So your dream company dropped a bomb on you, after gruelling interviews that have left you exhausted: they don’t want you.

I won’t name names, but there are certain top tier companies that every engineer and developer dreams of joining. The culture! The diversity! The stock options!

But what happens when these companies you held in such high regard decide to blindside you and say "no, thanks".

There are a few things you can and should do. None of these are proven strategies, but recommendations I found helpful to me and hopefully to you.

But, first:

If you’ve just been dealt with a crushing blow of “no, thanks, but we’ll keep your resume on file”, you have permission to cry. Or feel blue. Or take some time for yourself.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Interviewing can mess with your emotions. You’re essentially going on 4 or 5 dates and each subsequent meeting you feel like you’re getting closer to long-term relationship status.

You start to visualize yourself there. You start planning your exit strategy from your current company. You probably even jump to conclusions about the better housing situation you could afford if you get this job.

And then something happens and it falls apart. Or someone just doesn’t like you and had final say–regardless of all the Yeses that the other interviewers gave. It sucks. It hurts. It feels awful.

Once you’re emotionally over it (or in parallel to screaming into a pillow), ask for feedback on how it went. Find out where you could improve. If it had to do with technical aptitude, great! You can improve that! Work on your algorithmic problem solving. Leetcode is a site an interviewer had recommended. Then buff up your brain.

If it had to do with the fact that you interviewed to be part of their “general engineer/developer talent pool”, great! You can work on getting crystal clear about the role you want. It’s tempting to say “I’ll do anything!” just to get your foot in the door. If you are interviewed for just about any role, you won’t have the opportunity to showcase your best strengths. Be deliberate about what you want and get in front of the right people who need your unique set of skills.

Try, try again. You could be absolutely perfect in your algorithmic problem solving and technical assessments. But you probably didn’t “gel well” with the interviewers.

Know that interviewing might seem objective, but it’s not. Because humans do it, and as much as they are trained to be “objective”, each and every person holds bias. Even if they undergo unconscious bias training, are aware of it, and instructed ways to get around it – there might listen to their “hunch” and decide against you. I know, I know. It sucks. It's unfair.

And while companies take pride in their shared understanding of what their culture is, it’s impossible that their thousands of employees have the exact same, calibrated “culture meter” built into them to assess every candidate the same way. Every interviewer is on a spectrum – some really embody the culture and thoughtfully assess by asking good questions, while others just care that you’re breathing.

So, the proposed action here is to meet with a new set of people at a later date – a different team or product. Or try again in a few months where you most likely will interview with someone else who could recognize how you can fit in. Sometimes it’s luck of the draw – you could have had an interviewer who was having a bad day, or you could have had a bad day. The idea here is that you should ask for another opportunity at a later date when things could fall into place.

Alternatively, you could be exhibiting a bad attitude and have no idea. Ask someone you trust to be honest with you – not someone who will tell you what you want to hear. Ideally, this person should be a friend's partner or a friend's parent. Someone who doesn't have any or very little history/interaction with you to objectively assess you. Do a mock interview and ask for honest thoughts and reactions around your etiquette.

Once you know what exactly grinds most people's gears, work on that. Maybe you interrupt a lot? I once met someone who repeated every single world I said (it was so annoying, I had a physically step away and leave). Or maybe you draw out a simple sentence and take too much time to express a thought? Having awareness of your quirks and ironing them out is part of interviewing better and making a better impression when you get another opportunity.

Or perhaps, drop that dream of working for this company.

Sometimes we don’t need to meet our heroes. Or we shouldn’t.

Know that companies, like people, evolve and change and may not be that glittery company you aspired to. And know that you, yourself, evolve and change. You might not realize it, but you probably have changed and you’re not a fit for them anymore.

And if you’ve been rejected multiple times and each time feels crushing, lowering your confidence, and making you feel like less than – just stop. No company is worth your self-esteem. No company should make you feel like you’re not good enough.

You are enough. You don’t need an offer from a glorified company to prove that. You have so much to offer to so many. You can give up on [company], but you cannot give up on yourself.

Featured photo by Maranda Vandergriff on Unsplash.