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When You Almost Get the Job (and are second or third)

Updated: May 16

By Barbara Gough CCTC, CPRW



When you come in second or third for a job interview, it’s extremely disheartening. You have spent so much time and effort to not get the job. It’s like climbing a mountain and when you are almost at the top, being told to turn around. You don’t get to plant your flag and savor the view. It’s also a long walk down and human nature to spend time thinking of what you could have done better to have the outcome you wanted.


It’s important to remember that coming in second or third is an extreme compliment. It’s validation that you are an outstanding candidate. Out of numerous applicants, the interviewers chose their top contenders, and you were one of them. Making it to second or third is a tremendous accomplishment. Think about the Olympics. The athletes standing with the silver and bronze medals wanted the gold, but we all acknowledge their talent, persistence and hard work.


Often the reason we come in second or third is due to circumstances beyond our control. Perhaps the other applicant struck a stronger personal connection with the interviewers. Maybe there was something in their experience that specifically made your competitor a better choice. Typically the difference between final applicants is minimal. It’s likely that something small tipped the scale and unfortunately this time, it was not in your favor. On the positive side, people who are second or third in final interviews almost always land a position in the future.


There are however, interviewing techniques you should review if you are consistently are not winning the job.


1) Often we think that an interview is about us, but it’s really about the interviewers. They want to find someone who will make their life easier. Make sure that you clearly relate the benefits you will bring to the position.


2) Enthusiasm for the job is critical. Make sure your interviewers know you want the position. It’s not on anyone’s resume but enthusiasm can be a deciding factor, sometimes overriding aspects of experience.


3) Be yourself. If the interviewers can’t get a sense of who you are, it’s unlikely that they will hire you.


4) Make sure you are comfortable with your “closing technique.” Often in competitive interviews the difference between final applicants can be small in regard to competency. Do your “detective work” prior so that during your interviews you can pinpoint the department’s “pain points.” If you understand the skill differentiators you can accentuate your traits that address these points in your interviews.


5) A great question to ask in early interviews is, “What are the top four skills or traits you want in a candidate for this job?” Then, promote these aspects of yourself in follow-up emails and future interviews.


6) Ask the difficult question, ”Do you have concerns about my ability to fulfill this role?” If they have apprehensions, this is your chance to address them head on. Don’t be hesitant to discuss concerns.


If you don’t get the job – keep the door wide open. This is a mistake applicants often make. We feel hurt that we weren’t chosen and don’t communicate afterwards. Or, the main aspect of our communication revolves around the question, “Why didn’t you choose me?”


Communicate in a positive manner with the individuals who did not choose you so that they understand there are no hard feelings. Make it clear that you are interested in future opportunities at the company. It’s amazing how many candidates who are second or third in final interviews are contacted again a few weeks or months later with another position.


Most important, even though you didn’t get the job, give yourself some well-deserved credit. Silver and bronze medals are pretty cool. Gold is next.

Barbara Gough CCTC, CPRW

Career Consultant



Barbaragough.com

Career & Executive Coach / Barbaragoughca@gmail.com