August 2016

That Time I Didn't Get the Job I Really Wanted

By Jocelyn Salvatori

Assistant Director, Career and Professional Development Office, California Western School of Law

Many, many years ago I was on the third round of interviews with an employer. I wanted the job more than anythingthe team looked fun, the mission felt important, and the salary was competitive. 

At the end of the third interview, one of the associates took me on a tour of the office and introduced me to every single person who worked there; good sign, right? She then proceeded to show me a bright, newly-painted office, and said five magical words: “This will be your office . . . .” My eyes grew wide, and I let out a silent squeal of delight, thinking, “I must be getting an offer!”

We concluded the tour, and the associate asked me if I wanted to talk more about the position or if I had any further questions. I had already been through two lengthy interviews with multiple attorneys and asked them a plethora of questions. Plus, I needed to get back to my current job. So, I breezily replied with a smile, “I think I have all the information I need!”

I quickly left the office on Cloud Nine thinking I already had the job in the bag. That evening I sent my thank-you correspondence and waited with bated breath for the all-important offer I “knew” I had.

A few days later, the hiring manager emailed me; bad sign, right? She explained I was their second choice (ouch!), and they had gone with a “candidate with more experience” instead (gulp!). But, when I checked the website a few weeks later and read the bio of the person they chose, it was a newly admitted attorney who didn’t appear to have any experience at all.

After this heartbreaking rejection, I did some self-reflection. I thought to myself, “They should have hired me; I was clearly the best candidate.” I traced my steps through the interview process. Where did I go wrong?  What could I have improved upon?  I came to the conclusion that I gravely messed up at the end of the third interview.  After I was introduced to the whole office and I thought I was being shown “my office,” the interview went downhill. I had relaxed after that moment and felt too confident that I was already their number-one choice for the job. When they asked me to talk more about the position, I should have seized the opportunity to stay at the office longer and reiterated why I wanted to work there, why I was a great fit, and how I could add value to their company. Instead, I walked away. I am now convinced that was the moment when I lost the job, and they picked someone else.

The good news is I learned from this experience and soon got an offer after three rounds of interviews with another great employer. Throughout that interview process, I wasn’t in a rush, and I took the time to genuinely show I wanted to join their team. We have all made mistakes when applying and interviewing for jobs. The important things are to learn from those mistakes, apply better practices the next time, and do not give up.