What to Do After a Job Rejection

There's no getting around it: A job rejection stings, even if you've decided the position probably wasn't right for you. No one wants to be second choice. But, like most things in life, there are ways you can make the most of the situation. Here's what to do after a job rejection to keep your dignity intact and set yourself up for career success.

job rejection

Give yourself (Limited) Time to Grieve

Yes, you have permission to be bummed and give yourself some me time, whether that looks like binge-watching your favorite show or eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting. Just keep the pity party brief. Not only is feeling sorry for yourself extremely unappealing to friends, family, and yes, potential employers, but it also keeps you from developing the right mindset you need to succeed in your job hunt. You need to pick yourself up and try again after 24 or 48 hours.

Send A Thank-You Note … If You Still Want The Job

The hiring process is a lot like dating: Sometimes the first-choice candidate turns out to be more of a frog than a prince. That's why if you're still genuinely interested in the position, you need to respond with a thank-you note. If the first-choice candidate doesn't work out or another candidate is needed, the hiring manager will remember your courtesy and mature attitude.

Don't fake enthusiasm, but send a professional note that hits the following notes:

  • Thank the hiring manager for his or her time and their consideration of your candidacy, as well as for letting you know the outcome.
  • Explain that you appreciated the opportunity to learn about the company and the position.
  • Express your continued interest in working for the company.
  • Respectfully request the hiring manager get in touch with you should another position arise.

Remember: Hiring managers are looking to solve a problem when they interview candidates. Be the solution.

Take A Good Look at Yourself, and Evaluate the Situation

Once you've moved past the initial sadness or anger and have gained some perspective, take a step back and analyze the situation from multiple angles. Ask yourself whether the position was really a good opportunity. Once you start looking for a job, things have a habit of moving quickly. Particularly when you're eager to make a change, it's easy to overlook less-than-ideal conditions, such as long commutes or positions that only tangentially fit your overall career goals.

Not only do you need to consider the value of the lost opportunity, but you also need to evaluate your approach to the process. Is there anything you could have done differently, like targeting your resume more specifically to the position or spending additional time prepping for the interview? Is your social media presence an asset or a detractor? Was the position appropriate to your experience level—i.e., was it senior enough or too senior?

But … Don't Take It Personally

Yes, it's important to evaluate and tweak your job-hunting approach appropriately, but you should never lose sight of the fact that in many cases the rejection has absolutely nothing to do with you. Hiring managers are often under tons of pressure. Sometimes the higher-ups would prefer a position not be filled. Sometimes there's an internal candidate or somebody's college roommate's kid who needs a job. Maybe the first-choice candidate and the hiring manager share an alma mater. In each of these cases, there's nothing you could have done. Accept the fact that you'll probably never know for sure why you weren't selected.

Above All, Keep Swinging

Hopefully you still have several other applications in the works. (You are working multiple angles, right? After all, you shouldn't stop looking for a new job until you've accepted a position and have a start date in writing.) Trust in the process, and try not to lose hope or overgeneralize. Your next opportunity is on its way; you just have to be patient and remember this quote from Alexander Graham Bell: "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

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