job rejection
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How to move on from a job rejection

8 Dec 2016

Have you ever made it to the final stages of a job application, only to be pipped at the post? Or got an interview for your dream job, only to spectacularly crash and burn? Job rejection is hard, but it happens to even the best candidates. The key is to pick yourself up and move on.

Your CV came back with a rejection email. You fell down at the final interview hurdle. You never even heard back from the company after you applied.

Even the most talented candidates will be faced with rejection from time to time. Sometimes, you might know why. You might not have had enough experience, you bombed the interview or they just hired someone else.

But whether you feel you deserved the job or not, the bottom line is, you didn’t get it. Now it’s time to pick yourself up and move on.

Ignore negative bias

Our brains are naturally attuned to negativity. Even the most positive people are hardwired to hear the one criticism surrounded by an ocean of compliments. So when suffering at the hands of job rejection, your negatively biased brain will feel spoiled for choice.

If you find yourself believing all the negative things, you won’t be able to pick yourself up again. Remember, there are always multiple factors at play in any job opening, and you might not have done anything wrong. There’s another job out there for you.

Was there anything you could have changed?

Once you’ve distanced yourself from genuine negative bias, it is time to reflect on the stage of the process you fell down on. Did you fall at the first fence? Look at the application again. Is there anything you would change?

If your rejection came after an interview (or several), think about the questions you were asked and the vibes you were getting from the interviewer. Do you think it went well?

If there are questions you didn’t answer particularly well, or you didn’t talk about your skills enough, take note of these and improve them for your next interview.

If you are happy with every element of your application, don’t worry. You’re probably not missing anything; there are a number of reasons you might have been rejected that have very little to do with anything you could have changed.

Don’t overanalyse things

Don’t fixate on things. When you can’t think of any glaring reasons you didn’t get the job, don’t automatically decide it was the fact that you kept touching your face or had a weird laugh. More than likely, if you’re digging around for smaller details, they probably weren’t even noticed.

Even if you completely screwed up your interview, there’s no point in overanalysing it. You know you didn’t do well, you know where you went wrong, so there’s no point in thinking about it anymore.

Definitively decide why, in your opinion, you didn’t get the job, even if all you have to go on is an educated guess – then distance yourself from it. There’s nothing more you can do.

Look at the positives

Yes, there are some positives to job rejection. Whether you were hoping to move from one job to another, or you’re between jobs, you probably looked at the job specifications and decided what you liked and didn’t like about it.

Ultimately you decided to go for it, so at the time, the job pros outweighed the cons – but take a look at the list again. Was it really the dream job? Would there have been extra hours? Less perks? Was the salary bump enough to make it worth it? Would the commute have been worse?

Even if these are all just educated guesses, it’s an important exercise to help you come to terms with rejection. Don’t believe the inner lie that this was the only job for you. There will be another one around the corner – maybe a better one.

Move onto the next one

Speaking of that other job just around the corner, don’t let rejection knock your confidence or make you feel like you’re not good enough to apply for any more jobs.

In fact, the best thing you can do after you’ve been rejected is to look for other roles. Sure, another dream job might not pop up straight away, but even seeing other jobs out there will give perspective about how many are available.

Once you’ve thought about how to improve for your next application and come to terms with this rejection, by the time your next dream job comes around, you’ll be ready.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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