So you’re not the prospective employer’s first choice–do you care?

by Ryan Nitz, Head Editor, INALJ Alaska

So you’re not the prospective employer’s first choice–do you care?

ryan.nitzYou persevered through the job search slog, and at long last you get a call from a prospective employer asking for an interview. The interview day arrives and clearly you nailed it. You feel great. A week or so later, you get another, sadder call: you are great, your interview was great, everything’s great and that’s great, but we offered the job to someone else and they accepted. Bummer.

Six weeks later, you’re back to the slog and minding your own business when you receive a surprise phone call from your old friend, the aforementioned prospective employer. Remember how great we said you were, they say, well, guess what–the position is open and we’d like to know if you’re still interested. Being the wise job hunter you are, you politely ask for a few days to think it over. That’s fine, they say, just get back to us by the end of the week.

Well, now what? Clearly you can deduce that something not great in one way or another happened regarding whomever it was that accepted the position initially. The door is open now, but how do you feel about accepting a position for which you know you weren’t the first choice?

Do you just not care?

Do you find yourself even more motivated to accept the job and try that much harder?

Do you feel slighted, but not enough to prevent you from accepting the position?

Are you made so uncomfortable by the prospect of going in to work at a place where you–and likely many if not all of your coworkers–know that you were a back-up candidate, that you find yourself turning the offer down?

Everyone will have their own unique reaction to this situation, stemming from their life and professional experiences and their personality. It’s quite possible that you may not really know how you would react. That’s okay. The important thing is that you’ve thought about it before and you’ve tried your best to be honest with yourself about how you think you’d react. That way, maybe you can keep yourself from being caught totally off-guard if something like this happens to you.

Spend a little time mulling this over. The resulting insight will be a valuable addition to your professional toolbox.

Feel free to comment about what you think, and if you’ve been through a similar situation before, be sure to comment on that so others can learn from your experience.

  7 comments for “So you’re not the prospective employer’s first choice–do you care?

  1. Steve Johnson
    September 13, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Thirty-some years ago, I got my first job after library school after someone else turned down the position. I did not learn about the other candidate for more than a year. I have always felt grateful to the unknown individual who declined the job, because it opened the way for what turned out to be twenty-seven years of work for that organization. I am happy nothing discouraged me from accepting the job and all that came after.

  2. Lauren Patricia Bartell
    August 28, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I recently accepted a job where I was the second choice. I think that being the second choice gives you the time and opportunity to look more critically at the position and the organization. However, if you feel that it is a good fit for you, it should not matter that you are the second choice. It is a job doing what you want to do with an organization you respect. If they did not really want you, they would restart the search process or leave the vacancy unfilled.

  3. August 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    This happened to me.
    I interviewed for a part-time position, and was told I did not get the job. Then a few weeks later I was asked if I wanted the position. (It’s not quite the same situation though, in this situation another librarian quit and the part-time position was promoted to a full-time position) I did not accept.

    I did not accept because I think in the long run, there was no opportunity for advancement. I also had a lot of time to think about it, and I didn’t want to work part-time. Also I think that I like working in a larger system, and the interview point-blank told me that he thought I would move to large city as soon as I could.

  4. Steph Routhier Perry
    August 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    This happened to me. My situation was pretty much exactly as you described – interview went well, they loved me, I loved them, etc. I got the call saying that it was THIS close between me and another candidate, and they went with the other person due to one skill she had that I didn’t, but that they really did want to hire both of us. Of course I was disappointed, but what can you do?
    About a week later, they called to say that the position was still open. I was thrilled. It honestly didn’t even enter my mind to feel slighted – I was just delighted to be offered the job, as it was one I really wanted. And when I started, I didn’t even think of being the ‘second’ choice; because the first person was such a disaster, they were as thrilled to have me as I was to be there.

  5. Gale Smith
    August 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Before I became a librarian, I worked as a paralegal. I was turned down by one prospective employer. A few weeks later, the law firm contacted me and offered me the job. I accepted, stayed 18 years and they were sorry to see me go when we moved away after my husband accepted a job in another state.

  6. August 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    If it’s a great opportunity, then put aside your ego and just take it. You (and your new employer) might be pleasantly surprised. You also never know why the first candidate did not work out, so you should not take it personally. It could have been as simple as a scheduling conflict, or the other person had another job offer. Either way, in this tight economy, just go for it.

  7. August 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    This happened to a friend of mine- the company chose her as the second choice- their first choice turned out to be ineligible due to a felony conviction. Yep, this was at a library. This same employer multiple times had to go with second candidates due to something out-there about the first choice. I say it reflected more on the employer than on their 2nd choice. PS: all the 2nd choice people they hired in the end were great!!!

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