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Surviving a Job Application Rejection

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Bounce back from a rejection letter and land the career of your dreams

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Bounce back from a rejection letter and land the career of your dreams

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Career Resources

Job Search

Bounce back from a rejection letter and land the career of your dreams

By Sarah Sutherland

We've all been there -- sending out dozens of job applications, dreaming of the day when one merits a response that isn't an instantaneous "Sorry, we're not interested" email -- and then one day, it happens. The phone interview! You do your research and you summon the perfect combination of charm and intellect that lands the coveted in-person interview. You dress your best, meet the interviewer, maybe even go on a tour of the company. You send your thank you emails, start shopping for scrubs online, keep your phone handy while waiting for the job offer and then?

You get the email.

Some rejection emails are nicer than others, but you can't avoid it, you're crushed. It's unrealistic to think that you could keep emotional distance from the interview process and still be seen by interviewers as enthusiastic. So you become invested in a job offer that does not come to be, and that can be devastating. Yet, taking rejection to heart can sabotage your future interviews. You might try to distance yourself, or even hesitate to apply at all. A break from the job search can be tempting, but with popular job postings remaining online only for a short period of time, a week off from the hunt can cost you the career of your dreams. How can you bounce back after a devastating rejection?

1. Don't Stop Looking

If you're already dealing with the aftermath of a job rejection, it may be difficult to think about diving back into the job search. However, when it comes to future interviews, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Even once you land an interview, you should keep looking and applying for other positions.

"My first advice to the people I work with is, until you have an offer in your hands, assume you don't have the job and don't stop looking," said Michelle Petrazzuolo, founder and CEO of Level Up Prep, a business that works with individuals on mock interviews, resume prep and more. "Many times, people are mentally restarting their job search from square one when they get a rejection, so if you never really stop looking you can keep your momentum."

2. Don't Take it Personally

When you spend an extensive amount of time on any project, it's easy to become defensive when that project is critiqued. Similarly, a job rejection, especially for a job you felt a real connection to, can feel like a personal attack.

It may be difficult, but you shouldn't take a job rejection personally. If you have a phone interview or an in-person interview, you should feel proud of yourself because the interviewer undoubtedly chose you over many other applicants. More often than not, not getting the job doesn't mean you didn't interview well. It simply means that someone with more applicable experience -- or an "in" at the company -- applied for the same position.

Job Rejection

3. Learn from the Experience

When it comes to job rejections, it's not uncommon to think of the whole experience as a waste. However, you should remember that just because you didn't get the job, it doesn't mean that you didn't benefit from the experience at all. You gained experience interviewing, which will help you in the future. Additionally, you can use the experience to identify areas where you could improve.

"Don't be afraid to ask why," suggested Alayna Frankenberry, manager of content strategy for BlueSky ETO, a brand management software company. "If your rejection is given to you via a personal email, phone call, or even in person, don't be afraid to ask for details. Adopt an upbeat and positive tone of voice and say something like, 'I was really looking forward to this opportunity, but I can understand if you didn't think I was the right fit. If you have any parting advice on what would have made me the right candidate, I'd love to hear it."'

4. Use Emotions Positively

There's no denying it: Rejections hurt. Avoiding negative emotions is next to impossible -- but you can use those feelings to positively impact the next step in your job search.

"When you get rejected, you're going to have an emotional response, usually a combination of disappointment and frustration," said Lauren McAdams, hiring manager and career consultant for "Hopefully these feelings aren't too strong, but having them a little bit is a good thing. Use the rejection as motivation -- use these emotions as a source of energy. So keep your head up and keep applying to positions. Eventually you're sure to find something that will prove the naysayers wrong."

5. Make Connections

Above all, you shouldn't view the experience as a waste of time -- because it shouldn't be. Even though you didn't get the job, you shouldn't feel as though all of the bridges you built during the process were instantly burned. The connections you made while interviewing are certainly capable of helping you in your job search, either by mentioning future opportunities within the company or even recommending you to other organizations.

"One way to really stand out from all of the other candidates that they denied is to send a thank you email after you receive a rejection," said Susan Chung, managing director of Smart Lawsuit Funding. "You may think that it's not worth your time, but it shows the company that you're truly thankful and there's no hard feelings. Plus, it doesn't hurt to ask them to consider you other positions in the future. Nine times out of ten, the other denied candidates won't think of doing this, which will make you stand out for the next time they're hiring."

Even if you aren't ultimately offered the job, there's no reason that the people you met during the application process -- whether they're interviewers, supervisors or even people who were also interviewing -- shouldn't become part of your professional network. While you may not end up working for that company, networking with the right people can help you move on from the job rejection and reignite your career search.

Although it may initially be difficult to brush off a job rejection, remember that it isn't the end of the world. Remain open to new opportunities, and use what you learned from your rejection to become an even stronger candidate.

Sarah Sutherland is a staff writer at ADVANCE. Contact:


Simple stated,I had 2 interviews last year,both with positive feedback,as in hour,expectations and walking the facility. Of course, rejected!, talk about losing confidence.
February 16, 2017

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