sucks even more if you don’t know why. I have been lucky to have had discussions with both hiring managers and excellent HR professionals who provided specific and sometimes lengthy feedback about why we weren’t a match.  How refreshing to hear from people not afraid of lawsuits, who spend time building relationships, and who know how to move past the trite and non-specific “we just didn’t see a match” answer.

4. Becoming an active part of your professional network after a “no thanks.”

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I have kept in touch with a number of folks I have interviewed with who didn’t hire me or who I chose not to work for at a particular time. And these relationships have been professionally and personally valuable.

5. Apologizing for the “black hole” applicant tracking system and taking your call directly

On a few occasions, I was completely flustered by the applicant tracking system.  For example, bugs that made me waste 20 minutes of “data entry time” or really burdensome application questions that are required (no, I will not give you my social security number on a “first contact” form).  Liz Ryan calls this the “black hole” and she and many others have written about how this methodology causes companies to lose really good candidates. But, back to the positive.

On one occasion, I called the HR manager directly and told her “I really want to apply for this job, but your applicant tracking system keeps booting me out.  I am a high tech person and tried twice on two different browsers.  Can I just sent you my resume and cover letter directly and take 3 minutes of your time to pitch myself?”

She apologized, said sure, and I had an interview with the hiring manager the next week.

What great things have folks done for you even if you didn’t get the job?


Gary Dietz