How to deal with rejection feedback after job interviews

We all know that job searching sucks, but what really sucks is rejection. No matter when it happens, via the usual communication black hole, or after the first or second interview, rejection sucks. Period! But you know what also really sucks… the ‘feedback’.

What makes the whole feedback part so unpalatable is the fact that most of the info you receive simply doesn’t pass as useful ‘feedback’. What I am suggesting to you in this blog post is what I want you to embrace starting today. I experience this regularly from those of my clients who are rejected – the amount of energy and emotion that is wasted on the feedback passed off as ‘helpful information’ once the interview experience has ended.   I am all about learning and improving but I have learned that the so called feedback is frankly often just a lot of wasted energy that detracts you from focusing on what really matters: getting the right job.

I have five (5) pieces of advice on how to decipher and deal

with rejection ‘feedback’ and how to move on.

#1 The Job Rejection: It’s not about you, it’s about me …

It’s so much like dating when people talk about the hiring process. If you have ever broken up with someone, you will know what I am talking about.

 “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The harsh reality is that for most people speaking the truth can be as uncomfortable as hearing it and so too many people will avoid that at all costs. In addition, in Australia & New Zealand and in most other uber-legal, highly litigious countries, there is an ingrained reluctance to really speak the truth for fear of liability.

#2 You’re not a bad candidate just because you weren’t hired.

This is probably the most important part to remember about rejection feedback. You made it to the 1st and maybe 2nd interview. That means you were a very good candidate.

So stop beating yourself up. When someone else is selected, it doesn’t always mean that a choice was made against you. The natural mindset for most job hunters after being rejected is to think about what could have been done differently.

This is all you can control, but it could have nothing to do with why you didn’t get hired.

#3 They probably don’t know themselves

You know that gut feelings you get about people — good or bad? Is it really that important to find out why you felt that way? I suggest that you trust your instincts. The selection process is no different. You know that you were a perfect candidate for the job but another guy got the gig because the decision maker just felt more comfortable with that person. I regularly ask employers to describe the common thread shared by everyone on their team, and many describe something along the lines of, “I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.”

#4 So, it’s mostly out of your control?!

Spot on! You guessed it. The whole selection and hiring process is a sum of many parts: mostly people. And people are a hard thing to grasp. Put all the people together and try to get consensus.  It’s often a wonder any decision gets made at all.

You are wasting your time if you are trying to apply rationale to something as speculative and nuance-driven as the hiring process. On top of that, you are emotionally involved. Being objective is an unreasonable expectation for you to have for yourself.  In fact, it’s almost impossible.

#5 How do you get a ‘yes’ next time?

Instead of dissecting what you’re told (if anything) after an interview, I want you to do two or three things:

Gen X & Gen Y Job Hunter:
  • First, capitalise on the opportunity presented and reflect on the fact that you made it into the 1st or maybe even the 2nd
  • Second, reflect on whether you were the truest representation of yourself in the interview. If you were, and you didn’t get the job, then it wasn’t the right fit for you.

As much as you want the job during an interview, sometimes not winning can be a blessing in disguise. The downside of getting hired for something that isn’t right for you can be even more devastating than being rejected in the job search.

Millennial Job Hunter

If you want to impress hiring managers or recruiters and grab an entry level job, here are a three tips and tricks to make you stand out.

  • Hunt for Entry Level Positions – Weed out those jobs you aren’t qualified for, even if you have the degree. In a tough job market, you are one of a hundred applications. To increase your chances of getting hired, use search engines that deliver only new grad jobs instead.
  • Use your Social Media Connections– You never know who might be able to refer you to your first job. Create profiles on social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook to find people in the industry who can guide you the right way. Job market places that also provide a community that you can connect with are ideal.
  • Showcase & Sell your Strength– Just because you don’t have 10 years’ experience in a particular field does not mean you have nothing to offer. When you sign up to a new job listing board, you can still add relevant awards and recognitions to your profile.

Stop mulling over spilled milk and move on. You made it into the interview. You are a good candidate. Go back to the start and remember to hunt wisely!


Have you ever received job search feedback you weren’t sure what do with? Share your experiences in the comments section or share this blog post with your fellow job hunter friends.