It seemed like a dream match for Lawrence Franco.
In successive rounds of interviews this spring for the job of chief executive officer of Toronto database services provider Teranet Inc., "I clicked with the board and had a strategy they liked," he says.
Just as important, "the company just felt right for me," says Mr. Franco, formerly the president of Dun & Bradstreet Canada, who left the company after 24 years late last year when the position was eliminated because of a consolidation of Canadian and U.S. operations
Mr. Franco knew Teranet was interviewing someone else for the job as well, but he felt sure he had it nailed when, in the final interview in May, he was asked to present a 100-day plan for the business and his ideas for long-term growth of the 600-employee company.
Two weeks later, he got a call from the board chairman, but it wasn't the one he was waiting for: The other candidate had got the job.
Nevertheless, they liked him, Mr. Franco was told, and would keep him in mind for a future role with the company.
As he hung up the phone, he says, "I felt like I had fallen off in the middle of a roller coaster ride. It was a real downer."
For most people, the story would end there, figuring that No means No and it is time to move on.
But Mr. Franco took Teranet at its word and discovered what experts say many other executives will find in a rebounding economy: The runner-up who follows up can come out a winner.
In his case, he invited a member of the board of directors to lunch for a debriefing and let it be known he was open to another senior role with the company.
Two weeks later, he got an offer. In late July, he started as Teranet's vice-president of business development.
Second chances such as this are going to be increasingly possible this fall, says Lou Clements, a partner in executive transition consultancy Miller Dallas in Toronto. That's because for the past year, many companies have been holding back on filling positions and have gaps in their management structures that will need to be filled as the economy starts to recover.
However, the burden will be on the job seeker to follow up and stay on an employer's radar. "Companies don't generally keep you on file just in case. It's up to you to stay in touch," Mr. Clements says.
The fact that you do follow up and signal your continued interest will be impressive to an employer because "the vast majority of people just say 'forget them' and move on when they get the news they didn't get the job," he says.
That reaction is based on the belief there are no second chances in job hunting. In a recent Globe and Mail online poll, 92 per cent of 10,497 respondents said they don't believe it when an employer who doesn't now have a position to offer says it will get back to you if something opens up in the future.
Even those who might consider circling back after being jilted may hesitate because ego or feelings of failure get in the way, says Rick Lash, Toronto-based national practice director of the Hay Group leadership development and coaching company.
Getting the word that you didn't make the cut can lead to a pronounced feeling of failure, Mr. Lash says. "It is often difficult, particularly for high achievers, to get over the feeling that you didn't get the job because you aren't right or are not competent," he says.
"The successful people will be those who can step back and say, 'All right, what did I learn from this?' "
People often don't recognize it is not because they aren't right or competent that they don't get the job. The fact is, in executive searches, the candidates who make the short list of two or three finalists are all highly qualified, he says. A single detail can make the difference between winning and losing.