What to do with rejection after a job interview

Dear Mr./Ms. x,

We regret to inform you that…

-beginning words of a template rejection letter or email

If you are one of those people who never has to undergo the trouble of looking for work; your dream job lands on your lap due to stellar merit or nepotism, congratulations! You are a rare breed of lucky duck. However, for most of us, job applications and the very real possibility of the dreaded rejections is a part of life.

From time to time we receive an email or phone call that leads us one step closer to getting that job. We eagerly prepare by talking to people, reviewing the organization’s website, and rehearsing our spiel. The big day of the interview comes, and after which, we believe that we’ve definitely booked the job. Anxiety kicks in as we wait for the result, maybe for a day or even a week. Then, for some mean twist of fate, a rejection. It probably feels just as crushing as- if not worse than- getting a rejection notice on the outset . It was a destination so near yet so far.

What went wrong?, we ask half-rhetorically and half-pragmatically. I’ve received a handful of job rejections myself in my young career. Below I tried to compile the steps I have taken to deal with job rejections after reaching the interview round. Feel free to add if I missed some tips.

Consider the interview as a consolation. If you made it as far as the interview, it means you belong to the top of the heap of hundreds of applicants. Your resume piqued the interest of the organization; you have marketable skills that are important to them. Imagine those who don’t get a call or email at all. You’ve set yourself apart from them. It’s just that, unfortunately, someone is a better fit for the job.

Ask the interviewer “What went wrong?” In a different way. Kindly request for feedback on how you could improve your profile, and what they were looking for in the successful candidate. If you get a response, try to integrate that feedback into your cover letter to the extent possible, without lying and padding your resume. The hiring party sometimes looks for special knowledge or skills that you don’t possess. This does not mean you are good for nothing (see point 1). Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

Treat it as a rehearsal. It won’t be the last interview so treat it as a way to prepare for the next one. Reflect on what you think went good and bad in the interview. Think of ways to improve the phrasing of your answers or study your gestures which convey non-verbal queues to the interviewer (not applicable in phone interviews). It can only get better. As the cliche goes, practice makes perfect.

Sulk. But do so for an hour max, then get over it. It’s normal and alright to get the blues if your dream job doesn’t materialize. That last job rejection is not the end of your career.

Continue searching. This might seem obvious, but some applicants do lose heart after the nth rejection email. To some extent, job hunting is like a raffle. More entries give you more chances of winning.

Have you been interviewed for a job but ended up not getting it? Please share your post-rejection coping mechanism in the comments.


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