Handling Rejection After a Job Interview

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It happens to the best of us. Being rejected for a position is never a pleasant experience. It’s flat out tough.

What went wrong? What could you have done differently? Was this the right position for you? Did you have the right set of skills for the job? Those are all questions that job seekers who have been turned down ask themselves — unfortunately not knowing what the answers are.

Overcoming obstacles is just part of the job seeking game, and there are effective ways to turn the rejection into a positive experience that can help you grow and eventually land your dream job.

After the interview

Even though you may think you aced the interview, the position you’re seeking can still be awarded to another candidate. Many job seekers end the process after the first interview and wait to hear back from their potential employer — but the game is not over yet. It is important to note that your actions in the few days following the interview are just as important as the interview itself.

According to Stanford University it is crucial to send your interviewer, and anyone else involved in the interview process, a personal thank you note. It is simple professional courtesy, and it indicates your interest in the position. The rule of thumb here is to be courteous and polite, and always proofread your copy. You spent hours revising and polishing your resume, it would be a shame if your thank you note had grammatical errors or typos.

Why were you not hired?

Do not to take the rejection personally. It is common practice to ask your interviewer — or whomever gets in touch with you after the interview — for honest and specific feedback. It will help you figure out what went wrong during the interview and the real reasons behind the rejection. It also shows you are willing to improve and learn from your mistakes, if you’ve made any. This can go a long way in the event another position opens up with the company.

Maybe you didn’t have the right set of technical or soft skills. Perhaps another candidate had more experience than you. Did you research the company enough? Was it just had a bad hair day?

Whatever the reasoning, the response you receive at this point is critical. Ensure you write down key pieces of feedback so you can refer to it later. It will help you revise your strategy and move forward.

What to do now?

With feedback in hand, it is time you do a thorough review of the interview and figure out what really went wrong. To effectively do this you will need to be as objective as possible and take yourself out of the equation if you want your next interview to be a success.

You can start by listing all the strengths and weaknesses of the interview. Did you answer some questions wrong? Which questions? Do you remember interrupting the interviewer during the interview? Were you dressed appropriately? Could you have asked HR what dress code was appropriate? Those are things you can write down to help you get to the bottom of it. Just as you would make an itemized list of pros and cons concerning an important purchase.

It is often easier to remember and write things down when you get home right after the interview rather than wait. This way you will have fresh data available to do a honest review of the interview.

Your resume matters more than you might think

You have spent hours working on your resume, but does it really represent who you are, and what you’re the most skilled at? It is possible that your interviewer expected more from you after going through your resume, but you failed to deliver. Or it may be that you understated your skills and you were found to be over-qualified for the job. Maybe it’s time to revise your resume and cover letter.

Take the time to reflect on the interview and understand why you were not hired. If need be, consult with a career expert and keep the job hunt moving forward!

Turn the rejection into a job offer

Be optimistic though. It is possible to turn a rejection into a job offer. Asking your interviewer how you measure up to other candidates can give you some great insights as to what the company is looking for in a candidate.

It’s a given that you should send a thank you note, but this Forbes article also suggests sending an “influence letter“. This letter allows you to address challenges the company is facing and how you plan on tackling those issues. Perhaps by explaining how you solved similar problems at a previous job.

How to up your chances

There is a myriad of ways you can boost your chances of landing your dream position. Of course learning from your mistakes is a no-brainer. But here are 5 somewhat uncommon tips that should help with your job search:

1. Look into other industries with similar needs and requirements. It is not uncommon for job seekers to find a great position in a completely different industry than the one they started looking into at first.

2. Better research the companies and positions you apply for. This will inevitably save you and your interviewer time and money.

3. Gain more experience. This may be easier said then done, but in order to achieve your career goals you may need to spend more time working in and learning about a particular industry before you aim for a higher position. This could mean a lower pay or working nights, but the more experience you gain, the better are your chances of getting that job you’re after.

4. Learn to answer common interview questions better. Questions like “why should we hire you?“, “why do you want this job?“, and “what do you expect to be doing in 5 years?” are questions many interviewers use to better understand who you are, what drives you, and what your motivations are. Prepare those answers beforehand.

5. Ask questions about the company. After all, wouldn’t you like to know what the company culture is like, or who previously held the position you’re applying for? Asking some short questions about the company will convey to your interviewer that you are deeply interested in working there.

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