On Monday, I briefly commented that when it comes to job interviews, I am not particularly good at interviewing. My native pessimism seems to have paid off because when I arrived at work yesterday morning, I had an email from HR thanking me for participating, but they will move forward with a more qualified candidate.
Yep, it stings and I’m disappointed.
I’m trying to keep my outlook positive, though. I’m glad I went through the process – I had a chance to practice some skills I haven’t touched in a while, and I will learn from my mistakes and do better next time.
My immediate next step was to reply to HR, thanking them for the opportunity, and to ask them for feedback or comments on my performance in order to grow.
In this case, HR assured me that they went with a candidate that indeed had more experience related to the job than I; it was a competition, and I did not perform badly, all things considered. I’ve heard through the grapevine who the successful candidate might be, and if it’s who I think it is, I feel at peace with losing to this person. They are a great colleague, very good at their job, and will excel in the new role. To put it in perspective, the person I believe got the job is also the person who has been instrumental in creating new, standardized processes for program reviews – templates and workflows that many of us at the college have adopted. Further, I’ve been working with my manager to redefine my current position in order to qualify for a higher payband, and we’ve been using this person’s job description as an exemplar. I don’t feel so bad losing if I lost to this person. I wish them the best.
HR did have two bits of feedback that I can use to improve next time.
First contrary to what I said on Monday, they said I didn’t say enough, and didn’t go deep enough in my answers.
Ok, maybe we need to unpack that. Keep in mind that I am a verbal train wreck at times, but the interview lasted maybe 20-25 minutes out of a 45 minute time slot. So, what I’m taking from this is that while I may have said a lot of words, I wasn’t saying the right things. They wanted more than direct answers – they wanted clear answers and elaborations.
I should have taken a cue from the fact that for a couple questions, the interviewers asked follow-up questions that prompted me for more answers. It’s obvious now, but in the moment I missed that connection. My answers needed to be commensurate with the level of responsibility the role requires. In all likelihood, I would have done the right thing in the job, but at the interview level, I wasn’t able to articulate the depth needed to satisfy the interviewers. It’s hard to pay attention to those cues in the moment when your mind is in a million different places and you are trying to summarize your experience in a coherent response.
The second bit of feedback I received was that I didn’t give a good explanation of why I was interested in the job. HR’s feedback was that my reasons for wanting the job didn’t really align with the PDF (our initialism for the job description).
Sure, I played it smart by not being up-front that the pay raise played a huge role in it (it would have been 2-steps up from where I am). What I had told them was that the job was the next evolution of what I’m currently doing at the college, and since I started teaching last term, I’ve been seeking ways of further developing myself at the college.
A fine answer, sure, but it doesn’t really say anything about the job itself. I could have given that answer for literally any job I applied for.
Instead, HR suggested I read the PFD and apply what the job description says to my answer. Upon reflection, I should have mentioned that I’ve found an aptitude for program development and review. I should have said that I enjoyed my experiences working on the 3 engineering degrees and the 3 post-graduate certificates we’ve developed since I’ve started at the college. I could have discussed how I’ve taken on some leadership when it comes to program development to help the Chairs share the workload.
Those would have been good elaborations as to why I want to seek out roles that expand myself. A hard lesson to learn, but important to keep in mind. If I learned anything from my personal development reading last year (Covey, Sinek, etc.), it’s that you should have a clear sense of why in what you do.
There isn’t much more I can do at the moment but work on making my current position better with my manager and keep an eye out for the next opportunity.
However, one thing I did do is send thank-you cards to my interviewers. I drafted them up last night and dropped them in the inter-office mail system this morning. It’s not a common practice for people at my level, so it’ll a.) make me more memorable; and b.) signal my gratitude for the experience.
It may also send some good karma my way.