Dealing with rejection in a job search – 5 tips

6 min read | Hannah Salton | Article | Job searching

dealing with rejection in a job search

“We regret to inform you that on this occasion your application has not been successful”. 

Standardised rejection emails are a common – albeit frustrating – part of a job search. You can’t always avoid rejection when it comes to finding a new role, but there are things you can do to help manage and learn from the inevitable lull felt if you’re not successful.

1. Don’t take it personally

There are many reasons why people get rejected from roles. Sometimes it’s because the job has already been filled. Sometimes the volume of applications is disproportionately high so not everybody’s application gets looked at. Sometimes the vacancy is filled internally. Sometimes the business demand changes so there are fewer hires – or hires with different requirements – needed.

Of course, sometimes the role might not be right for you. A big mistake that candidates often make though, is assuming that the outcome of rejection categorically means that they are not (and will never be) good enough. Try not to make assumptions when there are so many other external factors affecting whether or not you get hired.

2. Rethink your job application strategy

The ease with which we can apply to jobs presents great opportunities, but also several challenges. Many positions offer quick 1-click applications, meaning the effort you put in to throw your hat in the ring for a job is minimal.

However, this often encourages panicked job seekers to take a scattergun approach. They’ll prioritise the submission of a high volume of untailored applications – often to roles they aren’t even that interested in – over a select number of carefully written bespoke ones.

This ‘quantity over quality’ means recruiters are often bombarded with an unprecedented volume of applications for each vacancy, which makes it harder for them to distinguish between candidates.

3. Ramp up your networking 

Networking is simply about connecting and having conversations with others. It can also be an incredibly useful tool in your job search when it comes to enhancing your awareness of what roles are out there, as well as building your confidence back up. There are many different ways to network. You could attend interesting events – either in person or online – or use LinkedIn to connect with and talk to people whose careers you admire. 

Seek out people who work at companies that interest you – ideally those you have something in common with, for example, who attended the same university, or are part of the same interest group on LinkedIn. Ask for a virtual coffee to ask them some questions about their experiences – remember to focus on curiosity and learning, rather than asking them for a job.

4. Reflect objectively and externally

It’s common for many of us to deal with rejection by mulling things over in our heads, assuming we did something wrong, or that we just aren’t cut out for the roles we’re applying to. This type of reflection is not constructive, especially as there are so many reasons that we might not have got a job – many of which are out of our control.

Objective and external reflection involves writing down your ideas and reflections about why you may have been unsuccessful. It’s important to be specific about what did and didn’t work, and how you could approach the situation differently next time. 

Consider questions such as:

•    What specifically do I think went well with that application/interview?

•    What could have gone better?

•    How would I like to improve for next time?

These answers will be useful to keep on hand when you next submit an application or attend an interview.

5. Stay committed, but look after yourself 

Recognise and acknowledge the emotional impact that job hunting can have on your confidence and motivation. If it helps, keep a journal or diary to encourage awareness of how you’re feeling. Writing down your goals and an action plan can also help you stay focused. 

Don’t let rejections deter you from your ultimate end goal. You are one person and you are only looking for one role. Statistically, you will need to build up some rejections before you succeed, and if you received a job offer from every company you applied to, you probably wouldn’t be setting your standards high enough.

About this author

Hannah Salton, Career Coach & Consultant, Hannah Salton Coaching

Hannah is a qualified executive coach, career consultant and former corporate recruiter. She spent the first eight years of her career recruiting talent for top international corporations, including telecoms giant BT and elite law firm Allen & Overy. 

To find out more about Hannah’s career coaching programmes you can visit her website, and for more job search tips you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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