How to burn bridges with employers

Most job applicants feel qualified for the jobs for which they apply. Nearly as many are confident they will get it. On the occasions when they don’t, applicants might feel emotions ranging from disappointment and frustration to downright disbelief. How can this employer be so short-sighted as to not see my greatness?

burning bridges

Those emotions are fine. They’re understandable. I have felt some of them myself in the job market. Keep them to yourself.

Expressing your disappointment to the employer who doesn’t hire you burns bridges.

Here are some messages employers have shared with me from applicants who didn’t get the job. They have been edited for privacy:

  • “Would it be possible for you to refer me to another club or position?”
  • “Are there other openings within your organization that you can steer me towards?”
  • “Gosh. I’ve been a sportswriter for my local newspaper for years. I covered a Major League team, picked the greatest players of all-time for every franchise for a national magazine, and much, much more. I don’t want you to think that I am displaying sour grapes; if I don’t get the job I want to lose out to the best and believe me, I wish you the best with this hire. But in the future, if there is a chance to join your team, I’d like you to remember, ‘That Smith can write!'”

One employer told me, “I suppose I am sort of OK with the requests for help, but that’s something I would never ever do in that moment.”

Another employer said, “I received a surprising number of pushy and despondent replies to my emails to candidates who did not get the job. I can understand applicants trying to extend communication and make something of a no, but many were over the top.

“The reactions I got after the fact would almost incline me to change my opinion of some applicants I otherwise felt fine about.”

The job market is like a season for a sports team. Only one person wins at the end. Everyone else’s season ends with a loss. Remembering this will hopefully make it easier for you to not take job market rejection too personally.

If you feel compelled to contact the employer who didn’t hire you, don’t share your true feelings and risk burning a bridge. Instead, congratulate them on their new hire and thank them for their consideration of your application.

Building bridges moves you closer to the next stage of your career.

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