Job rejection is tough to handle at any stage, whether you feel like you’re endlessly submitting resume applications, not making it past the first interview, or getting cut from consideration at the last minute. Almost all of us have experienced job rejection during the search process at one time or another. Sometimes you’re let down gently with a clear understanding of why you weren’t selected and at other times you’re left wondering what could have possibly gone wrong. 

That said, no matter how many times you may have felt the sting of job rejection, it’s how you handle that rejection that matters more than anything else. As a result of interacting with thousands of successful job seekers, we’ve realized that a resilient mindset is one of the most important factors in separating successful candidates from those who experience an inordinate amount of trouble landing their dream career. 

Luckily, we’re here to lay out some of the steps you need to take to build on a framework of resiliency and planning to help you deal with rejection and kick your job search back into high gear. 

Assess The Initial Situation

It is normal to feel frustrated when you initially receive a job rejection, but it is important to take a step back and ask yourself a few questions to assess the situation before working through your feelings. Sit down and write out the answers to the following questions. This should give you a solid foundation of information to move forward with a plan for future job application and interview success. 

  • What happened? Do you have a good handle on why you didn’t experience the kind of success you were hoping for with any given job application? 
  • Did the job rejection happen early or late in the process?
  • Rank your performance along the way. Where in the process did things go well?
  • Do you have a sense of where things began to go off track?

Once you have this info written out, move on to the next step. 

Reconnect With The Hiring Manager

While you may feel some resentment from being rejected, that doesn’t mean you should give up on professionalism. Once the initial sting of the rejection subsides, send a message to the company or interviewer that ultimately rejected you and thank them for their consideration. 

Feel free to express a brief message of disappointment, but also make sure that you continue to communicate enthusiasm for working with them. Tell them that you hope to stay on their radar for future consideration. Demonstrating a high level of professionalism is always a good choice, even in situations that didn’t work out in your favour. 

This is also an opportunity to ask for detailed feedback from the hiring manager. Gathering feedback from those that interviewed you is a huge stepping stone along the road to honing your overall hire-ability for the types of positions you’re seeking. When asking for feedback, make it as easy as possible for them to answer your questions. That means keeping your questions short and to the point and aiming for them to give you actionable insights.

Perform A Deeper Assessment

As a part of your self-assessment, you should now be armed with some answers to help guide a deeper look at other areas of potential improvement. Honest answers to the below questions will give you further insight into areas you need to work on related to your presentation as a candidate. 

Here are some additional questions you should ask after every job rejection: 

  • How closely did the qualifications you presented in your resume and application match the job requirements listed?
  • During any interviews you had, did you establish the right rapport with the interviewer?
  • Could you have prepared better for your interviews?
  • Could you have done more research on the company and its products or services?
  • Did you focus too much or too little on specific aspects of your skills, experience or personality?
  • Did you sense or did the interviewer point out any weaknesses in your interview answers?
  • Did any interview questions surprise you and lead you to provide a poor response?

Honest answers to these questions will give you further insight into areas you need to work on related to your presentation as a candidate. You may realize that there is a misalignment between the skills you are presenting to potential employers and the skills they are looking for. Spending the time improving how you present yourself will ultimately help you get more interest from potential employers. 

Manage Your Expectations

Part of a resilient job-search strategy involves adopting realistic expectations. Today’s job-market environment is radically different from the one even a couple of years ago. COVID-19 has ushered in significant upheaval to nearly every industry. Hiring processes have changed, and so has the entire marketplace for many professional positions. 

With remote work, you’re now likely competing in a much larger talent pool as employers are casting wider nets for higher-quality candidates. With that said, it’s still important to focus on small victories along the way. If you’re getting interviews, that’s a very positive sign that employers like your initial presentation of skills and experience. Any progression along the job application timeline should be celebrated and analyzed to get you past the final steps through the door. 

Build A Plan For Improvement

At this point in the process, you should have a clear picture of how to move forward. That includes a list of actionable insights. Of course, those insights are of no use unless you plan to use them to improve any perceived shortcomings from the perspective of your prospective employers. What concrete areas can you work to improve? Are your skills in a particular area something you can improve through a course you can take or a new project you can do at your current job? 

If you’ve identified areas of your interview skills for improvement, it’s time to take them to the next level. There is an endless list of available resources for general interview skill improvement and more specific guides like our very own 7 Tips to Ace Your Next Virtual Interview and How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” for you to use. Turn your plan into a point-by-point, specific list of actions you’re going to take to turn yourself into a better candidate. Each time you go through this process, you’ll grow more confident about landing the next job opportunity. 

Consider Hiring A Professional

Even after significant effort into analysis and serious self-reflection, career advancement can present a challenge you can’t quite crack on your own. But there’s no shame in asking for a little bit of help. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes from a career guidance or recruitment professional to give you the advice you need. 

That’s where career coaches and recruitment professionals like the ones we have staffing our Ottawa and Montreal offices come in handy. Feel free to reach out and find out how we can help and begin to feel better about the path you’re on in your job search journey.

Andrew McDougall

Author Andrew McDougall

With areas of expertise including contract placements, negotiations, private, not-for-profit, and crown corporations, Andrew is a senior account executive in LRO Staffing's Finance and Accounting division.

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