We’ve all been there. You put in the preparation, gussied yourself up in your finest pressed suit and did a fantastic job at the interview. And they still turned round and rejected you (if you haven’t then you’re probably insanely talented, incredibly lucky or in possession of killer contacts more than happy to give you a helping hand).
As crushing as rejection may feel, there are a couple of ways for you to salvage something from this situation. The most important is feedback. If you can get some comments from your interviewing panel on what you did right, where you went wrong and how to improve then it can make all the difference when you come to make your next application.
If you applied directly then you may need to be the one to chase the company for feedback. This can be a frustrating process but it’s valuable information and if they’ve decided against you then you deserve to know why. But if your application goes via a recruiter, we’ll be the ones to get feedback for you and we will do our best to get the most detailed comments possible in order to help with your job search.
Types of no:
When it comes to reasons why you weren’t right for the job, there are a few you can push back on.
- ‘Not the right fit’ – it all depends on the why in this case. If the panel got the impression you’re after a more managerial role rather than wanting to have a hands on approach where you get stuck in you can try and change their minds
- ‘Salary demands are too high’ – this is all about knowing your market value. If you feel it’s worth compromising for the role then you know what to do and if it’s out of the question then all you can do is walk away
- ‘Overqualified’ or ‘would be bored by the role’ – this is rather more difficult to deal with but if you want the job it can be worth trying to impress upon them how much you love the company or how you’re looking for something a bit less full on than your last position. Perhaps you want to spend more time with your family
There are the other types of no that are a little harder to cope with.
- ‘Not the right fit’ – if the reason for this was that you didn’t suit the company culture or wouldn’t gel with the team you can sit back and objectively think about why this might be. Maybe it was a much more outgoing environment than you’re used to, for example. If they’re the kind of workplace that indulge in the odd nerf gun war and you’re not comfortable with that then it’s probably for the best that you didn’t get the job
- ‘Not enough experience’ – while learning on the job is not only possible but necessary they may well need someone who can hit the ground running which is a level you’re sadly not quite at. You could apply again after gaining more relevant experience in your current job or have a look at taking a course or workshop. There are plenty of ways out there to bolster your skill set
The only no that you can’t learn from is the one that doesn’t come with any explanation.
When you get feedback it can be quite hard not to react emotionally. You might see it as too harsh a criticism or feel the urge to lash out defensively. You might also want to dismiss it as nothing. You really need to take the time to think criticism through.
Be open to whatever it is they have to say. Maybe you’ll need to go and have a cup of tea and a breather before reading everything past the word no. Do whatever it is you need to do in order to keep a cool head.
Feedback should be clear, emphasise the positives and be specific as to where you went wrong. You could have been very nervous and overcompensated by being too jovial or too timid. The interviewers can only judge based on what they witnessed, they don’t know what was going through your head.
Try and follow these steps once you’ve heard your feedback:
- Do you understand the criticism? Maybe it was phrased badly or you have no idea where it came from. Get some clarification if you’re not sure
- Is it true? They may have made a wrong assumption about you that clouded their judgement. This certainly shouldn’t be your default position but it may well be the case that they missed the mark on you
- If it is valid criticism then how can you improve?
- Give yourself time to be calm before responding
- Say thank you. They took the time to give you the feedback so you have to acknowledge you’ve heard and understood it
In the worst case scenario try not to dwell on your rejection, remain positive and plan on how to improve the next job application.