How to Deal with Job Rejection and Move On

by Jordan O'Neill

Reflect, Improve and Think Positively


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12 MARCH, 2021
There are few things more agonising than waiting for feedback after an interview.

So when the call comes and it’s a rejection, it can be disheartening, especially if it was a job that you really wanted and felt you were ideally suited for. It’s easy to let that feeling of rejection get blown out of proportion. Those problem solving skills you mentioned in your interview, going into overdrive to figure out what went wrong.

Of course rejection isn’t pleasant - whether it’s asking for a job or asking for a date - and it’s easy to perceive it as failure.


However, it’s important to think objectively as you didn’t get the job for a reason.By taking the time to understand why the hiring manager went another way, you have the opportunity to develop. This will lead you to a job that’s a better fit for you.

🦾 Think Positively

Okay, so you didn’t get the job you wanted.
It’s disappointing and even a little bruising to the ego but for whatever reason, that job wasn’t for you.
But you need to think positively about the experience. At the very least you learned something from that interview experience.
You’ve also got your face known at a potentially great place to work. After all, just because it’s a no now, doesn’t mean it’ll be a no in the future.

A job rejection also gives you the opportunity to reflect on the interview. Identify what went well and what you could do better.

You should always seek feedback after you’ve had a job rejection as it may help clarify why you weren’t suitable. However, the reason may not be forthcoming, simply because the interviewer had a gut feeling. For whatever reason, they just felt you weren’t right for the team, despite having all the knowledge and experience required.It’s rare that you’ll be told that of course. Quite often it’ll be dressed up in euphemisms designed to spare your feelings. But again, it’s not a negative.

In fact, the interviewer has done you a favour.
Imagine how miserable you would be working with a team of people you clash with.

Don’t dwell on the rejection, learn what you can from it and move on. If you find yourself being rejected a lot then you may need to do some deeper reflection to make sure that you’re coming across in the right way. Or that you’re communicating your skill set effectively.

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💬 Review your Job Search

Job rejections can inform your job search. Between the interview and the feedback you receive you will come away from the experience with a far clearer idea of:

  • What kind of role you want
  • What kind of organization you want to work for
  • Whether or not you have the right skills and experience
  • If your salary expectations are accurate

Be selective where you apply and don’t be afraid to walk away from roles that aren’t exactly what you want or that you don’t match the spec for.

It’s a competitive market out there and hiring managers can afford to be choosey. You need to be similarly discerning. Remember, you don’t want any job - you want the job. That means you need to be brave enough to turn down opportunities that aren’t right for you too. Whether they come from a headhunter potential employer.Once you’ve found a role you like the look of, research it thoroughly.

Make sure you have the right skills, knowledge and experience. Research the company from management to their tax filings. 
Review their website and pay particular attention to the styling, the tone of voice and the About Us page. This will help you to get a feel for the culture and what it’ll be like to work there. You won’t find that on a job spec.

If your job search is being supported by a recruitment consultant then take advantage of their skills and resources.
They will be able to get together relevant information quickly and summarise it for you.

🧘‍♂️ Reflect and Improve

Although a job rejection isn’t the end of the world, it’s important to take on board the feedback and learn from it.

If you’re being turned down because you don’t have the skills or qualifications then you need to do one of two things:

  • Better communicate those skills or qualifications on your resume if you have them
  • Acquire those skills or qualifications

Unfortunately if the interviewer or hiring manager don’t believe you can do the job then there’s not much else you can do.

It may not be that drastic. If the feedback is you’ve got some technical gaps in your knowledge, then it’s as simple as revising that technical information in more detail. That way you’ll be equipped to give detailed answers to any questions.

Another common reason for rejection is your interview style. It’s common because interviews are unnatural interactions. We sit across from a relative stranger who then proceeds to grill us for hours about our education, work history, personal life and what kind of animal we’d be. It’s easy to come across as anxious, cocky and everything in between. That is, of course, not factoring in the mood of the interviewer. If they’ve had a bad day then they will find you a lot less charming than normal.

Whether you are a little bit arrogant or a nervous wreck outside of that setting is irrelevant, the interviewer can only go by what they see. And sometimes our eagerness to land the role is our undoing. Remember, preparation will help you stay calm, answer questions and equip you to think on your feet. Winging it is not the way to land a life changing job. Especially as competency-based interviews are becoming increasingly common. Which will make it a lot harder for people to ‘fake it til they make it’.

A common interview technique is to write down the question in order to understand it and allow yourself time to consider your answer. Build on this approach by breaking down your answer so you’re able to cover all the bases.

If you lead a team, breakdown how you do that. If you’ve achieved a 200% increase in sales, unpack the work you did around that. Offering up that information will impress your interviewer and it will also make your achievements far more believable.

The STAR technique is particularly effective in this area. STAR stands for:

  • Situation - describe the situation, give the example context
  • Task - what did you have to do
  • Action - what did you do or delegate to others
  • Result - the outcome including good points and bad

Before an interview use this technique to write down examples of where you have performed well.

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About the Author

Jordan leads our highly-skilled and dedicated team of Talent Researchers to scour the markets for the top talent. 🔍 Beginning her recruitment career in 2011 she has since gained a wealth of experience across the full recruitment lifecycle and has settled at a company that suits her values to a tee. She is passionate about making companies more successful and helping people feel more fulfilled in their careers.