Saturday, February 13, 2010

How to make the most of a rejection

Summer internship interviews are well under way.

Those who will interview at bulge brackets and management consulting firms have most likely received the good news.

Some firms receive over 1,000 applications from a target school for a summer internship position. They don't even bother notifying rejected applicants of their status.

How do you get a response?

Human Resources may have passed up your resume/cover letter. When deciding who to interview, the recruiting team divides candidacy into three groups:

1. Definitely interview
2. Interview time permitting - the wait list
3. A definite no

Those who are in the waitlist bucket often did not know that they just fell short of getting the interview. It happens that one student we've worked with was in the waitlist queue at several firms.

How did he find this out? He emailed a contact he had made at a networking session about his candidacy, and followed up with a phone call - asking for his status. The contact got in touch with HR and found out that he was on the wait list. This may have been a "nice no", but the student followed up a week later and asked if he was still in the running. He didn't get the interview slot.

BUT he made the effort to ask what he could have done better. He didn't have finance experience and those who received interviews did. The student made a point to get an unpaid internship that summer, and come full time recruiting, emailed the contact he had made to let him know how his internship went. He received the full time interview, second round invite, and the offer.

I'm surprised at how few people - if any - reach out to their interviewers or recruiting teams and ask what they could have done better to get selected. Most banks and consulting firms are looking for a similar skill set, give or take, and you would have no clue how they perceive the strength of your candidacy had you not asked.

If you were just short of receiving an interview invite or the offer, follow up and ask what you could have done better. Not only does that give you the opportunity to improve for the next recruiting cycle, but I guarantee someone - HR, an alum, a contact - will remember you, and most likely give you another shot over someone they don't know.

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