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How to Recover From Job Interview Rejection

Topics: Career Advice

Job interview rejection always stings. Finding yourself on the receiving end of a “thanks, but no thanks” for a role you wanted is tough to swallow. Especially when you’ve exerted significant effort, time and emotional energy in the job interview process.

If you’re currently unemployed, bouncing back from job interview rejection is even tougher. Remember, being in-between jobs happens to almost everyone at some stage in their career. You still have a valuable contribution to make, even if the door has closed on an opportunity you really wanted.

Every interview is a learning opportunity. No one gets called for interview if they couldn’t do the role. Your skills, expertise and acumen stood out from scores of applicants and resulted in your interview. So, kudos to you for making the cut. If you’ve been rejected following an interview and you’re struggling on how to move forward, you have two choices. Give up on looking for a job or keep going until you land one. If you’re determined to land your next role, keep reading.

Bad Interviews Can Happen to Anyone

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If you’re reeling from an interview that went badly, it’s time to extract the positives out of a disappointing situation. Bad interviews can happen to the strongest candidates. We’ve all been there. You stumble across a great role, complete the application, keep your fingers crossed and celebrate when you get the call to interview. You do your research, are raring to go and then somehow, unexpectedly, the interview goes sideways.

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A bad interview feels devastating, during the experience and that’s often compounded after, as we replay the nightmare over and over in her minds. Just because you bombed, it doesn’t mean you can’t do the role in question. Even the worst experiences can yield important learning opportunities. Treat it as a stepping stone. If you were nervous or couldn’t answer a key question, learn from the experience and you will be better equipped for your next interview. Assess what you can take from the situation and then apply those insights to your next job opportunity.

The Upside to Job Interview Rejection

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While the pressure is always on the candidate, it can be easy to forget an interview is also a chance for you to assess how you feel about the company. If the interview didn’t pan out the way you expected be thankful to have that insight, even if the experience was a negative one. How a company conducts interviews gives you a direct insight into their culture and leadership. Most companies do not invest significant amounts of time in training employees on how to be good interviewers. This can result in poor interview experiences for reasons beyond your own control.

Leave a bad interview in the past and move on. Don’t let it derail your job search or knock your confidence. You will bounce back if you believe in yourself and focus on your strengths as you move on to the next opportunity.

If the interview was great, and you feel like you gave it everything, but you still didn’t get the job, the rejection can feel personal and painful. The bottom line is that job hunting can be the absolute worst. Even if you have your resume / cover letter / LinkedIn profile / interview questions totally nailed, the searching, applying, waiting, interviewing following up, waiting some more is stressful and exhausting.

What to Do After Job Search Rejection:

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If you’re looking for a new job and it’s proving tough, hang in there. It will happen. Positive mindset is the secret to maintaining your focus following a job interview rejection. Your mindset is the most important variable in the recruitment process equation. It’s also the only variable you have full control over. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control how you respond to them.

You can achieve what you put your mind to. Accept there will be hurdles you will need to overcome as part of your journey. Failing until you make it is real, and rejection is part of the process. Cultivate a positive mindset with positive actions that will make you feel optimistic. You know inherently what works best for you. If you feel like the glass is half empty, versus half full, here are a few approaches you could use as your work towards landing your next opportunity.

1. Analyze the Key Learnings

Be objective and think through what went well during the interview process, as well as areas in your interview technique you’d like to improve. These are valuable new insights that you can apply for the next opportunity. Create an action plan and get to work applying what you’ve learned and brushing up on interview skills.

Through my work as a career coach, I spend a significant amount of time helping candidates polish their interview responses, harness positive body language and tap into their key attributes that will set them up for success in the interview cycle. If you are in-between roles or gearing up for your next one, tap into as many resources as you can to help with your career goals. If one-to-one career coaching isn’t an option, you can mine books from the library, check out podcasts, sign up for webinars or review YouTube videos to help you with the skills you need.

2. Use the Experience as a Catalyst

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However painful it feels, try to use the whole experience as a catalyst. Turn the rejection into something that will propel you forwards versus something that will keep you back. If you can, get constructive feedback from your interviewer and use that only to your advantage. Don’t beat yourself up if you learn the other candidate had more experience, or better presentation skills, or already worked at the company. Instead think about where you’ve excelled and how you can best position what you are brilliant at in future job searches.

Don’t give up on your dream job, just keep looking for opportunities where you can show your next employer what you can bring to the table.

3. Leverage the Power of Visualization

Visualize what you are building toward. Visualization can be incredibly powerful. Athletes use visualizations of themselves performing at their very best as they prepare to compete. Visualization can help you create a competitive advantage as you work on your next career move.

If you haven’t tried it before, find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Visualize yourself in the position you are targeting. Imagine what you are doing, how you will do it, how people are responding to you. Immerse yourself in the vision and visualize the scene frequently until it starts to feel familiar.

If you’re struggling to visualize using your mind, there are tools you can use to bring your vision to life. Creating a vision board is a great way to supercharge your motivation. Whether it’s a digital version on Pinterest or a real-life creation that lives on paper, creating a board will provide you with a dedicated space that inspires and motivates you.

4. Practice Responses to Tough Questions

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If you were hit by undetected missile during your interview, learn from it. Now you have no excuse for not being prepared for the worst in your next round of questioning.

Sometimes the question was straightforward, but you still stumbled. It happens to everyone. Practice makes perfect. You don’t want to sound overly scripted, but practice still will help you land on what you want to convey, and help you figure out the language you can employ to strike the right professional, yet conversational tone. Use the time between now and your next interview to practice, and even record yourself using your phone, or the camera on your laptop, so you can review your body language too and adjust if needed.

5. Remember What You’ve Accomplished

Rejection can make us start to spiral downwards, but this is the exact time when you need a boost of confidence. To help lift your energy, review your list of accomplishments and if you don’t have an up to date one, get cracking and create one.

Without a list of accomplishments, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges you’ll face in your career, and these will feel even more pronounced when you’re in a transition phase, such as looking for a new role. Not only will creating, updating or reviewing your list of accomplishments give you a personal boost, it’s an important tool in your job search strategy. You can also use the list to refine your career statement and enhance your responses to interview questions.

6. Set Up Some Networking Meetings

Networking meetings may not sound like fun, especially when you’ve just been rejected from a job opportunity you wanted. But set some up anyway. One way to approach networking is to think of it as “valuable conversations with positive and helpful people.” In essence, networking is keeping in touch and sharing resources, ideas and information.

People in your circle can provide valuable support, but they can only do that if they know what you are looking for. And even if someone is unable to help in the moment, simply knowing the direction you are moving in will plant a seed so they can keep you front of mind for suitable ideas or opportunities in the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out to start conversations, even if you feel like you’re in position of weakness. It’s likely you’ll be surprised by the outcome, and you may in turn be able to help others which will also give you a boost and help foster your relationships.

7. Be Patient

If you want the role that’s right for you, you should be prepared to invest the time, resources and effort it will take to land it. The recruitment cycle from start to finish can be long and arduous, for all parties concerned. It is often a marathon versus a sprint, and you need to be prepared for what could be a long haul before you get where you want to be.

You should be patient but remain tenacious when you need to be. You can control your own activities, while you’re patiently waiting for feedback on applications or calls to interview. Stay up to date on your industry, keep networking, make new connections, read a great book, listen to an inspiring podcast, work on your professional development, set new professional goals and targets while you work on finding your next role.

8. Dream Even Bigger

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Seriously, raise the stakes higher. Don’t let a setback make you think small. Use the insights you’ve gained from interviewing for your dream job to think about what you’d want after you secure that position. There are a million opportunities out there. Maintaining a positive mindset and the determination to go after what you want will ultimately get you where you want to be.

Landing a new role takes research, planning, persistence, patience and a positive attitude. Even when harnessing all of those things, you can’t control the timing. Instead, focus on your own positive actions at each stage of the journey. And when it comes to that, the sky’s the limit.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you experienced job interview rejection? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Octavia Goredema is a career coach and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent. Find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @OctaviaGoredema.

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