Reasoning why you are not selected for a position for which you applied and interviewed is an interesting mental exercise. Unlike a crossword or other puzzle, there is no correct answer; and unlike an interactive game, you don’t have an opportunity to keep practicing on the same target. Selling yourself to a search committee or an employer is a lot like selling a house.
I have followed the ups and downs of friends who put their house on the market a year ago, and I find their experiences very similar to what colleagues experience during the job search process. In order to get their house ready for the market, my friends downsized, and they had professionals “stage” the house in order to display the best assets of the house. They made major investments to upgrade appliances though what they had was in perfect condition. They had everything freshly painted, and there was nothing left to chance. Then they contracted with a realtor who suggested that though their carpeting was in fine shape, they should get new carpeting in the living room just so everything would look brand new. They were extremely proud of how the house looked and they were assured by friends that the house would sell immediately.
Colleagues who are applying for their ideal next position also do a lot of preparation in order to show well. They write draft after draft of their resume or vita in order to streamline it and highlight their strongest skills. They even get help from professional career counselors who advise them on the best way to present their resume or vita and themselves. Their colleagues encourage them to go for it.
When my friends’ house did not sell by fall, they changed real estate agents figuring that their agent must not be as good as another agent. The next agent told them that the reason the house did not sell immediately was because it was not priced correctly. So they adjusted the asking price. When that didn’t garner buyers, the sellers and all of the sellers’ friends concluded that the prospective buyers were just stupid and didn’t know what they wanted.
Colleagues who are in the job market ask experts to help them with their interview skills when they have not been selected following what they thought was a good interview. After getting sound advice on how to interview well and doing a superb job but still having the position is offered to someone else, the candidate and all their colleagues conclude that the search committee members or the potential employer are all idiots and don’t know what they are looking for in a candidate.
In frustration with the stupidity of buyers, my friends took their house off the market for a while figuring the timing must not be right. Colleagues drop out of the job search mode for a while for the same reason. Then something totally unrelated to preparing the house for sale occurs and my friends say, “It’s providential! This occurrence needed to happen first and that’s why the house didn’t sell sooner.” Colleagues have something totally unrelated to their search occur and they and their friends declare that the jobs they applied for were just not right for them and their dream job is waiting.
We really don’t know why the house did not sell as quickly as expected, and we don’t know all the variables that went into decisions not to hire our colleagues. The best thing we can do is to get our houses in order to the best of our ability, take the risk of having what we offer not accepted, and if we determine that we want to stay in the game, know that we may really never know why we were not selected, and take solace in the idea that not being selected may not have anything to do with you or how well you showed. And remember that reasoning why is just an interesting mental exercise.