Dear applicant,

Thank you for your interest in our company. Unfortunately, we have chosen to move forward with other...”

And that’s where your interest in reading on evaporates.

Being rejected for a job isn’t easy, and it isn’t very much fun either. But it’s an unavoidable part of the process of finding a new job.

Although something in us wants to be successful every time we apply, not every job is a perfect fit. If the employer realizes that before you do, they’ve probably done you a favour.

But some jobs are the perfect fit. And still, sometimes, we don’t even make it to interview.

Learning how to deal with rejection is an important part of any successful job search. And it’s relevant for every job seeker, no matter how well qualified you might be.

Here’s our guide to overcoming rejection and staying motivated during a testing job hunt – in four easy steps.

1) Take the long view

The first stage is acceptance.

Is this your last chance to get hired and develop your career? No.

Was the job unquestionably the perfect fit for you? Again, no – or, at least, you can’t be sure of that.

The truth is that you will find a job eventually. The best thing you can to end your job search is to keep sending applications. Not every application will be a success, and that’s just the reality.

If you find yourself totally bummed out and down about this particular knock back, ask yourself why. If the reason is that you felt the job was the perfect fit for you – your dream job – then you’ve learned something very valuable: what you really want to do.

If you know the job was the one for you, continue your job hunt by pursuing jobs exactly like that one.

On the other hand, if the rejection has affected you only as a knock to your pride, then the job wasn’t really for you anyway. You can move on in the knowledge that the recruiter has done you a favour. There’s no use going through the interview stage successfully just to turn the job down, or regret taking it later.

2) Seek feedback

Rejection hurts.

This is the number one reason why unsuccessful candidates don’t bother seeking feedback regarding their candidacy.

You may have received a flat email, stating nothing more than that you didn’t make the cut.

(If the language feels completely generic, don’t expect to be able to read too much into the message.)

The pain of rejection, and the fear that the employer doesn’t think much at all of the application, often stand in the way of applicants sending a reply asking for a more detailed explanation as to why they fell short.

But seeking (and receiving) feedback is actually the best way to ensure you move on with your head held high.

Basically, you have nothing to lose by asking why your application was unsuccessful. No matter what they come back with, however harsh, it will either be a very useful lesson or a reason not to feel too down about it.

Here’s some guidance on how to go about it:

  • Send a polite email, thanking them for letting you know and requesting more detail as to why your application failed
  • If you don’t receive a written response, try giving them a quick call
  • For ease, suggest where you think you may have gone wrong – they might find it easier to start things off this way
  • Don’t worry about wasting their time. No one ever missed 10 minutes of their day, and that time could go a long way to landing you a job in the near future
  • You are entitled to an explanation. The more time and effort you spent on the application, the more justified you are in seeking feedback
  • Accept feedback when you get it, and never argue your case – they’ve made up their minds, and will be impressed only by your professionalism in moving on
  • Don’t waste your time. If they resolutely avoid giving you the time of day, or sufficient detail, just be glad that they’re not your new colleagues...

3) Take it personally, then move on

“Don’t take it personally” may be the most pointless advice here. Because thanks, you already know.

And because they rejected you. That’s the point. So on some level, it is personal and we are hardwired to take rejection this way.

Even when rejected by complete strangers, people still elicit pain and disappointment. And even when those strangers are revealed to have rejected them simply at the direction of the scientist conducting the experiment.

The point here is to take it personally, dust yourself off, and move on.

As humans we have evolved to take rejection badly, but that doesn’t mean we should let it slow us down more than is necessary. Take a moment to reflect on your disappointment before focusing your energy back on the job hunt.

4) Do better next time

Believe it or not, rejection can be a good thing.

Failing with a job application inspires us to try harder, do more, and learn from our mistakes.

As a result, you can make better applications in future, improving your chances of landing a dream job.

Using rejection as a motivator to improve the quality of your applications is the surest way to make the most of failure.

 

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

 

Here are a few ways you can learn from a failed application, regardless of whether you’ve received any feedback from the recruiter:

  • How much research did you do? If you’re sending out application after application without reading the job advert closely or familiarizing yourself with the company, get used to receiving rejection emails.
  • Take a second look at your CV. Check out our ultimate guide to CVs and consider what areas you can optimize.
  • Take a minimalist approach. Inspired by the wisdom of Marie Kondo, we’ve put together a guide to tidying up your CV.
  • Read over your cover letter. Take a look at our ultimate guide to cover letters and consider how you can make a better impression.
  • When did you send the application? Leaving it to the last minute before the deadline passes doesn’t always give your application a fighting chance. Reflect on how the recruitment process works.
  • How long did you give yourself to apply? Did you feel rushed? Employers can tell if an application has been thrown together at the last minute, and don’t take kindly to errors and typos. Always give yourself the time you need. It’ll be worth it in the long term.