I bet you or someone you know have been rejected for job positions in the past and just before reading this article, if you are in an office, look around you. Look at your colleagues, or on your way home, if you are not driving, look on the train, the bus or across the street – and realise that you all have something in common.
There isn’t a person alive who wasn’t picked last for a team, asked someone to a dance who said no, didn’t get cast in a play, or got every job they ever interviewed for. And although rejection is sometimes very hard to live through, the lessons we learn from it can be invaluable and position us for great future success.
According to Dave Sanford, the Executive Vice President, Client Services of the Winter, Wyman Companies, a staffing firm based in Waltham, Mass, here are some ways to help you bounce back from interview and job rejections.
1. Realise it’s probably not your fault.
More often than not there isn’t one particular reason you weren’t chosen to go on further in the interview process or offered the job. Most hiring decisions are based on subjective criteria. The hiring manager may have clicked with another candidate quicker or was better able to relate to someone else’s background. People make it to the interview round based on the skills and experiences outlined in their resumes and then the rapport established on phone interviews. Job offers are often extended based on intangibles like personality, enthusiasm and potential cultural fit and these are determined on the subjective, educated opinion of the hiring manager.
2. Feedback is your friend.
It’s hard to ask for an honest and objective review of your interview performance – especially from someone you may have only met once. But in order to do better the next time, you need to know if there are areas you need to improve. Ask the people who interviewed you for direct and honest feedback. Because it’s human nature to want to spare someone’s feelings, your interviewer may not want to share anything but generalities, especially if they think your reason for asking is to challenge their opinion or ask for a second opportunity. Realize and respect that their decision has been made and make sure they know you are seeking feedback for improvement purposes only.
3. Don’t get defensive.
If you hear something you disagree with from your feedback conversation, do not get defensive and confrontational. Thank the interviewer for their time, make note of their comments and discuss them with a spouse or trusted colleague or friend to see if there is any merit. When we expose ourselves to the opinion of others and disagree with their assessment, it’s common to feel angry, bitter or defensive. Overcome these emotions and concentrate on the learning aspect of this opportunity.
4. Do something with bad feedback.
No one wants to hear that their portfolio looked sloppy; they were perceived as stressed, hesitant or scattered; or their technology skills were out-of-date. But just think how each of these points can be corrected – if you know about them! When bad feedback is revealed, be prepared to put a plan in place to fix the holes in your game. Spend more time and care putting together a targeted portfolio, arrive at your interview early so you have time to relax and gather your thoughts so you don’t appear stressed, or take some refresher courses on the latest software advances in your field. Put your friends and family on your personal advisory team and bounce ideas off them for improving yourself.
5. Expand your options and opportunities.
When one door closes, another opens. It might sound like a cliché, but the lesson it teaches is true: this opportunity lost is your chance to investigate others. Try not to be finite in your job search. Think broader about your career and look at related jobs, consulting gigs and contract/temp engagements. Or volunteer. Jobs and careers that can make you happy or successful come in all industries, functions and arrangements. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
6. Don’t burn your bridges.
When you find out you didn’t get the job, be gracious, thank the company for the opportunity, and offer to stay in touch. Who’s to say the person they hired will work out? Or that another position won’t suddenly become available? By conducting yourself in a professional manner and not burning any bridges, you have positioned yourself for another opportunity within the company.
7. Stay positive.
After job rejection, the only thing you can control is your attitude. You can’t manage their hiring process or even influence it in your favour any more. But you can control your reaction to the circumstances. Allow yourself that moment of disappointment and then put on your best face and be positive. This will help you move on a lot more quickly, which is imperative to your job search. No one wants to hire someone negative or with a defeated attitude. Find a way to make yourself feel better and embrace your new opportunities with gusto.
8. Have a clean slate.
Go into your next interview with a clean slate and realize this company wants to hire you otherwise you wouldn’t be there. Leave your bad experience and rejection at the door with your coat and umbrella. Don’t let any negative energy accumulate and do not bring up past rejections in your new interviews. Let these interviewers form their own opinions about the cheerful, upbeat professional in front of them.
9. Don’t be afraid to share the bad news.
Rejection is hard enough to deal with on our own so the tendency is often to keep the news to ourselves, either out of embarrassment or fear. But as stated previously, we all have been through it before and there really is nothing to be ashamed of. By sharing your circumstances with others, you will find support systems and people willing to help. And more importantly, your network will know you are still on the market and looking.
10. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
If you have been conducting an effective job search, you will have generated multiple opportunities and offers and this rejection won’t matter much, if at all. Sure, you will have your preferences, but never shoot down an offer or turn down an interview for a viable opportunity while interviewing or negotiating with other companies. There are too many variables outside your control to pass something new up.
Finally, note that it has been said that finding a job is a job in itself. You have to keep going; don’t let any rejection get you down. If you feel down, dust yourself down, cheer up, stand up stronger and taller and have a go at applying for more jobs.