How to handle recruitment rejection

It was your dream job, you fulfilled the criteria, you had the experience and qualifications asked for, yet you didn’t get the role.

Now you’re confused or angry or resentful. It’s time to take a step back, find something positive about the experience and move on. Easier said than done?

It’s all part of the tortuous career path many of us follow – and as ever, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Taking it personally

So you didn’t even get an interview. Or maybe you did get one – and thought you did OK. But the job has gone to someone else. And you’re feeling rotten about yourself. It’s time to dump those negative thoughts.

“The most important thing is that you don’t take rejection personally” says life and careers coach Chris Cooper. “There can be a tendency to tell yourself that you didn’t get a job because you’re ‘not good enough’ and that ‘someone else is always better’.

“Instead, you need to accept that, for the person who interviewed you on that particular day, another candidate came across more strongly and fitted the role better. It wasn’t necessarily because the person who did get the job was better than you.”

Reevaluate the process

If you’re worrying about why you didn’t get the job, it could be worth looking at all the elements of the recruitment process, notes Cooper.  Perhaps your CV could do with rejigging? Or maybe your interviewing technique needs work.

“Many of us get nervous when we are interviewed” Cooper adds. “If you feel you come across in a way which doesn’t reflect your personality and skills, then you could work on this with a coach.”

Chris says, “working in a variety of roles in four very different industries… it is my own personal journey navigating the jobs market, developing new skills and overcoming many challenges that inspired me to become a coach, so I can help other people do the same.”

Positive evaluation

Tom Howe of recruitment experts, The Jefferson Group says, it’s important to focus on the positives.

“You may not have been offered the job, but then move on – because next time you may well find yourself the proud owner of your perfect job. The most important thing is to stay positive and never give up.”

You should remember what you’ve already achieved, he adds: “You may not have been offered the job, but you did well nonetheless. Not only did you beat the competition to get to the interview stage, you also performed to the best of your ability. And that in itself is something you should be proud of.”

Getting feedback about your performance

It takes courage, but it can be a good idea to ask why you didn’t get a job.

“Ask for feedback. These days most employers will be willing to share how you performed at interview. Try not to look at this as a failure: treat it as a learning opportunity. This information can help you improve your performance next time” Cooper adds.

And if you’ve failed in getting a promotion at your current employer, asking for feedback can show just how committed you are to your career – and it might help you if you apply for future roles at the company. Don’t be confrontational when you ask for feedback: make sure it’s understood that you aren’t challenging their decision not to hire you but want to learn from the experience.

Don’t be resentful

If you went for a promotion at your current employer and didn’t get it, it can be hard not to feel resentful towards the person who did get the job. But you need to move on and banish such thoughts.

“It’s important to remember that it’s not the fault of the person who did get the job that you weren’t successful” says Cooper.

“If you give in to negative, resentful feelings towards them it is not going to help you in the future. It will only make being at work unpleasant and harder for you and the people you work with. Again, it’s all about not taking it personally. It is what it is: on the day, the interviewer felt someone else was better – on another day, you will be better than someone else.”

And consider this quote (often attributed to Nelson Mandela or sometimes Carrie Fisher) “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Most employers will be willing to share how you performed at interview

Moving forward

There are positive things to be taken from setbacks, says Cooper.

“It can help to take stock of what you want from your career and life. Re-evaluate what you want from your career – will your current career path enable you achieve your wider life goals? Is what you do rewarding? Does your work give you what you want? If it doesn’t then maybe it is time to think about different directions or moving jobs. Take some time to understand your values better. Only when your values are being satisfied by what you do will you be content in your career.”

Whatever you do, don’t give up trying says Howe. “It’s hard to pick yourself up and start all over again. But that’s precisely what you need to do. Take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and carry on with your job search.”  And he adds: “Use the energy and emotion you feel after that rejection to your advantage. We’ve all been there.”

A rejection win

And if you want some inspiration then look to the stars: Dame Julie Andrews was very publicly passed over for the lead in the film of My Fair Lady (it went to Audrey Hepburn). She got her own back: when she won a Golden Globe in 1964 for Mary Poppins (she also got the Oscar) in her speech she famously thanked Jack Warner – whose rejection of her for My Fair Lady let her take the Poppins role.

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

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