Dealing with a job rejection

So I just had an interview with a new company. They wanted an analyst who can create models and get deals from investors. Basically, finance (and not accounting) tasks were all that was listed on the job description.

I had the interview today and it turns out since they are a new company, they also wanted someone to do accounting/controllership functions, just for the first year. Then after, they will hire some underling bookkeeper. The problem was that we were so focused on talking about getting million dollar contracts and analysis and WACCs that accounting was such a small portion of the conversation. I had only found out once I asked, “are there any concerns about me?” But screw me, I didn’t mention that I had a whole bunch of A/P, compliance tasks at my old company.

When I had the interview, they told me that I was top 2 and that the other guy was a new immigrant. They had two more interviews after me.

I just got the rejection email so I asked for feedback and they said the interviewee after me had financial analysis as well as controllership experience, otherwise I would be the top pick. I’m not going to lie; this one hurts.

Should I go back and say something like “I actually have all those accounting experience. If something doesn’t work out, I am still interested?”

I am so distraught as I was so close…

TL;DR Is there any point in clarifying a few points/qualifications after you get a rejection?

Honestly no. Why are you so distraught though? There are probably a billion job openings if you live in even a sizeably populated area. Is it because you went on multiple rounds of interviews and invested a lot of your time and energy that way? I am personally starting to develop a 3 rounds of interview MAX rule…Phone screen with HR, Phone call with hiring manager, In person with Hiring Manager and Team. If they can’t make a decision at that point, I’m not wasting my time anymore (unless it is really extenuating and say for instance a key team member was out of the office that day or something and I need to come back in one extra time OR if it’s my dream job).

I’d politely explain how you have some of the experience but didn’t think it was relative to share. And wish them luck with the new hire and say you would be interested in hearing about any future opportunities

Maybe distraught is a strong word. Although I did spend around 30 hours on a model and presentation, it’s not the time that matters. The whole time we were talking about securing contracts, raising capital, growing revenue/EBITDA in X years, and the fact that the CEO said he would hire a bookkeeper later on; I didn’t think the accounting side was that relevant but it turned out to be a deciding factor in the decision. And because if only I had said two sentences about accounting. If another candidate was better than me in every way, it wouldn’t have mattered but the CEO said that if it was only on the financial side, he would hire me but the other guy had controller experience so he was getting 2 roles in 1.

It was pretty much a dream job, being in charge of a company’s finances and pitching to investors. All my previous roles have included administrative tasks. Salary was great. Location was great (bonus lake view). It was in the (renewable) energy sector so I would be working on projects that mattered. CEO and COO both have great track records. Also, I’m unemployed right now.

I did email them and he replied saying he would let me know if something didn’t work out. What is your background? To me it sounds like it will turn out to be more of a book keeper role in due course. The fact that you spent the whole interview talking about concepts such as Rev/EBITDA, Raising Capital and Securing contracts, sounds to me, that your passion lies in the Corporate Finance side of things rather than the accounting book keeping. CF is 1000x better than back office roles (in my opinion) and you will earn double later on.

If you had taken this job and it turned out that a large part of the role was book keeping, it would hinder your future searches into a Corporate finance related role. CF firms rarely take people with accounting job functions… To me it sounds like you dodged a bullet.

The right role will come.

I’m saying this job was similar to CF. They are a new company so they would have wanted me to do CF functions WITH bookkeeping for the first year. Then afterwards, they would hire an actual bookkeeper, while I focus on the investment side.

I would send a reply back (although you only really get one to two shots at this so if you already responded ignore). I’d open with a polite and personal thank you for the opportunity to meet everyone on the team, talk about how it was a positive experience for you, a few things you took away from the meetings and how the firm impressed you despite your already high expectations (be specific and keep the tone light).

In the next paragraph thank them for the very helpful feedback and mention that you appreciate their willingness to shed some light on their thought process and that you appreciate their point of view. Apologize for not having fully communicated your own background in that area (keep it super brief, don’t bog down in details, this section should not be the focus and should feel incidental) and add that the interviews left you with a very positive impression of the firm and the opportunity and should their needs change in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Then add some nice meaningless personal fluff like “Enjoy your weeekend!” or “Enjoy the nice weather!” etc.

You literally have nothing to lose by one polite and positive response as long as you don’t let yourself look desperate seeing as how they already didn’t give you the job.


^ I basically said I was excited to talk about the finance side that I missed the opportunity to talk about my accounting skills. I then listed the tasks at previous companies and added if something doesn’t work out then please let me know.

I didn’t say anything positive about the meeting or firm but I will next time.

Ah yeah that’s tough then, sorry to hear that. Reminds me of this great non profit out in LA that rejected me after 3 rounds of skype interviews. The guy I would have reported to was a former goldman banker, HBS grad and told me that it came down to me and one other person who got the job over me. I was pretty crushed but he at least took the time to skype me for 30 mins explaining why they made the decision to go with someone else. He was all class.

I had a similar dream job a year or so ago - but the company decided to sell instead of going through the management transition. It sucks but I just take it as evidence that I am doing something right to get the opportunity at all

Once had an interview in a CRA way back when I first graduated. MD was amazing, met the whole team, then got a call in with the Director who was away on one of the interview days and we got along great. I was in pole position until they did a last minute interview with another guy and it came down to a technical analysis test of 45mins of some obscure (I’m talking obscure) SSA bonds, basically you had to know how government financial statements worked otherwise you were toast. I didn’t do great on that but it was a great learning experience and the MD gave me a solid 30mins of feedback. Class act that guy. I wasn’t crazy about the role but he was a guy you could learn from, and a you knew he would be a beaut to work with. Basically the guy they interviewed had done the exact same role, had the obscure sector experience, and they wouldn’t have to train him at all. Easy business decision. I was pretty gutted but ended things gracefully with the MD who promised to pass my resume on. Got an interview with another desk a few months later on that recommendation. It doesn’t always work out but if you’re that close and have a decent rapport with the hiring manager, it’s worth it to express how much you liked meeting them (genuinely), and ask for feedback. You never know.

When I get rejected, it’s because they are afraid of winning too much and I just have to keep looking for a firm that won’t get tired of winning.

Thanks for the positive replies. I appreciate the stories. It just sucks for the decision to come down to skills that seemed so irrelevant at the time.

CEO said he was impressed by my presentation and I was the 9th interviewee (and I was top 2 but the other guy was new to Canada), just 2 more after. I would have loved to work with him. He seemed so knowledgeable and I got him and the COO laughing. I should’ve conveyed my desire more I guess.

Looks like I am the only person who walks into an interview knowing that it’s gonna be a win or lose outcome. I give it all in the interview, leave all impressions there and step out into more job-searching.

My experience as a person who have been in several interviewing panels and as an interviewee has taught me that decisions are made subjectively. Some years ago, I was interviewing for an Analyst role; the interviewing panel was basically me, my boss, and a HR manager. After interviewing a number of applicants, I based my recommended go-forward candidates based on their technical-knowledge and all other factors; but with lower weight on inter-personal skills. My strongest candidate was an Indian lady.

The Indian lady did not make because my manager, the HR manager and other individuals in the office had some reservations (most based on stereo-types) on Indians. This was not the only interview that I have seen decisions been made in such a manner. If you know what I am saying, most interview decisions are made in a very subjective manner. As such, I cannot and will never dwell on potential outcome of any interview I attend. And it doesn’t help much when I am of African origin.

So I walk into an interview, give it my all, walk out and continue job-hunting. I don’t thank anyone for interviewing me; as it is only, and only my resume that make them invite me for an interview. It never hurts me when I receive a regret email, it never make me super-excited if I receive a next-step email. I have never been unemployed; I am a Portfolio Manager.

Listing your qualifications sounds desperate rote and failure to make light talk or talk about your positive take on the firm is missing on the soft skills. If something doesn’t work out also has a negative connotation versus my phrasing. I’m telling you this because working on your soft skills is a majorly overlooked skill that most people think they have, few actually do and can take you far. It essentially involves being more circumspect about your word choices and hearing yourself as others will hear you. In some sense, the fact that you missed out on the fact that they were looking for a skill set you had reflects this. Gotta listen closely to both parties.

i mean i’ve heard similar stories in tech/finance for black applicants. it’s just how the world works. people dont say its because of color, but its the color.

Based on your previous post, would this be a good example?

Hello ______,

It was a pleasure meeting you. I was really impressed by your vision of how this company will grow.

Thank you for your feedback and I really appreciate the thought. I apologize for not communicating my accounting skills. I had a great time speaking with you and should your needs ever change in the future, please let me know.

Have a great day

I totally understand your point about social skills but I didn’t pick up on the fact that the back office/accounting was that important due to two reasons:

  1. Was not mentioned at all in the job description

  2. He said he was going to hire a bookkeeper later on.

  3. Wasn’t until I asked him does he have any concerns about my qualifications that he brought it up but I guess this was where I should’ve said I did have some experience doing audit reports for the controller team. I thought about it but I have no clue why I didn’t speak up.

Hindsight 20/20

I still think that just because you did not mention it, that is the only reason you did not get the job. I think there are other factors at play here…

No, this lacks any sort of personal detail or rapport. Feels like a form letter. It should be more like, I enjoyed speaking with X about Y and this aspect of the culture really left a lasting positive impression. Etc etc. This section is the meat.

Then you do a segment as I described above. But also just kindly say you may have not communicated this properly but the feedback was great and to feel free to call you if their needs shift at any point in the future. The whole letter needs to be personable and have flow yours sounds formal, terse and disconnected. It should feel like the primary purpose you had this nice friendly chat of an organic letter and oh by the way as an aside it turns out this really nice person I like who unfortunately didn’t get the job also had a really useful skill set. That’s how you play the long game. One of the biggest networking mistakes people who are not strong on soft skills lack is the ability to make networking seem organic and not like a means to an end.

These things all go together. The point of the interview is to really listen that includes between the lines, not just respond to the listing you saw online. You’re in person, we’re passed job descriptions now, read the room. If they say (#2) they’re going to hire a book keeper later, this is the biggest no brainer of no brainers. It’s obviously a small firm, people will wear many hats in a small firm and are looking for maximum value on hires. They just expressed they have a need, you should have in a heartbeat said how serendipus, I’m a swiss army knife and have this also great experience that can help fill that gap in the interim, which is part of the value I offer small firms. There are so many things bundled in here, versatility, initiative, responding to organizational needs, etc. This is where someone with soft skills nails the role 10 times out of 10 and where people that lack them will miss the role every time. It’s a game of inches but makes a huge difference.

They should have never even gotten to #3, that only means you missed your entrance on #2. But if they come out and blatantly state #3 after you ask about concerns of qualifications and you still fail to address it at that point you’re bordering on inept. I’m not trying to crush you, but these are mistakes you have to internalize and learn from. You are there to listen and present value.