The day I called the silver medallist

Have you ever experienced this very intense moment when you are about to hear from important news? You know it’s these everlasting seconds where your heart is ready to jump out of your chest, just before hearing something you have been waiting for, for days. I remember this happening to me on a few occasions while applying for jobs, when receiving an email or a phone call from a recruiter. Before opening the email whose subject title is not self-explanatory, or while starting the phone conversation with basic sentences such as “Hi this is MA calling from xxx company. Is this a good moment to talk?”, the only thing one can do in such situations is to wait for the emotional impact the news will have, during just a few seconds

Not being selected is always bad news when you’ve put so much energy into an application for your dream job. It’s like in a race, coming second is fantastic but also a real disappointment of not coming first when so much training and preparation has been invested with this specific objective. Knowing that you are amongst the top 3 can leave a bitter taste in your mouth, yet there are several reasons to take it constructively. For a start, you’ve already done very well: being one of the finalists in a selective recruitment process which attracted hundreds of applicants, is in itself a good performance. But the fact remains: not being the one selected is still a knock on one’s confidence which must remain healthy and strong for future interviews. 

To build upon this kind of experience, do ask for feedback, challenge the recruiters constructively to understand the rationale behind the standard sentence “we have appointed a candidate whose skills & experience better matched our requirements”. The objective is not to argue, nor to claim the assessment was wrong because the panel did not see some of your specific strengths. Remember the panel members see you during a limited amount of time for the interview, and can only take a decision based on what they had at hand to assess throughout the process. So, as there is a shared responsibility, the idea is more to get information on how to improve your application or interview skills, and to give a good impression so that if a future post is opened, you have everything in hand for a second chance.

A second chance happens more often than you might imagine, and this is probably significantly feeding the job market. Recruiting takes time, and it’s expensive, so several companies will adopt a silver medallist  approach. It requires what we call “talent pool management”, and is increasingly the case among global organisations. If a similar need arises within a defined timeframe, the recruiter may call back the applicants who ranked second in the first recruitment process. It can be because the selected candidate declined the offer, or because of a new position is about to be opened.

This should be a very good reason for you to be more pragmatic than emotional when hearing bad news from a recruiter. So here are the top tips for you: be professional, try to understand why you did not make it on this occasion, and be thankful even if the taste is still bitter in your mouth. Do mention that you are still interested by working for the company, whatever your disappointment is, because even if you obtain a silver medal today, you could be offered the gold medal in the future. It does happen.