How to Bounce Back from Job Rejection

Picture this – you read a job description, and it sends your heart aflutter. You feel it in your gut – that this is meant to be. You polish off your CV, pour precious time into your application and puzzle over the perfect cover letter. 

Then you get your eagerly awaited response – but it’s not the response you were hoping for.

We regret to inform you, that on this occasion your application was not successful.

Odds are, you can probably picture this a little too well. It’s a universal experience – for so many people, the road to success has been paved with potholes of rejections. 

Here’s the kicker – unless something in the process has gone very wrong, or you are a remarkably resilient individual, rejection stings. If you feel angry, sad, hopeless or like you’ve wasted your time … you are not alone! When you’ve put time and emotional investment into an application, missing out on a job offer can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially in such a competitive job market.

But following such a knock-back, how exactly do you go about saddling up and getting back on the horse?

Don’t let disappointment spiral and diminish your self-worth

Being rejected after a job interview can really knock your confidence. But it’s important not to let the disappointment spiral and diminish your self-worth. 

Rejection weighs so heavily on the mind because our brains are hard-wired to give more attention to negative experiences than positive ones. This is called the “negativity bias”, and explains why a stream of rejections from prospective employers can leave you spiralling deeper, damaging your confidence and leaving you reluctant to keep trying for fear of further rejection. As humans, we are all prone to cognitive distortions, such as comparison, all-or-nothing thinking, and over-generalisation. The stronger the emotion behind it, the more likely it is to influence our thinking and let us believe the distortion as an absolute certainty.

One way of getting around the “negativity bias” is by reality testing. Consider some of the other circumstances that could have led to the rejection, and it can help you come to a balanced, rational perspective. There’s a full picture you might not be seeing, which can include company politics, employee referrals, individuals in professional and personal networks, internal candidates and people who have been interviewed in the past.

Boost your professional self-esteem

If you find yourself caught up in a cycle of negative thought, take some time to sit down and create a list of your professional accomplishments and contributions, along with identifying three key moments where you overcame an obstacle in the past. Physically writing these down can help you shift your perspective from the negative things that might happen to the positive things that have happened. 

As well as helping you to move out of a rejection rut and feel more motivated, it also has the big bonus of being a helpful tool to have for future applications and interviews. While it is naturally beneficial to identify and work upon your weaknesses, it is also very worthwhile to maximise upon your strengths!

Ask for detailed feedback (when you are in the right mindset!)

Asking for and listening to feedback is one of the most valuable things you can do when faced with a job rejection. Self-reflection will only give you one half of the picture. Are there any recurring themes that have come up for you before that you can work on? Take note of actionable weaknesses or issues that you can do something about, and use them as a focus for the way you approach your preparation next time. The key to this however, is focusing on the things you can realistically change. Sometimes, it really is just a matter of chemistry.

When taking feedback on board, don’t burn your bridges! Handling rejection gracefully leaves a positive impression that can open the door for future possibilities. 

Good news – you’re now on their radar

Perhaps you’ve been going through the application process with a recruitment consultant or a hiring manager. Just because you’ve missed out on this opportunity, doesn’t mean all is lost – you are now on their radar. When something new opens up, you’ll be in the know. 

Adopt a new approach

After a setback or two, you might want to consider switching up your tactics. You could take on a more tailored approach – if you haven’t already, reach out to recruiters in your target sectors who are very well placed to help you take the pain out of a stressful process. You can also break down what exactly made your dream job so desirable, and use this information to discover comparable companies and roles.

Come back harder, better, faster, stronger

When it comes to taking risks and putting yourself out there, rejection is unavoidable. But, it’s a sign you are doing something. The only way to avoid it is by doing nothing, or never trying to do anything, and that is a whole other problem! The reality is, if things always went as smoothly as we wanted them to, we wouldn’t learn half as much.

In such a rapidly shifting job market, if you take too long licking your wounds, you stand the chance of missing out – someone else will be using that time to learn, grow and get that job that you want.

Instead, in the wise words of Daft Punk, come back Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Turn your job rejection to your advantage, and learn to see setbacks as a challenge to learn, develop and build up your resilience. 

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