Advice to the Passed Over

Advice to the Passed Over | JTandDale.comDear J.T. & Dale: A year ago, I applied for a job with Company X and interviewed with the general manager, but was not offered the job. However, soon after, I got a similar position with a rival, Company Y. My field is very specialized, and there are basically only these two companies. My boss and colleagues used to work at the other company. Call me paranoid, but I’m worried about what to do if I happen to meet X’s general manager in the presence of my boss or colleagues (our offices are nearby). My boss doesn’t know I ever applied at X before Y. Should I mention it to them — jokingly, perhaps? — Kate

J.T.: There is no need to have a specific conversation. If you do run into the manager, just say hello, and if your colleagues ask how you know each other, you can explain it then. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Dale: I agree, but Kate is worried, and has anyone who’s been instructed to stop worrying ever actually stopped worrying?

J.T.: In that case, because it’s common knowledge that your co-workers used to work there, you can slip something like this into a conversation, “What was it like to work there? I interviewed there a while back but couldn’t really get a sense of the style in just the one interview.”

Dale: Good. Then there’s a bigger issue: The art of being passed over. Typically, those who DON’T get the job offer just fade away. That’s a mistake. First, as soon as you hear you are not getting the offer, volunteer to be the first backup. Call or email the hiring manager and say, “I would love to work with you. Please think of me if things don’t work out with the person you hired, or you decide you need additional people.”

J.T.: There’s actually a decent chance that the first person falls out — he or she decides not to move, gets an even better offer or starts the job and something isn’t right on one side or the other.

Dale: People who haven’t done hiring need to understand the mind-set of the person who had to choose. Say I’m the hiring manager and I interviewed five applicants and chose one. It isn’t that I see the other four as “the rejects.” It’s likely I gladly would have hired two or three of the candidates, maybe all of them, and I made the choice based on someone’s minor advantage. The upshot is that I’m feeling bad that I didn’t get to hire you.

J.T.: And a follow-up note like the one Dale is suggesting makes it OK to reconsider you for the next opening. Moreover, is there any reason you shouldn’t stay in touch with the hiring manager? No. You aren’t being disloyal or unfaithful by connecting with people at other companies — you’re being smart and proactive.

Dale: When you have that conversation about “what’s it like over at Company X,” you also might ask, “Do you keep in touch with any of their people?” I’m guessing the best of your colleagues will say they do. And that’s when you realize you’ve been worrying about the wrong things — start worrying about how you can be so good at what you do that both companies want you.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the career management blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with

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