Most of us have been there… rejected for a job you were perfect for and thought you were going to land.
But what should you do next?
As a former recruiter, I’m going to share 11 tips for dealing with job rejection after an interview so you can land a new job faster.
It’s frustrating and confusing to be rejected for a job after seeing signs that the interview went well.
Your first thought when receiving a job rejection is likely, “Why did I get rejected after a good interview?”
The first step you should take is to respond and ask the employer for feedback about the rejection.
You won’t change an employer’s mind after they’ve rejected you, and that’s not the goal here.
But you can pick up some valuable tips and make adjustments moving forward in your job search.
So either call or send an email to the person who informed you of the hiring decision and politely ask if there’s any feedback they can share.
Never appear as if you’re trying to change their mind; that will just make the hiring manager or other interviewer hesitant to share any information.
Instead, I recommend thanking them for updating you, telling them that you’re always looking to improve in your job search, and then ask if they can provide any feedback to help you improve your interview skills.
This first step is crucial to getting on top of your game for future interviews, so don’t skip it. Make this a habit after job rejections and you’ll continue to get better at interviewing.
Knowing that you didn’t quite make the cut before, and taking note of feedback on how you can improve, you can now adapt your approach for your next job interview.
You have the advantage of knowing how to tweak your performance to win over the next hiring manager.
Don’t just vow to do better next time; be strategic.
Practice answering some of the questions that caught you off guard or challenged you in your last interview.
Think about topics and areas where the conversation didn’t flow well or the interviewer didn’t seem too impressed. Brainstorm ideas for what you could discuss next time for those topics.
With some practice and planning, you can nail these topics next time.
The truth that nobody ever tells you is:
Each recruiter and hiring manager is looking for different qualities in an interview and it’s impossible to know beforehand what they’re targeting.
Companies all have unique preferences that they aren’t going to disclose to a candidate.
As a recruiter, I had some hiring managers tell me they wanted someone with a lot of experience. Others told me they want someone with less experience so they can pay them less.
You also don’t know who else you’re up against in the interview process.
Maybe you were amazing but two other applicants were also great, and the employer had to make a tough decision after days of debating.
That’s a common type of job rejection that happens.
Yet if you don’t realize that this is what happened, you could take the rejection as a sign you’re doing things poorly in your interview and need to change everything.
Here are more examples of reasons you may have been rejected:
While working as a recruiter, I’ve had companies say, “We want to hire a woman next because we have too many men on the team right now.”
I’ve had a hiring manager tell me that he thought one of the applicants would want his job in the future, so he didn’t feel comfortable hiring them.
There’s a significant amount of luck in the interview process (whereas I’d say the rest of the job search process, like job applications and getting interviews, entails very little luck).
So keep this in mind and don’t overreact to any one rejection from a company after your interview.
It’s only if you see a pattern of many job rejections that you should worry. Then, it’s time to rethink your interview preparation.
If you’re not already doing this, make sure to thank each individual interviewer from the company within 24 hours of your interview.
This can be the difference-maker for some jobs. Not every recruiter or hiring manager cares about a thank-you email, but some do.
Think of it like this: If you’re one of four people in the final round of interviews, and everyone else sends thank-you emails yet you don’t, how is that going to look?
If each of you is qualified and could do the job well, they’re going to pick the candidate who seems most interested in this position and in taking this path in their career.
And one way you show that is by thanking them, reaffirming your interest in the role, talking about how the job fits your goals for the future, and telling them you’re excited to hear about the next steps as soon as they have feedback.
Those are the key pieces to include in your interview thank-you emails. And this is a step I never recommend skipping.
Job rejection stings, especially when you thought you had it in the bag, but take some comfort in knowing that practically every candidate has faced this feeling of disappointment.
Walt Disney was rejected by bankers and financers 300 times while trying to build Disneyland.
You likely have great skills and traits but it takes the right employer to see it.
The key is to not give up. Walt Disney didn’t quit after a few rejections; he kept pushing and now Disney is one of the best-known brands in the world.
This is an example of how rejection and setbacks can make you stronger.
Receiving a rejection letter or email is frustrating, but you can also use them as an opportunity to reevaluate what you want and how to get it, and adjust your approach if needed.
If you can find a way to use the strong emotions of rejection to drive you forward and increase your job search motivation, you’ll be in a better position to land a job offer from the next company you talk to.
Dwelling on the negatives only serves to increase feelings of inadequacy and rejection. Focusing on the positives has the opposite effect.
This is why looking at your strengths is so beneficial to improving motivation and restoring your mindset so you can get back out there and land your dream job.
These are the areas you need to focus on, as this is where you’ll score your points with employers.
Perhaps in your last interview you were too modest and didn’t get your strengths across.
It’s easy to play ourselves down; it’s in our nature not to brag and boast. However, you need to get these stories of your successes into your interview to wow your potential employer.
If they ask a question like, “What are your strengths?” or “Why should we hire you?” it’s not the time to be humble. You should brag a bit about yourself and share what you do best or what sets you apart from other candidates.
Working on your strengths as you handle rejection will do wonders for your confidence, too. It will give you a real sense of knowing that you have what it takes. Next time, the job is yours.
One smart way of handling rejection after an interview is to refocus your attention on what matters next.
Look ahead to the next interview or the next steps in your job search.
Not only will that help you get a job much faster than dwelling on a rejection, it’ll also take your mind off of the frustration.
And beating yourself up about a rejection or spending hours thinking about what you should and shouldn’t have said won’t help you.
Go look for that next company. Go apply for more jobs. That’s the only real way to move your job search forward now.
Each interview is a fresh chance to start over. All of those things you wish you had said differently, or interview answers that didn’t quite come out right… you’ll have a chance to deliver them better next time.
Just focus on that next interview and make sure you’re ready for it.
Think about how you can improve, what you can do differently and where you might have weak spots, but don’t dwell on the past.
It’s natural to need a bit of support or need someone to talk to after getting a tough rejection letter or disappointing phone call saying you weren’t chosen for the job.
So if you feel it’ll help you, reach out to your personal or professional network, or a family member, and tell them what you’re going through.
Sometimes, simply sharing what’s happened in recent events can take a weight off and allow you to recover faster so that you can reflect on what to do differently next time and start preparing for that next opportunity.
You’ve completed an interview now, you’ve been given feedback and you’ve worked out your main strengths.
Now practice how you want your next interview to go.
You can practice with a partner, family member, or one of your friends.
You can do it in front of the mirror, record yourself talking in your phone’s sound recorder app, or even hire a career coach or interview coach.
The bottom line is: Nothing comes out perfect the first time you say it, so practicing common interview questions and topics beforehand is almost always going to have a positive impact.
Prepare stories and examples that you’d like to share next time, too.
Review some of your past successes in recent jobs and what you’re most proud of in your career. Create some talking points about how you’d help your next employer in the specific jobs you’re applying for.
Being detailed and specific in an interview is better than talking in general terms.
For example, imagine the interviewer asks, “Why can you do well in this job?”
It doesn’t sound very impressive to say:
“I saw that the job requires managing a team and I’ve done that in the past.”
It’s better to say:
“I saw that the job posting mentions leading a team, and in my most recent role, I led five people, including handling their training, performance reviews, scheduling, and more. We were the top-ranked sales team among 12 teams, too.”
If you’re getting job interviews, you’re doing a lot of things right in your job search.
Only a select few candidates are invited to interview for a job. If that’s you, then you have skills that employers want, and you’re matching up well with the other candidates who are applying.
So don’t go change everything or start panicking.
You just need to keep going in your search. Sure, try to improve whenever you can. But also just keep one foot moving in front of the other. The worst thing you could do at this point is to give up or lose hope after a job rejection.
It’s okay to take time to rest and rebuild confidence, but try to bounce back and get back into interviewing as soon as you’re ready.
There are many reasons why you could have faced rejection even if you did nothing wrong. There’s increased competition from job seekers given the tough job market we’re in right now, and it’s tough on all job seekers.
But when you’re ready, you need to walk into your next interview with optimism and focus on the factors you can control. Go in with better preparation than other candidates, and a high level of energy and positivity, and you’ll be more likely to get hired.
Whereas if you’re still stuck with self-doubt or negative thoughts about the past rejection, it could make you appear to lack confidence or be uninterested in the role.
This is why it’s critical to go through the steps above and free yourself of thinking about past rejections so that you can move on.
You only need one job offer to land your dream job, so don’t quit. You’re one good interview away.
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