Dealing With Rejection: How to Learn from the Experience

Looking for a job is typically a long and challenging process, and it’s often an exercise in frustration — especially if you’ve been rejected. Hearing that you didn’t get the job you wanted is stressful at best, and can deal a serious blow to your confidence and hamper your job seeking activities.

However, you don’t have to let job rejection get you down. Here are some tips for dealing with rejection on the job search path, and some ways you can learn from being rejected and strengthen your job seeking strategies.

Understand that it’s not you

There are many reasons an employer might reject a job candidate, but what many candidates don’t realize is that most of the time, it’s not personal. It’s hard to separate the personal from the professional, because rejection always feels personal to the recipient. But for the employer, rejecting candidates is a necessary function of their jobs — after all, they’re only filling one position.

So if you hear a no from an employer, try to keep in mind that they aren’t rejecting you as a person. The decision not to hire you is not a conscious choice against you. It’s simply a choice to hire someone else. Also, remember that it only takes one yes to move from job searching to employed.

Know there’s no “reason” you weren’t hired

When you’re rejected for a position, there is a natural tendency to try to analyze what might have went wrong — whether you made a mistake answering questions, or wore the wrong clothes, or otherwise failed to prove you were the right person. However, the reason many employers give for not choosing a particular candidate is often “I don’t know why.”

In other words, you might have done everything right and still not have been hired. This is a reflection on the hiring manager or recruiter, rather than you. Employers are people just like everyone else, and when they have to make a choice between a number of qualified candidates, the deciding factor is often an instinct or gut feeling rather than some problem with the interviewees.

It may be frustrating — when you have nothing to improve on — to better your chances next time, but understanding that there’s no specific reason you weren’t hired can help you maintain your confidence and self-esteem.

Use your connections to extend your network

If the reasons you weren’t hired were not personal, and in fact there was no real reason, how can you improve your chances of being hired at your next interview? Once you’ve reviewed your resume and cover letter, done mock interviews (and real interviews), and ensured you’re doing all you can to prove you’re a qualified candidate, is it all down to luck from there?

While it’s true that getting lucky can help you find a great job, you don’t have to rely on luck. The entire time you’re communicating with employers and recruiters, giving interviews, and meeting with various professionals in your industry, you’re making personal connections. And those connections can be used to increase your chances of getting a yes.

Here’s how you can use the contacts you make during your job search to build your network and land a great career:

  • Ask for help or referrals. If you’re interviewing with employers, they obviously know you’re looking for a job. Most will be happy to point you to other people or companies, and even give you a professional referral that will put you ahead of the competition — as long as you ask. If you don’t ask, they won’t assume you want help.
  • Offer to help them. If an employer decides that you’re not right for the position, ask whether there’s anything you can do to help them. It may seem counterintuitive to offer help to someone who’s rejected you — but helping someone else creates a powerful connection, and they’ll be willing to help you in return with referrals or job leads.
  • Stay in touch. Keep track of everyone you communicate with during your job search, and find a way to touch base with them throughout the process. Whether you drop a few follow up emails, or connect with them on LinkedIn, find a system that works for you and keep yourself visible. You never know when a new opportunity might arise, and they’ll think of you if you’ve stayed in touch.

Don’t let rejection impact your job search process. Maintain a positive attitude, continue to build your network and your prospects, and remember that the right opportunity is out there waiting for you! To learn more about how our experienced recruiting team can help you in your job search, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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