“Congratulations Benjamin, you’re in for the final round of your interview. Now, be on your way up and you’ll meet our Business Development Director,” said the line manager.

It was my last interview of a series of six rounds of assessments for the graduate program (in Customer Business Development (CBD)) at Procter & Gamble (P&G). 40 minutes later, I left the final interview room in exuberance and lightness. I thought I had connected really well with the Director and left a strong impression with the questions I asked. I must have nailed it.

Image from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lsuchick142/

Three weeks later, I received the notification email from P&G. Instead of jumping with joy, I sank with disappointment upon reading the perfunctory opening paragraph layered with the usual words of acknowledgement and the needless mention about the record number of applicants. I knew what was coming next.

Rejection.

It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t take “no” for an answer. Hell, I had “no” presented to me in a variety of manner from my four “crushes” after telling them that I liked them.

If anything, I have always believed it is important to know what’s behind the “no”. It is necessary feedback for you to improve, to complete that entire experience, to move on and be at one with yourself.

Yes, I know that’s not the company’s responsibility and that if they are to make this an exception, it will open the floodgates to everyone asking for feedback and then, appealing for a different result. Can you imagine the level of administrative inefficiencies? Where do you draw the line? The all-too-familiar “policy”.

But no, I felt I needed to know, anyway. A “policy” wasn’t sufficient reason for me to avoid doing what’s required for me to grow. After all, I had likewise invested my time and energy and effort in this entire process too.

So P&G was smart to not reveal the director’s contact details in their email trails but I was aware enough to recall her first name and I did a simple Google and LinkedIn search. With my experience as a telemarketer, I got through the gatekeepers by insisting that I speak to the Director. I used her first name and when the gatekeeper asked for the purpose of the call, I said I had a meeting with her previously and would like to follow up with her. Quite sure I didn’t lie my way through.

So I eventually got through to the Director over the phone and this was how the conversation went.

Ben: Cynthia (not her real name), do you recall me? I’m Benjamin Loh and I was one of the candidates you interviewed for the CBD position. I spoke with you briefly about coaching during the interview.”

Cynthia (sounding noticeably annoyed): Benjamin? Right. Yes, how did you get my number?

Ben: I didn’t, I called through the main line and requested to speak to you.

Cynthia: Okay, what can I do for you?

Ben: Well, I just received the rejection email and I was wondering if you could give me some feedback so I can grow from this experience and improve for my subsequent interviews?

Cynthia: Well, Benjamin, it’s the fit.

(pause)

Ben: Ok, can you tell me more about the fit… or rather, what was the lack of fit about?

Cynthia: No, Benjamin, it’s not the lack of fit, it’s the fit.

(longer pause)

Ben: Well, sounds like I am not getting any more information from you, am I?

Cynthia: Yes

Ben: Thank you.

It was only after speaking with my friend, Diana, who was a recruiter that I found consolation that, the “fit” can really mean many things. Like how they could possibly have someone who had a similar personality like me or that I just wasn’t a character match with my line manager or department culture or that the Director just didn’t click with me as much as I thought I had resonated with her.

Whatever the case, I felt at peace with myself eventually. I left no stones unturned and I was accountable to myself because I know I tried.

So why am I telling this story even though it has been over one and half years from that episode?

Today, I met up with my mentee from the SMU for our first mentoring session. We touched on the issue about what he’s been struggling with and he shared with me how he had faced a similar issue and was left unsettled even till today.

The wonderful thing as a trained Coach is that when you are present in the now with your client, what you say sometimes truly amazes you.

“You’re feeling this way because you left your stone unturned. And every time you do so, you just create an additional shadow of doubt for yourself and avoid the pursuit for your truth. The light of it. Over time, it’s just going to weigh you down and make you even more unsettled and doubtful of yourself”

So I got him to do an act of courage and resolve the unresolved as part of his “homework”.

Whether it’s a small act you know it’s right to do but you didn’t do it like speaking up when you need to or finding out the “truth” that matters to you like in my interview case, it all adds up. Every time you stop short of doing what’s right, it adds up and eats into you and becomes a new “norm” and skin for you. And it won’t take long before the lines start to blur and then it becomes tougher for you to do the right thing when the time calls for it.

I certainly don’t think I’m the exemplar as to this belief altogether but if there has been one lesson I took away from getting rejected by P&G, is that you need to take responsibility and courage for your integrity to yourself. To seek your own truth and do what’s right for you in your world because there’s no one else that can do that for you.

Disclaimer: I am not advocating for HR processes to be changed nor for you to stalk your interviewers if they refuse to give you the answers you need. I’m suggesting that there will be times whereby you may be forced to give in at the expense of you not doing the right thing. And what’s right for you is your judgment call to make and to be at peace with, eventually.

Question: Have you been in similar scenarios where you fought for what’s right despite the circumstances going against you? How did you pull yourself through it?

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