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I interviewed for a position in a company. In the end, they hired someone with experience (I am about to graduate). Even though I did not get the job, I made it to the last round and the interviewers gave me a very positive feedback and said they would come back to me in case of a new open position.

Now I found another job at the same company that has quite some overlap with the previous one, but is in a different department. My question is: Should I refer to the previous interviews in the cover letter, because they were what made me interested in this specific application and because I am pretty confident, the people involved would be positive about me? Or could this do harm to my application, given that the previous interviews were not successful?

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    An aside: If you still have contact information for the people you interviewed with for the first position, I would definitely contact those people and inquire about the other job. It will help your chances immensely. – Garrison Neely Dec 10 '14 at 16:03
  • @Garrison Neely, thank you, very useful advice, I did not consider this way of approaching the situation so far. – Johanna Dec 10 '14 at 20:00
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Since you say that it was overall a positive experience, I don't think there is anything wrong with mentioning your previous interviews, especially if you had positive feedback. You can also acknowledge the possible drawbacks (i.e. the fact that the interviews were unsuccessful):

"I was drawn to this position after being considered for a previous role in your company. Although I was unsuccessful then, I am better suited to this opening because [etc.] and have since improved by accomplishing [amazing stuff]. My previous interactions with the company have been extremely positive and the workplace atmosphere has only increased my interest."

That way, you're building on any positive memories other staff might have of you, acknowledging your strong interest in the company (you're bothering to reapply), essentially saying that you've got past the "first date" stage with their company, you know the basics and you still want to work there. You're also saying that now you're in a better position to meet their needs, and saying how you've improved since then. Generally, companies do want the good candidates to reapply!

As you say, there is a risk. However, given that you were beaten to other role by a candidate who had experience that you couldn't possibly have, as a graduate, they may be a bit more sympathetic, especially given your motivation to work there. If you are especially worried, why not get in touch with one of your previous interviewers and ask what they think? They'll be able to give you more specific advice about the department you're applying to and the likely reaction of the people interviewing - and who knows, they may even put in a good word for you!

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