Handling Rejection

Handling Rejection

Virtually every job search involves rejection.  It’s typical to apply and interview for many jobs before finding a great match and getting hired.  While it’s not fun to be turned down, it is an opportunity to grow.

It’s ideal if you can get direct feedback about why you were not selected. Here are some people you should ask:

  • The hiring manager
  • The recruiter or HR person
  • Company insiders
  • The person in your network who introduced you to the job

You may get little or no feedback from the first two but it’s still important to ask. Your connections are more likely to give you the straight scoop on what happened.

If you hear that the job went to an internal candidate, consider that internal candidates are chosen because they have proven their value in a direct and obvious way. One way to improve is to bring out your value that directly as well, through solid success stories, compelling external experience, and strong support from company insiders or connections.

If you hear they decided to go in a different direction, note that companies will not “go in a different direction” if they have a candidate in front of them that they really believe can solve problems and bring value to the company. What could you have done to make them want you as part of their team regardless of direction changes?

If you hear they chose someone better qualified, look at how you brought out your qualifications in the interview. Going in with a list of what you know they are looking for and crafting stories that bring out your match is the best way to highlight your relevant qualifications.

If you hear you lacked a specific skill, consider if you truly lack that skill, or you failed to bring it out. If you lack the skill, is it worth learning it? If you failed to bring it out, you now have direct evidence of how such an oversight can cost you and you won’t make that mistake next time.

If you hear there was any problem with your presentation or connection with the interviewer, take this information seriously and don’t get defensive. Learning that there’s an issue with how you come across in interviews could be the key to a successful job search. Sometimes small interpersonal traits such as interrupting or negative body language are causing huge problems for a job seeker, yet he or she is completely unaware.

If you can’t get any direct feedback on what happened, you should still spend some time thinking about how you presented yourself and what you would do differently next time.  Our Troubleshooting Series helps you examine every step of the process and improve it. Avoid assumptions such as “they probably chose someone younger”, “they hired someone with insider connections” or “they just didn’t like me.” Focus on what you can control about your presentation and make a list of what you will do better next time.

Be gracious in communications with the hiring manager or recruiter. Keep the door open to future possibilities. In fact, how you handle rejection can make or break your chances for future consideration.

  • Thank the hiring manager or recruiter for letting you know
  • Ask for feedback
  • Ask to be kept in mind for future opportunities.
  • Add new contacts to your professional network if appropriate

Sometimes you will receive little or no feedback during the initial conversation. Try a cordial follow-up email . Avoid saying “What did I do wrong?” or “Why didn’t you hire me?” Instead say “I value your insights and would appreciate any feedback you can give me.”

Finally, it’s important to tend to your emotional side. Rejection hurts. For job seekers, that pain may come at a time when they are already vulnerable. So take good care of yourself as you work through rejection. Remember:

  • It is not personal
  • Whether or not you get a particular job says nothing about your value as a person
  • You will learn from this experience
  • Your ultimate success will be all the sweeter for these rejections

Do not use rejection as an excuse to back off of your job search. In fact, always keep looking for opportunities while you are interviewing. Use rejection as a chance to fine tune your presentation and interviewing techniques for better success next time.

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3 thoughts on “Handling Rejection

  1. Over the last 20 years I have experienced rejection in the forms of multiple job losses, a divorce and the frustration of all that goes with such experiences. While my faith has sustained me, my tenacity has pressed me forward to keep on keeping on. I have learned to reach out to others and share with them lessons that I have learned through discouraging times and to encourage them. At present I am working a commission based job that has a “successed based compensation” but in my industry ( commercial real estate) I have the ability to earn a 7 figure income. Moreover, I have started a new relationship that shows signs of great potential.

    1. Stephen,

      It’s great to hear that your tenacity served you well and created exciting new possibilities in your life.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and story with others. It’s inspiring.


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