What To Do After You’re Rejected In A Job Interview


By David J. Albritton, ACC

Nobody likes rejection, particularly when it means missing out on an amazing job opportunity. After you’ve put in the work to prepare for your interview, completed your pre-interview networking, practiced all your responses, compiled your list of questions, and ensured you’re going to make the right impression, a rejection can be a real blow.

The important thing to remember is that missing out on a job can actually have a silver lining that may be hard to see in the moment. While you might not get the job you wanted, you definitely learned some important things through the experience which will improve your chances of securing the role that is right for you in the future.

Here are a few tips on things you can do after a rejection to improve your shot at long-term success.

Ask for Feedback

One way to get something positive out of a job interview rejection is to ask for feedback. While not all interviewers will be willing to share their insights with you, some may give you basic information about how you showed up during your interview(s) and/or what you could have done better. It’s possible that you might have hit the ball out of the park during the interview, but there may have been something that could have given the interviewer(s) pause that resulted in them moving in a different direction.

You might even learn the job rejection wasn’t down to something you did “wrong”, but instead is owed to the fact someone else had a stronger resume, background, experience, expertise and interview skills than you.

Asking for feedback will not only help you improve your interview skills, but it will also ensure you don’t start making general and inaccurate assumptions about what you should have done differently. If the feedback you get doesn’t help much at first, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to expand.

It’s also possible that while you weren’t the perfect fit for the position that was advertised, your skill set, background, experience, and expertise may be better suited for another position inside that organization. Make sure you express interest in remaining connected to your main point of contact in case there are additional opportunities to consider going forward. However, if you’ve networked effectively with individuals who are currently inside the organization or have recently left and still know enough about the culture and operations to provide you with solid advice and counsel, you may have the opportunity to suggest how you may fill other gaps on the team that a job description hasn’t been created for.

Reflect and Review

Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to get the job, it’s time for self-reflection. Ask yourself what you would do differently if you were going to take the interview again.

Consider how you planned, how much time you put into researching the company, and how prepared you were for the questions. Networking is a key element of any successful career building activity, so how much time did you put into trying to engage with key individuals who could be helpful in giving you more information than you ever expected about the organization. If you cut some corners when getting ready, this could be a sign you need to be more committed in the future.

During the reflection stage, the focus shouldn’t be on beating yourself up. Instead, look for opportunities to learn and improve in the areas you’ve identified as deficiencies for the longer term. Make notes so you can look back on them the next time you land an interview and it’s time to prepare.

Look At Personal Development

Based on your self-reflection and the information you gather from your interviewer, make notes of the weaknesses and issues you can change.

Focusing on ways you can become a more hireable person will ensure you don’t get bogged down in things you can’t control, like wondering if you’re “likeable” enough. Aside from working on your interview skills, you might need to construct a plan for personal development.

For instance, if a lot of the feedback is that you didn’t exhibit enough leadership experience for the role, identify opportunities for you to improve your leadership abilities. Seek out the leaders you have most admired during your career and ask for mentorship in the areas that you would benefit the most from by emulating them. You could volunteer for more leadership opportunities in your current role or even seek out leadership opportunities in third party organizations that you volunteer for.

Perhaps you have become a highly effective functional expert, but your business acumen can use some improving. You might consider taking a college-level business course, participate in seminars/webinars and/or seek additional training, guidance, and education from business professionals in your network.

There are also three books that Coach David highly recommends to his coaching clients for building their business acumen:

Note: All three books are co-authored by DePaul University professors (Matt Ragas and Ron Culp) and while they are primarily written for professionals in the Public Relations/Communications profession, the information contained within is very relatable and transferable to people across all professions.

Build Resilience

You need to have a thick skin when applying for job opportunities, since most people won’t get every opportunity they apply for. You’re probably going to experience some rejection before you get the role of your dreams.

Try not to get down in the dumps every time you experience rejection, since it can become a negative distraction that takes away your focus on your job search.

Learn how to build a sense of resilience and find ways to let the sense of rejection go. Focus on the things you’ve learned from the experience, not on the rejection itself and commit yourself to constant learning and improvement. Dive deeper into your network and continue to collect feedback about how you’re showing up in all aspects of your professional existence.

Refine Your Job Search

Finally, one of the best things you can do to boost your chances of success is to refine your job search. Think about whether you’re applying for the job opportunities you’re most suited for. Perhaps it’s time to narrow your focus a little, at least until you’ve collected more accreditations, certifications and/or specific experience.

Remember one critical fact – all job titles are not considered equal. A vice president at a small local nonprofit may have far less responsibility, strategic authority, and global visibility than a director at a large corporation.

 While it may be our ego that is the main driver for the reasons we aspire to have the ‘big title,’ keep in mind that if you aspire this next job may not be the end of your career journey. It may be better in the short term to focus on learning and gaining more experience in needed areas to make you better qualified for not only your next job, but the job after that too…and so on.

While it’s great to have ambition, make sure you’re being realistic in all aspect of the job search. Working with a career coach can be an excellent investment in helping you craft a successful career development strategy.

Use this link to set up a FREE 15-minute coaching consultation and Coach David would be honored to talk to you about creating and sustaining a successful career path.

David J. Albritton, ACC is an accredited executive/leadership/career coach and the founder of the executive coaching firm, Nineteen88 Strategies, LLC. He spent more than 30 years in the PR/Comms profession, which includes time as the Chief Communications Officer at Exelis Inc., in addition to serving outside of our profession as President, General Motors Defense. He currently serves as an Independent Director on the board of Embecta Corp. (NASDAQ: EMBC), a $1.2B diabetes care business.  Reposted with David’s permission, this post also appears today on his LinkedIn page.

2 thoughts on “What To Do After You’re Rejected In A Job Interview

  1. Ron, thanks for including my article in the Culpwrit blog! As my friend and mentor for more than 25 years, I have always appreciated your willingness to uplift and upskill people in our profession (me included). Your books are excellent examples of the “right” resources required to expand our capabilities well beyond PR/Communications and operate inside our organizations at a much higher level of business acumen and proficiency. Thanks to both you and Matt for all you do for our community!

    1. Matt and I appreciate your enthusiastic support of our book projects since Business Essentials was first published nearly 10 years ago. Thanks for advocating for the importance of increasing business acumen within our profession.

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