Getting a new job is one of the most stressful life events we experience, and the main culprit is the worst part of the process: rejection. Rejection can happen at any point in the journey: not getting called for an interview, not moving onto the next stage and the big one ... not being selected for the job. Making matters worse is the silence you sometimes experience when you don’t even get a response to your application/resume or when you don’t hear back from a company. Sounds like fun, right?
Actually, we believe rejection can help you during your job search if you have the right mindset and learn from it. Openness to rejection is a critical job search skill that every job seeker needs. Being afraid of rejection can make you less motivated, anxious, or even depressed, all of which will hurt your search. Expecting rejection, being open to it, and staying resilient all make your search less stressful and more successful. Let’s talk about 5 important skills for handling job search rejection.
Skill #1: Manage Your Expectations. Don’t set yourself up to be let down. Repeat after me: “I’m going to be rejected, and it’s OK.” Expect to experience rejection. It’s inevitable. You might be really confident in your skills and abilities but remember that there are other talented people out there, too. Be realistic and humble in knowing that some people are going to be better suited for a job than you are.
Skill #2: Don’t take it personally. Accept the fact that someone will get the job and someone won’t … and the one who doesn’t get the job might be you. When a company chooses someone else, it’s not a choice against you. Your skills and abilities are the same after rejection as they were before. Keep marching onward!
Skill 3: Ask for feedback (but know that you probably won’t get it). The best thing you can do when you’re rejected is to learn from it. Naturally, the first step is to seek feedback. If you can get it, fantastic! Know, however, that despite requesting it, you’ll be lucky to get the straight scoop. Recruiters or hiring managers are often uncomfortable giving complete feedback. They might also be limited in what feedback they can give you.
You might not get the whole story on why you were rejected, or, the person rejecting you might not know the whole story (for instance, a recruiter might have received limited feedback from the hiring manager).
If you’re not getting a lot of feedback, take ownership and challenge yourself to reflect on what you might have done differently. Apply these lessons to the next opportunity. If you do get feedback, don’t be defensive or argumentative. Listen to it, accept it, and thank the person for their time.
Skill #4: Handle rejection gracefully. You never know when you might cross paths with the people you met during your search. Give yourself some processing time before you respond to rejection so your head is clear. Be gracious and thankful for the opportunity. While you might share your disappointment with others, don’t complain. You never know who people know; you don’t want to come across as bitter or negative to anyone.
Skill #5: Get something out of the process. For instance, you’ve now made new connections with the people who interviewed you. Connect on LinkedIn and thank them for the chance to interview. If you’ve made a positive impression and handled rejection with grace, people will remember you positively and that can lead to opportunity.
Rejection is hard, even for the most self-assured person. Above all, stay positive. Remember your strengths and don’t let rejection dull your shine. Rejection doesn’t define you; it just tells you “this isn’t right for you right now.” Learn what you can, change what you can, then let it go and move on.
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