Overcoming Disappointment in an Executive Search Process

Participating in an executive search process can be a grueling process for candidates. You participate in the process of telephone interviews, then further screening, face to face meetings, psychometric assessments, written documentation and reference checks. Then if you pass the “muster” so to speak, you are presented to the potential new employer for consideration.


This usually requires a presentation, a board interview, discussion and perhaps a tour of the employer’s facility. Sometimes, candidates will be asked to meet other potential colleagues at the executive team level, attend dinner with board members and make another presentation on the future with their leadership.

Grueling to say the least! And then the waiting game! For some, waiting is really hard and then the bomb drops. No, you aren’t going to be offered the job! Wow, what a letdown, especially when you felt the fit was just right. After all, you appeared to have the right skills, the salary was in line with your needs and you felt you had left a good impression and felt comfortable with the individuals that you met.

Missing out on a leadership opportunity is definitely a challenge to one’s ego but it is not the end of the world. In fact, some day you might be glad the opportunity slipped by.

At this point, part of your challenge is keeping up a positive attitude, not taking this specific rejection personally and taking time to reassess who you are and what you want to do.

Have the courage to call up your executive recruiter and ask for specific feedback regarding the position you applied for. Ask if there is anything you could have done differently. Ask if there are any skills that could be enhanced for future opportunities. Take their advice seriously, move forward and stay in touch.

Life must go on and for candidates this means staying in the network game, all with a positive attitude and an eagerness for a new adventure. If the feedback identified that your experience was somewhat light at the senior leadership level, then look for additional opportunities to bolster this skillset. Of course, the first place to look is our current job. Look for ways to take on more leadership responsibility.

At the same time, there are plenty of leadership opportunities in the not-for-profit world where the role of Board Chair or President will help to broaden those leadership skills. Not only that, your involvement will increase your network, expose you to other leaders and help to develop more sophisticated political relationship skills.

Seek out a mentor. Use your network to identify a business elder who has been tested by the types of decisions you would experience at the senior executive level.  If you know the individual, call them and ask for a meeting. Or, if you know someone who with an established relationship with the elder, ask for “bridging” to the individual as this person could make introductions and recommend you.

If your feedback suggested you need higher level skills in public speaking, then join a Toastmaster’s group and/or seek out private coaching on how best to present yourself. Seek out opportunities to speak on a topic that is dear to your heart.

Continue to build your reputation as an expert in your field. Write articles in your industry journals, write a blog on the internet and/or circulate your own company newsletter to clients, featuring your key article of course.

Stay in touch. While you may not have been successful in the most recent recruitment process, sometimes there are opportunities to stay in touch with the interviewers from the potential employer. Developing a relationship may lead to referrals to their network and who knows, another opportunities could arise.

It also doesn’t hurt to put on your “investigative hat”. By that I mean that the successful candidate probably came from a similar industry which in turn leaves a vacancy. Seek it out and see if you can identify an opportunity.

All in all, the strategy for overcoming a disappointment in your job search is to continue feeling confident about your skillset, develop advanced skills where you can, maintain a positive attitude and keep that smile close by.

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