How to Handle Job Search Rejection

Tips and Advice for Dealing with Rejection When You're Job Hunting

Candidate being interviewed
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No one likes to be rejected for a job. Whether you had your heart set on getting hired, or weren’t even sure you wanted the gig, it still stings to find out that you’ve been turned down.

It can be especially hard to cope with job search rejection when it happens over and over again – but that’s not an uncommon experience for job seekers.

The process of finding the perfect job for you is a lot like dating: as the saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess.

To succeed in your long-term goal of finding that dream opportunity and getting hired, you need to learn to cope with being turned down. Otherwise, it’s easy to let a momentary setback turn into a major career roadblock.

How to Move on After a Job Rejection

Moving on after not getting a job offer can be broken down into three parts: getting over the rejection, analyzing your candidacy, and moving forward with your job search.

1. Getting Over the Rejection

The first step in getting over rejection by a potential employer entails sharing the frustration, disappointment, and anger that accompanies any loss. Talk to a friend or family member and share your feelings in a confidential setting. Venting can be a very useful tool for letting go of the negative and moving on. 

Just be sure that you pick your supporters well. The ideal person to share with is someone who won’t become a future boss or coworker. Even though your feelings are understandable, you don’t want them to make a bad impression on someone who might later evaluate your candidacy for another job. Family members are a good choice, as well as old friends who’ve been with you through good times and bad.

And whatever you do, resist the urge to say anything negative to the hiring manager. You never know whether you might want to apply to the organization again in the future. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly why a candidate was rejected and it could be that you were too qualified. If that's the case, the employer may come back at a later date with a better job offer.

Recognize that most searches are quite competitive, and many talented candidates are often rejected due to a tight job market. It is quite likely that the employer is not actually rejecting you, but rather saw another candidate as a (maybe even slightly) better fit. Because hiring decisions are typically subjective, it is entirely possible that another recruiter might have chosen you.

Also, keep in mind that maybe the hiring manager was right, and this job wasn't the best fit for you and you wouldn't have worked out or been happy in the role. In that case, the company did you a favor by not hiring you.

2. Analyzing Your Candidacy

Take the time to reflect on your approach to the hiring process to see if there is anything you could improve upon in the future. Review your resume, cover letter, what transpired during the interview, and your follow-up activity.

Given what you learned about the job requirements and people involved, ask yourself if you could have done something differently in order to present yourself in a better light and one that made you seem like a better fit for the job.

Though not typical, sometimes an employer will share feedback about your candidacy. If that's not the case, and you developed a rapport with anyone at the organization, try approaching them with a request for constructive criticism.

3. Keep Your Job Search Moving Forward

Candidates often lose momentum with their search while waiting to hear if they landed a job, especially if they think they nailed the job interview. Don't fall into that trap. It's never a good idea to stop looking until you have been offered and accepted a job offer.

Until you have something in writing, continue with your search. Finding other options, and receiving positive responses from interviewers, will soften the blow if you are rejected. You might also find a better offer, regardless of whether you land this particular job.

So, keep applying, networking, and working on your long-term career plan. Best-case scenario, you’ll be an even more attractive candidate for the job you’re considering. Worst-case scenario, you won’t have to start from scratch with a brand-new search.