How to deal with job rejection

disappointed business man showing thumb down sign, isolated on white
disappointed business man showing thumb down sign, isolated on white

You tailored your CV, you carefully crafted your cover letter, and you thought the interview went really well.

So it's all the more upsetting when the bland rejection arrives: where did you go wrong?

It's tempting to just screw the letter up, throw it away and retreat to bed with a family-size pack of biscuits. But, says Michael Page of recruitment firm PageGroup, "It's important to remember that the way you handle rejection is just as important as the skills on your CV when it comes to securing a new role.

"If you allow rejection to knock your confidence and make you doubt your abilities, it could negatively affect your performance in future interviews."

The first thing to do when you get turned down for a job is to remember that it may have very little to do with you at all. It's not, unfortunately, uncommon for employers to have a clear idea of who they want from the start, interviewing others just to make up the numbers.

If you think this is the case, you can at least console yourself with the fact that it's all good practice for future interviews where you may be in with more of a chance.

Evaluate yourself

After every interview, make notes on the questions you were asked and your responses, while it's all still fresh in your mind. Otherwise, if you're interviewing for several jobs, there's a danger they'll all blur into one.

Be as honest with yourself as you can, and consider whether you fell prey to any of the commonest mistakes: failing to do your research, looking arrogant or maybe just being too passive. Ask yourself how you could improve next time.

Ask for feedback...

If you're lucky, your rejection letter or phone call will give you an idea of where you went wrong; usually, it's just that other candidates were more experienced or better-qualified.

Unless you've been one of hundreds of interviewees, it's generally acceptable to ask for more feedback. But, warn the experts at TotalJobs, "The important thing is never to seem aggrieved. If they interpret your request for feedback as a thinly-disguised complaint, ('why couldn't you see how brilliant I am?') - then you can forget not only the feedback, but also any hope of being considered by that organisation for another job in the future."

And if you do get feedback, make sure you say thank you.

Even in private, don't get annoyed if you don't agree with what you hear. Even if it's inaccurate, if employers believe you lack leadership skills, say, you clearly need to do more to demonstrate them.

...but take it with a pinch of salt

Do, though, bear in mind the fact that the feedback you get is likely to have a fair bit of spin. Telling you you're overqualified, for example, may be code for 'arrogant' or 'likely to jump ship when something better comes along'. It's important to be able to read between the lines.

Ask a third party

Run through the interview afterwards with somebody you trust and ask for their honest opinion; practise improving your answers. If you really want to go the whole hog, you could visit a career coach for some expert interview tuition.

Don't let it get to you

Especially if you've stacked up rejection after rejection, it can be easy to become discouraged. But don't forget that, for any given job, there are many more unsuccessful applicants than successful ones. Even the people interviewing you are bound to have been turned down themselves at one time or another.

It helps if you don't allow yourself to pin all your hopes on any particular job, and have several applications in the pipeline at the same time.

"Don't carry interview baggage around with you. Approach each new job opportunity with a fresh perspective and a new approach. Tailor your CV to best match a new opportunity and fully research and prepare for a new interview," says Page.

"If you made mistakes or felt unprepared in your last interview – learn from this but don't keep it at the forefront of your mind, it will only make you nervous. Every company and hiring manager is different and will have a different idea of the 'ideal candidate'."

Top 10 Most Common Interview Mistakes (source: Barclays LifeSkills):

1. Failing to do their research
2. Showing off
3. Asking no questions
4. Not acting interested or engaged with the interviewer
5. Making up answers
6. Lying about achievements
7. Not dressing appropriately
8. Rambling on
9. Failing to explain what they will bring to the role
10. Moaning about their current employer

Real Job Interview and CV Fails
Real Job Interview and CV Fails