Come Back Stronger: How To Rebound After A Job Rejection

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Apr. 30 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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With the unpredictable state of the job market, more candidates are applying for highly competitive roles and receiving less personalized responses. Time Magazine described the difficulty being worsened by a tight labor market where fields have seen hundreds of layoffs, seeing “one job opening for every two applicants on LinkedIn” in 2023. 

Employees often must decide whether to follow-up, or be left with months of silence following an application. A rejection letter can be equally disheartening. Committing to actionable steps to regain motivation can prevent the negativity that occurs after receiving the dreaded ‘no.’ Even receiving a rejection response may dispel the uncertainty, where many candidates are often left with no response. 

1. Request feedback.

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Feedback is not often provided, which can increase candidates’ self-doubt, not being aware of where their application lacked. Asking for feedback is the ideal way to minimize uncertainty, while allowing for reflection and growth. Employment Website Indeed notes that “feedback from the outside perspective of the interviewer is a useful tool to help you understand how others perceive you during an interview.”

If no feedback can be retained, take time to self-reflect and re-read the application. Is there something obvious missed in the stress of applying? Are there visible grounds for improvement?

2. Understand it’s not always you.

Career executive Marlo Lyons writes for Harvard Business Review about how role requirements and company expectations can shift after the job is posted, or during the hiring process. “Hiring managers sometimes realize they could use skills or experience they didn’t know they needed”, which leaves other candidates at a disadvantage. There may be other circumstances that the company can’t disclose, such as an internal hire, departure, or departmental restructure. 

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3. Acknowledging your skills gaps.

Applying for a role where you may not tick all the boxes is justified if you believe in your ability to learn on the job. Alternatively, there may be an obvious gap in your skillset, but choosing to apply was an act of showing your dream company that you exist. 

IHire notes that in order to “transform rejection into your superpower”, this may be the perfect time to analyze this skills gap, to look at what you lack and try to find a way to develop this before your next application. They advise to “Create actionable and achievable goals to work on any shortcomings”, whether this involves skill or networking improvement. Acting on these goals can be as simple as completing online certifications or courses, and attending events. Your current workplace may have a learning and development budget which allows scope to do this. 

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4. Analyze your current resume.

Resumes age quickly, especially if you are a freelancer working multiple roles. Some individuals submit a standard resume for each position, Other candidates may stand out by making modifications to ensure they have a fit-for-purpose document, specific to the role. Career Counselor Lily Zhang writes for The Muse stating the importance of this approach, “you have to be sure to tell anyone reading your application how you’re suited for the role by tailoring your resume and cover letter. That means figuring out what skills and experience they want and then highlighting them in the form of accomplishments in your materials.” 

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Receiving a rejection allows an opportunity to look at your resume and what can be improved. If you struggle to amplify your strengths on paper, you may wish to share this with a friend or colleague for support, who may identify where you have failed to sell yourself. If working for a specific company is a dream or goal, it may be worthwhile to network with their employees on platforms including LinkedIn, to be noticed and remembered for future positions.  

5. Evaluate how rejection makes you feel.

Psychologist Dr Abigail San spoke to EvolveHer, sharing the importance of analyzing how you feel after a job rejection. Where rejection can be associated with unhelpful comparisons and self critique, “it’s helpful to remember that the level of emotional pain that we feel in response to a rejection can be wholly disproportionate to the significance of the situation”

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Being able to consider your mental response to rejection will support with future applications by ensuring a healthier personal relationship with rejection. “This won’t only help us to realign our narratives around the rejections we’ve faced at work, but will also mean that we’re much better equipped to deal with similar hurdles in future, and can turn negative experiences into empowering ones that could actually benefit our careers”

Overall, job rejections are often disappointing when you may have dedicated hours towards finding the perfect role, completing the application or going through the interview process. Taking these actionable steps allows reflection on the application experience and prepares for the next, to build upwards and move on, rather than getting struck down by the rejection itself. 

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By: Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson is an Australian Freelance Writer, Producer and Non-Profit Director based in London, UK

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