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Six ways to turn a job rejection to your advantage

No one enjoys getting turned down for a job, and if you’ve done a lot of preparation for a role that you really wanted, it can be harder still to accept a rejection. But with the right mindset, you can turn the experience into a career development opportunity. Here’s how… 

Ask for detailed feedback  

It can be tempting to brush the experience aside and never think of it again – but be careful to avoid using this as an excuse to be stuck in a rut and pass up on a significant learning opportunity. 

Self-analysis alone won’t paint the whole picture of why you weren’t the right person for the role, so asking for and listening to feedback is the most valuable thing you can do when faced with a job rejection.

Start by gathering all the feedback you can from the recruiter – and through them, the employer. If the feedback feels a bit superficial or generic, don’t be afraid to ask for a more detailed assessment. While these conversations may initially be uncomfortable, getting honest, specific feedback about why you weren’t offered the job will go a long way towards preparing you for future applications. You invested time and effort, after all, and you’re entitled to get some actionable insights at the end of it. 

Review and reflect 

Take the time you need to accept the rejection and rebuild your confidence to try again. Think about the feedback you received, go through everything that happened, from the way you prepared and researched through to your interactions in the interview and any follow-up. 

Break down the process, rank your performance for each part and determine where there is room for improvement. Ask yourself: What did I think went well? What could I have done differently?

Could a presentation have been prepared more thoroughly? Could you have worked harder to build rapport with your interviewer(s)? Did you focus too much on technical competence at the expense of showcasing your softer skills? Were there any questions you feel you could have answered better? 

There is always room to improve, so use any setbacks to shine a light on these areas.

Identify learnings and build a personal development plan 

This is also time to think about feedback you’ve gotten from past rejections, appraisals and the like. Are there any recurring themes? What should your development priorities be? What can you do to fix the gaps in your performance?

Make a note of any weaknesses or issues that you can do something about, and use them to guide your preparation next time. Depending on the issue, there may be some training or informal coaching you can undertake to help you improve on these areas. Or it may simply be a case of working harder on some of your answers, and finding someone to practise them with. 

Refine your search

Sometimes the interview and/or feedback process can make you realise that, although it’s disappointing to be rejected, the role didn’t feel like quite the right fit for you either. The upside is that you’re now open to other, possibly better, opportunities. 

Look back over the job specification and ask yourself if you could truly see yourself in that role on a day-to-day basis. If there were aspects of the role that didn’t excite you, the interviewer may have been able to see this too. 

Use this experience to help you refine future job searches. Pinpoint your strengths and apply for positions that you’re better suited for. Are you perhaps looking at keywords that don’t quite match your ambitions and aspirations? Did the role that went with the job title not quite match your expectations? Did the interview make you realise that this is not quite the right sort of job for you? And if not, then what is? 

Be positive

Feedback can also help you to recognise that sometimes rejection is simply out of your hands, and sometimes, ultimately be in your interest. Some things can’t be changed overnight. If the interviewer prefers someone with extensive client management experience or they want someone who speaks the local language, and you don’t have the right skillsets, then perhaps the role simply just wasn’t for you. The key with your plan is to focus on the things you can realistically change. 

Chemistry plays a vital part in any successful working arrangement. So even if you’d felt your interview went perfectly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the role was the best fit for you. 

Build resilience 

In today’s rapidly changing workplace , developing a mindset of grit and resilience is essential for long-term success. See each setback as a challenge to grow both your self-understanding and your ability to bounce back and deal with disappointment. Overcoming obstacles on your career path will increase your chances of landing the right role. 

Try to maximise your job search activity such that when one rejection occurs, you have other opportunities waiting in line. Pursuing multiple possibilities simultaneously will help you figure out the kind of role that you really want and are best suited for. Besides being time-efficient, it’s good sense to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and being overly fixated on one option. 

Finally, remember that rejection is temporary. Getting turned down from a job happens to everyone, the most important thing is what you learn from it.

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