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Six ways to turn a job rejection to your advantage

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?

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.

Be philosophical

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?

Build resilience

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.

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