What success actually looks like. (Wikimedia)

Winning a Loss

Jamie Ryan
4 min readApr 19, 2021

So, with all the best intentions of it being ‘just an application’, you surprised yourself and got to the first, second, third round of interviews with a position that seemed too good to be true, actual realistic job criteria in a company you can see yourself being part of. You get on so well with the team — you already feel like you are a new recruit, hanging out at the water cooler while you invite these new friends into your bedroom office, shirt and undies. You start to think ‘OK, this may actually be ‘the one’ and you start planning your new life, home plans, what you’ll call your 3 babies, and then your recruiter wants a 15 minute chat titled “Interview Feedback”, and your sandcastles begin to blow over —

We won’t be progressing your application to the offer stage.

Like a breakup, being told you didn’t get the job you were gunning for can feel like a rush of emotions and futures that will never be, particularly if you got to the later stages of a thorough job application process.

However, this is not failure, at least, not if you don’t want it to feel that way. There are no losers if you put in the work and present your best self — you’ve showed several professionals that you are not to be overlooked, and you can leverage that by making sure you get to know who you’re interviewing with and make sure they remember who you are. After the bad news, this is the chance to make connections and ask questions. Your failed application is my win — I came out with key connections, a reading list and mentor opportunities.

Give credit and thanks

It can’t be stated enough — show gratitude! You’re not the only one investing time and moving around commitments for interview time. The people you are talking to likely have had to sift through dozens, hundreds of applications, spending hours talking to other applicants while trying to do their own work. Consider any interview time a privilege to connect professionally and share ideas — make sure to thank who you speak to after each session for their valuable time. It is a small overlooked detail that really matters and shows that you value their time spent freely on you.

Take All Souvenirs

We all know ‘that person’ at breakfast buffets that stuffs the leftover butters and croissants into their backpacks. They have the right idea — take what is being offered on your way out of a process. “What, Jamie, could I possibly take when I’ve been told no?” Lots! Ask for all the feedback you can, find folks on professional networks, start post-job conversations. Write an article about it! You have everything to gain from each experience, and it is a great way to work on your growth mindset.

Get the Negatives

Look, you already know you’re good — that’s why you were considered and kept until late in the process. Time is critical when asking for post-job feedback, and being told ‘you were really great’ is not advice you can work into the next application. Specifically ask for critique and be ready to check your ego at the door. If you had a tough interview where you felt that interview was particularly critical, this will be the person that gives you the most insight into your performance. Remind them not to worry, they’re going to apologise and try soften any blows, but you’re well able for it.


This can be a hard pill to swallow if you felt like it was their loss. Maybe it was their loss — but maybe it wasn’t. It’s important to empathise with the hiring staff, who are considering not only who has the best set of skills, but minimising the risk of that person not enjoying their job and moving on within a year or 2. It’s expensive to onboard staff, even an intern. Maybe the hiring manager could sense that the specific work they required was not what came across as the thing you love to do — or maybe someone loved it more. Only just over a third of ‘right’ applicants get the ‘right’ job, for so many different reasons you can’t influence directly. You will get your chance, and this might not have been your best opportunity. You can take steps to make those opportunities present themselves. Allowing yourself time to debrief and collect yourself is important, but don’t linger on what simply wasn’t to be. If you can turn your loss into a gain, you’re much more likely to walk away stronger and more armed for the real dream job.

Onwards and upwards, my beautiful failures



Jamie Ryan

Design writing. Loves bad design, hates sub-par coffee..