How to Handle Rejection During Your Job Search

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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During your job search, you will most likely face rejection. In the world of sales, they say it’s about 100 phone calls before 1 sale. The job search is similar so taking care of your personal wellbeing is essential. Here are some tips to keep you on track.


Steps to Take for Your Personal Wellbeing


1.     Face your feelings. Getting turned down may trigger difficult emotions such as anger or anxiety. Figure out what troubles you most. It might be mainly economic pressures or doubts about your abilities. Identifying these feeling will help guide you to the individual solutions you need.

             Don’t vent your negative feelings online. You never know who might read your post. Journal through your feelings or call a friend for support. You may find this article helpful: Journaling to Grow and Thrive

2.      Seek support. Let your network of family and friends know how they can help.  It is a good idea to have 5 of your ideal job titles in mind as well as 5 ideal companies and/or industries. Talk to other jobseekers. You may wind up exchanging valuable leads while you help each other through this stressful time. Most cities have job search groups, some through local religious organizations, which may serve a dual purpose if you are interested in additional support of this kind.

      You may benefit from this article, Bounce Back. Developing Emotional Resilience

3.      Exercise regularly. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help reduce stress:   If a gym membership is too expensive, take a walk or look for free classes. Many parks offer free fitness classes including yoga, boot camp, and Zumba. Join a group such as Meetup  to find an exercise group or another group based on your interests.

4.      Manage stress. There are many constructive ways to deal with the pressures of unemployment. 1. Breathe deeply. This may seem basic, however, when we are stressed, we tend to take more shallow breaths. Taking a deep breath can make a big difference. Try to go outside, get some fresh air and enjoy some deep breaths while you enjoy nature. 2.Listen to instrumental music or any music that makes you feel happy. Science Daily goes into more detail about how music serves as a stress reliever:    3. Focus on helping others. Volunteering can be a good way to learn new skills, meet new people and expand your network. Volunteer Match helps you find opportunities based on your interests. 

Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Stress Management


Steps to Shorten Your Job Search

      1.   Think like a salesperson. As previously mentioned, salespeople know that it takes a lot of calls before a deal is closed. They also know that they’ll probably face a lot of refusals before they close a deal. Remind yourself that every “no” is closer to a “yes.” Also, everyone you meet may be a possible lead for your dream job.

Let’s go back to the salesperson. Maybe you don’t need/want what he/she is selling but, because of his/her professionalism, you start telling your friends about the product/service he/she is selling. It’s the same thing with interviews.

When you interview, you want to focus your stories around the types of tasks you genuinely enjoy doing so that you will land a job that IS a good fit. So, if you aren’t getting an offer, it may be due to a lack of fit. Perhaps your values, interests, skills, abilities, and motivators are not actually a good fit for the job and/or company. Your examples may not line up with what the company is actually seeking. Most likely, you don’t have the inside scoop about the company culture, the team dynamics and all the details about the ins and outs of the job.


Don’t lose hope yet! Some of my clients have impressed the hiring committees so much that, even though they didn’t get the original job they applied for, they created a strong network of advocates who referred them to other opportunities that were a better fit.

2.      Project confidence. Practice your interview answers. Not practicing will leave you feeling even more nervous and more vulnerable. Some of my clients have initially resisted the idea of practicing their interview answers because they wanted to be “natural.” At the same time, when I asked if they would take a test without studying or compete in an athletic event without training, they look at me like I am nuts. How is “studying” or “training” for your interview different? The competition is tough, the stakes are high and the prize is a life changing career. No pressure, right?


Keep in mind that companies are looking for candidates to solve their challenges. It is your job to connect your past experience with the job that you are currently seeking. If you type out your stories and practice them out loud, this will help you put your worries aside so you can make a good impression. Practicing your stories out loud, on a regular basis, long before you land the interview, will really cement your responds in your mind.

3.      Remain active. Continue hunting at full steam just in case that promising interview falls through. Rejection letters are easier to take if you’re already looking ahead. Most companies expect that you are actively seeking and interviewing with other companies. Of course, once you accept an offer, you should cease looking for other opportunities and plan to commit to your new job for a minimum of 1 year.

4.      Refine your strategy. Keep a journal about your interviewing experience. Were there some questions that caught you by surprise? Many of us look back and can think a great answer later on when we’re not on the spot. Note these questions as well as the answer that you came up with now that you’ve had time to think. Many interviewers ask similar questions so it is worth the effort to make sure your bases are covered for the next time.

You may want to create and interview checklist too. For example, perhaps you don’t typically have cash and you found yourself in an awkward position in the parking lot. Put: bring cash for parking on your list. Did you bring extra resumes? Remember to turn off your cell phone? Ask for everyone’s business card so that you could send personalized thank you emails? Ask for the next steps and how they would like you to follow-up as well as their timeline for hiring?  Keep a list to help streamline your process. Look for ways to improve and become a stronger candidate.


You may find these articles about interviewing helpful:

  Interviewing: Are You Making These Mistakes?

  Want the Interview? Increase Your Odds in 4 Steps


Steps to Take in Specific Situations

1.      Deal with pre-interview rejections. If you are not getting called in for an interview, it may indicate that you need to brush up your cover letter and resume. Double check your spelling and grammar and ensure you’re using appropriate keywords. Do your resume and cover letter indicate that you can do the job? Are you using industry buzzwords? If you are making a career transition, is it clear to the reader the reasons you are doing so as well as your qualifications for this new field? Have a fresh set of eyes review your cover letter and resume. After you look at it over and over, it’s easy to miss small mistakes and sometimes big ones.

You may find these articles helpful:

   How to Write a Great Resume

   How to Make Your Resume Stand Out from the Crowd

   9 Game Changing Tips for Your Cover Letter

2.      Respond to post-interview rejections. Maybe you’re making it through multiple rounds of interviews before getting eliminated.  It is certainly an accomplishment to be called back but the bottom line is that you want to land your dream job so what should you do? For one, you may want to rehearse more in advance to polish your presentations. Again, practicing out loud is extremely important. This will help you work out some of the kinks and, not only that, you don’t want the first time you hear yourself saying the presentation to be when you are in the hot seat. Also, sending thank you letters may help you get valuable feedback and add to your network. Keep in mind, that most interview panels tend to be reluctant to provide specific feedback. You may want to run your interview answers by someone who has experience as a hiring manager, whether or not he/she is in your industry to get specific and candid feedback. In addition, there are certain qualifications that all employers seek in their applicants.

You may be interested in these articles:

     5 Vital Qualities Every Employer Seeks in Applicants

    10 Things That Require Zero Talent

3.      Consider your alternatives. If you get a job offer at your dream company but it is not your dream job, you may want to consider your long-term career goals. Taking the offer may get you closer to the type of career you are seeking. Once you are in the company, you may have the possibility to network your way into another position. Also, gaining experience in you ideal industry will help you strengthen your network within the industry as well as general industry knowledge. Don’t underestimate the value of understanding different aspects of an industry and its specialized vocabulary. Older workers who have been laid off may fare better by looking outside of the conventional job market. This could be the time to start your own business or work as a consultant.

4.      Widen your search. Economic changes have been especially dramatic in certain fields and geographic areas. It could help to look into new lines of work or consider relocating. You can learn more about different geographic locations by visiting Area Vibes. You can find salary calculators which will give you a side by side cost of living comparison on HomeFair  as well as at Bankrate.

5.      Seek advice. If you’re new to the job market, rejections may come as a surprise. It may be helpful to seek professional advice from a professional who is already employed in the field or a career coach.

You may find these articles helpful:

   Beginner’s Guide to Getting a Job When You Have Limited Experience

  Changing Careers in Midlife

   How to Reinvent Your Career

6.      Review your qualifications. If you’re trying to change careers, it’s important to ascertain if your background truly fits the needs of the position. You may find that additional training is required or that you need to clarify how your past accomplishments are relevant to your prospective employer.

You may find this article helpful: Finding Meaningful Work

Remember that each rejection brings you closer to a position that’s right for you, so keep your spirits up, seek support and hang in there. You will find the right job with consistent time and effort.