How to Turn a Job Interview “No” into a “Yes”

Interview candidate being offered the job
Get the offer by following up the “right” way

The email you send right after an interview can make all the difference between landing an offer and getting rejected. Think of your followup not as a thank-you note, but rather as an “Impact Email”; after reflecting on the interview, use the followup as an opportunity to really make your case. Ideally, send one email to each person you met with, tailoring the content to the specific conversation.

The content should influence the interviewer’s decision-making based on what you learned about their needs throughout the interview (make sure your email follows principles of effective business writing). To aid in this learning process, ask great interview questions by adopting the mindset of a detective seeking information. In addition, minimize unhappy surprises and even turn a “no” into a “yes” by asking the following two questions near the end of the interview:

  • “Just so I’m clear about what you’re looking for, I’m curious as to how I compare with the other candidates you’re talking to.”
  • “How do you feel about moving my candidacy forward in the process?” (don’t ask this question if you were in a panel interview, as the panel will need to discuss before answering.)

If you have even a remote chance of landing the offer, that is, if the interviewer doesn’t have some interpersonal issue with you that they would feel uncomfortable bringing up, you’ll get straight answers to these questions (in other words, you have nothing to lose by asking). In the process you may learn about an objection that you still have time to address.

Below are three real-world client examples that will inspire you to put these recommendations into practice.

‘We’re leaning towards a candidate who’s done this job before’

At the end of an interview with the prospective new boss, my client asked the “How do I compare?” question. The interviewer said that she was one of the top two candidates, but they were leaning towards the other candidate because he had done exactly this job before, and she hadn’t. My client couldn’t argue this point. But what she did do in her Impact Email is lay out her unique competitive advantage, what she brings to the table that no other candidate has. In the process, she rendered insignificant the fact that she hadn’t previously been in the same role. She got the offer.

‘You don’t have the right experience’

After going through several rounds of interviews for a director of marketing role, my client was optimistic that he would receive an offer. In the last round, however, he was surprised by the executive vice president’s answer to the question “How do you feel about moving my candidacy forward?” The EVP replied, “We’re not moving you forward. We need someone who’s not just a good marketer but who also has the analytical background to be able to look at the data and steer the team accordingly. You don’t have that.”

My client was so caught off guard by this objection that he didn’t have a good response. After the meeting, however, he wrote a powerful Impact Email emphasizing his analytic skills and offering to demonstrate this ability by analyzing data that the EVP would send him. The EVP took him up on his offer a week later. My client developed a fantastic analysis, presented it to the EVP, and got the job.

‘We’re turning you down’

My client received a polite but firm rejection letter, explaining that they are seeking candidates with a different skillset. My client knew she could hit the ground running in this job, however, and felt they were making a mistake. Here’s how she responded to the email: “I appreciate your candor. From your email, it sounds like you are identifying some highly qualified candidates. I would like to note, however, my blend of experience that uniquely differentiates me from the competition and that makes me very well positioned to be able to deliver outstanding results. In particular, please consider the following in your decision-making:”

She then laid out, in five concise bullet-points, the specific strengths and experiences that she felt gave her an edge over other candidates. The result: they asked her to come back for another interview, and she ultimately got an offer.

On a related note: before you accept the job offer, be sure you are truly making the right career move.