How to Answer "What Will You Do If You Don't Get The Job?"

One way to advance your career is to look for a new job in the company where you're currently employed. When you're interviewing for an internal position, it's very likely that you'll be asked what you'll do if you don't get the job. 

When you’re applying for a new role with your employer, it can be challenging for both you and the company if you don’t get the position. The interviewer will want to know what strategies you’ll use to successfully continue working in your current job if you don’t get the promotion or transfer you were seeking.

Here's what you need to know to prepare for this question. 

What the Interviewer Wants To Know

The interviewer wants to know whether you are concerned about the company or just the advancement opportunity. 

Interviewers want to promote a person who will continue to grow with the organization over time and not jump ship for the next opportunity when it arises.

It pays to ask yourself the same question before the interview, so take stock of what your plans will be for the future and develop a good answer. Some questions to consider: 

  • What are your long-term career goals? 
  • What job title do you hope to move into next, and where will you go from there? 
  • Which skills do you hope to gain? 
  • Can you get these things at your current company, or will you have to move on?

How To Answer the Question

Of course, even if you realize that you’ll need to leave the company within the next few years, you won’t volunteer that information during the interview (whether or not you’re selected for this particular job).

Instead, when asked, "What will you do if you don't get this position?" formulate a reply that answers their concerns. Try to determine their goals as well as your own. Then look for areas of overlap between their goals and your long-term plans and emphasize your loyalty to the organization.

For example, they’ll want to know that you’ll support the person who gets the job in the event that you aren’t selected.

It's helpful to focus on positive steps you'll take in response to the rejection, such as seeking out additional feedback and training. 

Examples of the Best Answers

Your response to this question will vary, depending on the position, the company, and your career plans. If you’re planning to keep looking for other vacancies at the company, you might mention that. If you want to develop certain skills or gain experience to become a better candidate for future roles, work that into the conversation. Take a look at some sample responses: 

Example Answer #1

I am committed to this company and its advancement so, should I not be selected, I will work with and support whoever is selected. However, I do feel that my experience in the department and on the team would make me the best candidate.

Why It Works: This response is both professional and mature. It also reminds the interviewer of the candidate's skills and aptitude for the role.

Example Answer #2

I will explore more training opportunities and look into getting further credentials to enhance my qualifications for advancement.

Why It Works: This response shows that the candidate won't respond with defeat but will instead seek out ways to grow their skills. 

Example Answer #3

I feel as if this would be a good fit for me, so I'm hoping I won't have to think too much about that.

Why It Works: This is a bold approach, but let's face it: If you applied to a role that you're well qualified for, it's reasonable to say so. 

Tips for Giving the Best Response

Be gracious. In your response, you don't want to say that you'll see this as a closed door and an invitation to apply elsewhere. That's unappealing to interviewers. 

Talk about next steps. Focus instead on skill-boosting steps you'll consider, such as seeking out classes, certification, and training. 

Show you care about the company. If possible, look for ways to show in your response that you'll still be available to support the new hire, even though you'd wanted the role.

What Not To Say 

  • Don't act as if it's personal. Fundamentally, you'll be hired—or not hired—for the role based on whether you're the right fit. It's a business decision, not a personal one. Make sure you don't act as if you'll respond unprofessionally. 
  • "I quit." And, of course, even if it is the case that you'll look for a position at a new company if you aren't granted the internal role, there's no need to share that information. 

Possible Follow-up Questions 

  • You have worked here a long time. How have you seen this company change?
  • What do you like best about your current position at the company?
  • Would your manager recommend you for this position?
  • What do you have to offer that other candidates don’t?

How To Handle it When You Don’t Get the Job

It can be difficult to handle rejection when you’re job searching, and it can be even harder when you get rejected by your own employer. If you’re not selected, you’ll have to see the person or people who rejected you, possibly on a daily basis. That’s a very different situation from a typical job interview, where you might go the rest of your life without seeing an interviewer who chose someone else for a job.

You'll need to move past your feelings and any awkwardness. If you know you’re likely to feel demoralized if you’re not selected, for example, you’ll have to learn how to cope with your disappointment so that it doesn’t become long-term dissatisfaction with your job.

Consider how you’ll deal with your emotions if you’re not selected, and do so before you apply.

You’ll have to work with the person who gets the job. Processing your feelings now will allow you to do so in a way that will impress your co-workers and help you stay in the running for future promotions. 

Key Takeaways

  • Interviewers want to know how you'll cope with a professional disappointment. They're also seeking reassurance that you're interested in the role itself and not just a new job title. 
  • Keep your response professional and mature. You can describe ways you'll support the hired candidate and explain how you'll take on more training to improve your skills. 
  • Be strategic in what you share. If you know you'll apply elsewhere if you don’t get the job, keep that information to yourself.