You nailed the phone screen or in-person interview - or, so you thought. But soon after, you get a short, polite email letting you know you won't be moving forward in the hiring process. Nothing feels more like a gut punch then to get rejected by an employer. You wonder, "What did I do wrong?" You even send an email asking for feedback, but they don't respond. You're left to second-guess your performance. Leading to doubt and a crisis of career confidence that only makes the job search even harder to maintain.
Stop beating yourself up. Here's why...
It's very likely you did a fine job in the first interview. The problem isn't that you failed, it's that the hiring process is unpredictable. Here are three reasons why you most likely didn't get that second interview:
1. You didn't have enough of a certain type of experience. In the first interview, the goal is to assess the depth of your industry knowledge and skill levels as it relates the the work the employer needs you to do. Each company is different. While you might have all the requirements they listed in the job description, you may not have the right amount of experience in each area. It's not that you couldn't do the job, it's that another candidate had the right combination to get up to speed and producing faster.
2. The hiring manager switched directions. When I was in corporate recruiting, I can't tell you how many times I scheduled a set of first round interviews for a hiring manager, only to have her or him tell me after they realized they actually needed a different kind of candidate. Interviewing often helps the hriing manager clarify the real skill level and industry experience needed for the job. Ultimately, requiring the recruiter to go back to square one to find new candidates that match the new requirements.
3. Other candidates had more champions in-house. One of the best things to have when going through the hiring process is someone on the inside acting as your coach and promoter. The only thing better than one existing employee rooting for you, is two! Having champions vouching for your experience and character helps the hiring manager visualize you fitting in to the company's culture. It's no surprise that employee referrals are one of the best ways to get hired.
The point I'm trying to make is that you can't assume you're the reason you didn't get that second interview. Which leads to my most important piece of advice in this situation...
P.S. - If you like the employer, don't give up. Play the long game.
Keep in mind, they didn't say, "no, not ever," when they rejected you. They simply said, "not this time." If you can see yourself doing great things at this employer, then don't write them off just because you weren't picked for the role. Instead, inquire about what you can do to stay in touch and be considered for future roles. And, start looking for ways to get to know some of the existing employees better. That way, when another position gets posted, you can tap into your additional knowledge and connections to stand out. And hopefully, make it through the interview process and land a job offer!