Let’s be honest, each and every time you submit your application to a particular role your hopes are raised that you’ll get the opportunity. And when you don’t move forward, whether it’s a non-response to your application or a rejection email after several rounds of interviews, those hopes are dashed. That can be a pretty tough feeling, especially if it’s compounded by multiple weeks of applications met with silence or an interview process you were highly invested in (when you know you’d be perfect in the role.)
As devastating as a rejection might be, take solace in knowing all is not lost.
Every application, every interview and every rejection is an opportunity to gain feedback. These hard-won lessons help you, both in the job search and in landing a job offer that is right for you. The most important part of any rejection is what you do because the only thing any of us can absolutely control in a job search process is our own actions and attitudes.
Every rejection is a redirection
Take some time to be disappointed
It never feels great to be rejected, even when reasons aren’t personal. Whether you are applying and not hearing back or can’t make it past first round interviews, you might find yourself questioning your value or ability to convey your professional worth. Take some time to sit with the rejection and grieve the lost opportunity if needed.
Give credit for the effort you are putting in and to move on to the next opportunity
At the end of the day though remember, every rejection is a redirection. You are in the driver’s seat for choosing the next road you take so make sure you are still driving forward and not stalled out for too long.
If you aren’t hearing back from job applications
- Review your application materials: Make sure your Talent Profile is complete. Ask a friend or pay a professional to evaluate your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile (or join our 5 day Resume Rev challenge.) Are you tailoring your resume and "Why Me?" statement to the job description? Create a few different versions of your cover letter and resume based on the most common jobs you’re applying to. Then you can use the version of your cover letter and resume that are most similar to the position and make a few final tweaks before clicking submit.
- Work on the timing of your submissions: Are you applying to new job postings as quickly as you can? Your chances for landing an interview are higher if you’re part of the first wave of applicants, which is typically within the first week of the job posting.
- Reassess what roles you are applying to and how your skills match the ones those positions sought: Ramp up your skills through online courses or volunteering opportunities.
The point here is to try something new and different. Redirect your efforts down a new path and see if the changes you make have any effect on what you are hearing back.
If you made it into the interview stage
First, give yourself some credit for creating a compelling application! There can be hundreds, or even thousands, of applications for one role. Standing out enough to get an interview is a big deal.
Recognize that you have solid application materials, skills that you are communicating clearly, and are a person that will be valued for a role eventually. Ask for feedback and what stood out about the hired candidate and incorporate that feedback into your process the next time you get into the interview process.
Manage your expectations on what feedback will be provided
Unfortunately, not every recruiter or hiring manager will respond with feedback on your performance. Sometimes this is related to the volume of interviews they have or something of a more personal nature.
But don’t let this deter you from asking—just manage your expectations as you wait for a response
If you went through several rounds of interviewing, it’s fair to expect some kind of feedback on your performance. However, if you only had a phone screen or one in-person interview, you likely won’t get much of a response (if any), and that’s to be expected.
If the rejection wasn’t automated, respond professionally and strategically
When a hiring manager or recruiter takes time to reach out to you personally you should also take the time to respond professionally and strategically. This is an opportunity to make a final impression on the person in charge of hiring and it’s possible you could make one positive enough that they will think of you in future hires.
Yes, you want to thank the recruiter or hiring manager for their time, for letting you know the news, and for their consideration in the first place. But you can also use this as an opportunity to gain specific feedback on how you did throughout the interview process and what the top candidate did that stood out to the hiring team. This is a chance for you to adjust your interviewing focus to the benefit of your future opportunities.
Here’s an example response:
Hi [Hiring Manager/Recruiter], Thank you for taking the time to keep me updated on the recruitment process and for letting me know you’re moving forward with another candidate.
If you have time, could you send me one suggestion to help me stand out as a stronger candidate and one way the top candidate stood out during the interview process? I am constantly working to improve my professional efforts and skill set and would appreciate hearing your thoughts.
I enjoyed meeting you and the team and learning about your organization. I’m still very interested in the company, so if there is ever an opportunity that you think I would be a good fit for, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Thank you, [Your Name]
Tried Everything In Your Job Search? Here's What's Next.
If you weren’t able to get any feedback, or you’re not sure what changes you need to make, check out this session with career coach Melisa Liberman to help you get started.
What to do moving forward
Re-frame your perspective
No matter where you fall in the interview process, you may benefit from changing your perspective on interviewing a bit. It’s easy to take something like this personally because you were personally invested in the process, but the fact of the matter is that it was not a personal decision—it was a business decision.
There are a number of reasons for any rejection. In the initial stages it could be a matter of timing, number of candidates applying for the role and their experience level, an internal change at the company and more. In the later interview stages you might find that the company opted to hire an existing employee, the hired candidate had specialized experience in an area you didn’t, they had a shared connection or dozens of other reasons.
No matter the reason, the answer will most likely never feel good, but it’s important to put it behind you and know it was not a personal failing.
By readjusting your perspective you will be in a better place to move forward with applying to and interviewing with other companies. The mindset change can help you be more prepared for potential rejection in the future, but also your mindset can be highly impactful on all stages of your career.
Keep networking and applying for jobs throughout future interviews
No matter how guaranteed a job opportunity feels, you shouldn’t stop searching for, applying to and interviewing with new jobs until you’ve signed an offer letter. Putting all your eggs in one basket not only limits your opportunities, it can also make a rejection that much harder.
Think of your job search as building a pipeline so you don’t press pause on your search at any point along the way. Who knows, it could end up with you in the middle of a bidding war between two fantastic companies who desperately want you to work for them. At the very least you’ll be exposed to a wider swath of opportunities and more areas to gain feedback on your skills and the way you present yourself professionally.
You may not have been right for this specific role, but there is a role out there for you. In fact, when that job comes along you may find that you are thankful for the rejection that led to this redirection.
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