How to handle rejection in your job search and turn that into your strength
No one enjoys getting turned down for a job, and if you’ve done a lot of preparation for a role that you really wanted, it can be harder still to accept a rejection.
But with the right mindset, you can turn the experience into a career development opportunity. Here’s how…
Ask for detailed feedback
The key thing to do after a rejection is to think about what happened, and how you can learn from it.
Asking for and listening to feedback is the most valuable thing you can do when faced with a job rejection. Self-analysis alone won’t paint the whole picture of why you weren’t the right person for the role.
So start by gathering all the feedback you can from the recruiter – and through them, the employer. If the feedback feels a bit superficial or generic, don’t be afraid to ask for a more detailed assessment. You put a lot into the process, after all, and you’re entitled to get some actionable insights at the end of it.
Review and reflect
Once you’ve had a chance to come to terms with the employer’s decision, it can be tempting to brush the experience aside and never think of it again. But that would be to pass up on a significant learning opportunity.
So, thinking about the feedback you received, go back through everything that happened, from the way you prepared and researched through to your interactions in the interview and any follow-up.
If the process took place in stages, rank your performance for each part and determine where there is room for improvement. Ask yourself: What did I sense went well? What could I have done differently?
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Could a presentation have been prepared more thoroughly? Could you have worked harder to build rapport with your interviewer(s)? Did you focus too much on technical competence at the expense of showcasing your softer skills? Were there any questions you feel you could have answered better?
There is always room to improve, so use any setbacks to shine a light on these areas.
Identify learnings and build a personal development plan
Think about feedback from past rejections, and from appraisals and the like. Are there any recurring themes? What should your development priorities be?
Make a note of any weaknesses or issues that you can do something about, and use them as a focus for the way you approach your preparation next time.
Turn these requirements into a plan. What can you do to fix the gaps in your performance? Depending on the issue, there may be some training or informal coaching you can undertake to help you develop. Or it may simply be a case of working harder on some of your answers, and finding someone to practise them with.
Feedback can also help you to recognise that sometimes rejection is simply out of your hands – and can even ultimately be in your interest. Some things can’t be changed overnight – if the interviewer prefers someone with extensive client management experience (which you don’t have) or they want someone who speaks the local language (and you don’t, or not as well), then it pays to be philosophical. The key with your plan is to focus on the things you can realistically change.
Chemistry plays a vital part in any successful working arrangement. So even if you’d felt your interview went perfectly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the role within that specific company was perfect for you.
Refine your search
Sometimes the interview and/or feedback process can make you realise that, although it’s disappointing to be rejected, the role didn’t, on reflection, feel like quite the right fit for you either.
Look back over the job specification and ask yourself if you could truly see yourself in that role on a day-to-day basis. If there were aspects of the role that didn’t excite you, the interviewer may have been able to see this too.
Use your experience to help you refine future job searches. Are you perhaps looking at keywords that don’t quite match your ambitions and aspirations? Did the role that went with the job title not quite match your expectations? Did the interview make you realise that this is not quite the right sort of job for you? And if not, then what is?
In today’s rapidly changing workplace, as technologies accelerate and companies transform themselves with great agility, developing a mindset of grit and resilience is essential for long-term success.
See each setback as a challenge to grow both your self-understanding and your ability to bounce back and deal with disappointment. Overcoming obstacles on your career path will increase your chances of landing the right role. So make a point of staying constructive, and do all you can to learn from the experience to help you get ready for the next opportunity.
After all, getting turned down from a job happens to everyone, the most important thing is what you learn from the experience.
Rejection is inevitable in the job search process. Yet when it happens, we often hold ourselves back from continuing our efforts. It’s easy to go into the victim mode and feel like sorry for ourselves, defeated, and hopeless. Today I’m going to talk through a few practical tips you can follow to make sure that you’re able to rebound from rejection when it happens. Feel free to watch the video below or continue reading along!
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Expect Rejection During Your Job Search
Let’s start by talking about rejection and why everyone will experience it. I want to share some stats really quickly because I think this might help you put things into perspective.
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According to Glassdoor, one out of 250 applicants will get a job. That means for every job that is posted, 249 people minimum are going to be rejected. Now with so many Americans laid off and looking for work, the number of applicants per position has doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in some cases. If you go into your job search thinking that it’s always going to be 100% yes, 100% offers and 100% response rates, you are setting yourself up for a lot of heartache. So just take that into consideration and know that at the end of the day, the job search is a bit like a numbers game. But at the same time, you can greatly improve your numbers by implementing smart strategies. (P.S.- I have a free resource library full of strategies for you! Click here to get access for free.) But ultimately, no matter how great you are, you will likely be facing some rejections at some point during your job search. So let’s just set the expectation to receive rejections from the get-go so that you aren’t blindsided when it does happen.
Don’t Take Rejections Personally
Now that we’ve normalized rejection, let’s make sure we’re not taking rejections too personally. At the end of the day, rejection itself isn’t bad. But what hurts us is the meaning that we assign to the rejection. Rejection is an outcome, right? And the feeling associated with rejection is typically discouragement or frustration or inadequacy. Those feelings are determined by the thought we assign to that outcome, right? A lot of job seekers I speak with, for instance, take rejection to mean they’re not good enough, they’re not a top candidate, or somebody else out there is better than them. It’s really the thoughts rather than the actual rejection that are creating painful feelings of inadequacy.
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As a former recruiter, I have interviewed literally thousands of people and hired thousands of people. That means I have rejected tens of thousands of people for every thousand that I have hired. I want you to know from a recruiter’s perspective that there are so many factors that go into the job search that are out of the candidate’s control. We’ve all heard of nepotism, we’ve all heard of internal candidates getting the job. We’ve all heard of people who have been referred in who snagged the job offers, which by the way is in your control and you can definitely do that. But ultimately at the end of the day, the hiring decision is made for a number of reasons, many of which don’t actually have to do with the candidate directly. It’s your job to make sure you don’t take that personally to mean there’s something innately wrong with you.
However, if you went to the interview and fell short on something that was in your control, it’s a bit different. Let’s say you showed up to the interview five minutes late, you sent a resume with a typo, or you were flustered with the interviewer and that came out. Those are things that you can take as learning opportunities and move forward with your job search so that you can become better. It can be very helpful to identify the aspects you do have control over, like your attire, your interview preparation, or your time management on the day of the interview, for example, and work on doing the best you can with those things. But ultimately I want to make sure that you don’t take rejection to be personal and that you are setting the expectations to receive rejections because that’s just what’s going to happen during the cycle.
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Reframe Rejection Positively
My third tip is to ensure that you’re taking what is happening and reframing it in a way that still leaves you with power. So for instance, if you are getting rejected and you’re saying it means that you’re not good enough, how can you reframe that? You can always reframe what is happening and step into taking ownership of what’s in your control. Because the truth of the matter is that we always have a choice in how we want to proceed. When we sit there wallowing in a victim mentality, we’re always going to find evidence to support whatever negative belief we’re adopting. Having a victim mentality means you see everything that happens as evidence that the world is against you and that you are always suffering at the hands of bad luck. Do any of the statements below resonate with you?
“I knew it. This always happens. I don’t know why I can’t just catch a break.”
“This is never going to work. I might as well just give up now.”
“Why me? This is not fair.”
This type of thinking is easy to fall into, and trust me when I say it will suck you into a cloud of constant negativity. It’s much easier to believe these negative things are true than to push past your fear and dare to hope that something better is out there. If you’re stuck in a pattern of bitterness and negativity, the first thing to do is repair is your thought process. I encourage you to challenge those negative thoughts and bring them out into the light. There’s a reason the first thing I work on with every single one of my clients is their mindset and confidence. Your mind is incredibly powerful, so be sure that power is directed towards positive, confident and hopeful beliefs. If you need some ideas, you can start by downloading my list of job search affirmations and mantras in my free resource library to jumpstart your positive thinking.
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Understand That Everything is Happening For You, Not Against You
The job search process can start to feel really defeating, especially if you’ve been getting rejection after rejection after rejection or stepping out of your comfort zone and not hearing anything positive back. That can be really stifling and discouraging. But I wanna just give you this perspective that everything is working for you, not against you. Let me give you an example of what I mean. I had a client who had been job searching for an entire year before she reached out to start working with me. At that point, she was convinced that she was unemployable. Every time she went into an interview, she would get to the final round stages only to find they went with another candidate.
Prior to being laid off, she had been working with one company for the past 11 years and as a result, she was not comfortable with networking. She was not comfortable with interviewing, didn’t have an elevator pitch, and didn’t even have a polished resume in place. So as she was going through her job search cycle with me, she started to recognize everything as a learning opportunity. While going into interviews she didn’t care about as much, she practiced answering important interview questions. By the time she actually went in to interview for her dream job, she had tons of experience conducting interviews and that ultimately made a huge impact on her confidence and presence. She ended up landing her dream job and said something very interesting to me. She told me that if she had gone into her dream job interview right after being laid off, she would have completely bombed it. She actually attributed landing her dream job to the experience she gained during the entire job search process, which involved many rejections!
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I have so many clients who think that they’re interviewing for their dream job and get rejected only to get redirected to a job that ends up being their ultimate dream job. This happens all the time! So take that all into consideration as you look at your rejections and evaluate what negative thoughts you’re assigning to the rejection. How true are your thoughts after a rejection? And if they’re not true, how can you reframe them with the belief that rejection can propel you in the right direction for the ultimate job offer that really counts?
As you continue to progress in your job search, remember that rejection is not permanent. Remember that what counts infinitely more than rejection is what you do after experiencing it. I hope this article was helpful to you! Be sure to check out my free resource library for access to some really helpful job search tools. And if you feel that more high-touch support would be beneficial to you at this point in your job search, feel free to apply to work with me. You can also learn more about my signature Happily Hired programs here.