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Didn’t get the role? Learn the possible reasons.

No one lands every job they apply for. But if you’ve just been told you didn’t get a position, chances are you’re disappointed. After all, you tailored your resume, wrote a cracker cover letter, and practiced your interview skills. Now what?

Remember that a rejection isn’t necessarily a direct reflection of your skills, capabilities or experience. Deciding who wins a position can be complex and involve factors you have no control over. You might have been up against an internal candidate with an amazing advantage, for example, or an external candidate who just stands out more.

Once you’ve nursed your disappointment, learn from the experience. Trust us, it’s worth the effort.

Our expert recruiters provide these 4 tips on how to deal with a job rejection.

Ask for feedback

It’s acceptable and wise to ask for feedback when you don’t win a position, from the employer or a recruiter if you’re using one. You may be surprised to learn that you came a close second, which is a confidence booster. You may learn how to improve for next time. Other useful feedback is insights on skills you need to gain or build.

Never ask for feedback in a way that could damage your reputation. If you dispute a decision, don’t come across as a pest, or as having sour grapes. After all,  the employer is unlikely to change their decision. Instead:

  • write a short, polite email to your recruiter or the organisation, being clear you’re only seeking constructive feedback
  • couch your questions in a positive light
  • don’t ask too many questions.

Sample questions to consider:

Would it be possible to provide feedback on the skills or experience I didn’t satisfy through my resume or interview?

Can you recommend ways I can gain the experience and skills you believe I need to strengthen?

Do you have specific feedback on how I performed at interview?

Is there anything else you feel I could work on?

Act on feedback

Next, act on feedback. Here are some ideas:

  • Weak in a specific skill set? Research training or courses to bolster your skills. Look at free or economical short courses, including convenient ones online.
  • Not experienced enough? Look for opportunities at work to help you grow. Apply for roles at a different level to build experience and knowledge.
  • Didn’t perform well at the interview? Research interview skills and read expert articles like this one. The more you know about top interview performance the better. Also, ask a mentor or another trusted party to role-play interviews with you.
  • Not thoroughly prepared? Perhaps you didn’t research the job and company as much as you should have so when asked a basic question, you stumbled. Correct this next time by researching more extensively and reviewing your notes multiple times.
  • Badmouthed your current or a previous employer? You may badmouth an employer thinking you’re providing context on why you’re applying for new positions. Avoid this at all costs.
  • Caught by surprise? While interview questions vary, organisations tend to ask some common ones. Here are 22 of the most frequently asked interview questions.
  • Had the chance to ask questions but didn’t? Being prepared to ask employers questions in an interview is a sign that you’re confident, motivated and curious. Make sure you’re ready. This article will help.

Take time to self-assess

While feedback is great, it’s not always possible. Sadly, some organisations are too busy or have too many applicants to make this practical. Others provide feedback, but in a generic way that’s not useful to you as an interviewee. Even a recruiter can find it challenging to nut out precisely why you didn’t nail it.

In the absence of feedback from the employer, take time to self-assess, and the sooner the better because the content will be fresh in your mind.

One way to self-assess is to write down the questions you were asked, and the answers you gave. Then study your answers to see how you could have fleshed them out or improved your response.

Another way to self-assess is to analyse how you performed during interview. Were you nervous? Fidgety? Lacking in confidence? Prepared? Then read articles like these to build confidence:

Strengthen your interview skills today

Techniques for changing negative to positive

Scored an interview? Steps for staying calm

Don’t stop applying

Applying for positions and attending interviews is fantastic experience, so don’t let a rejection letter stop you from being strong and carrying on.

Learn more

Soft versus hard skills: Care about the difference

Six actions for landing a new job

Company culture: What you need to know

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