When the job interview doesn’t work out – dealing with rejection

It was an amazing role; great package, state of the art offices, fantastic potential for the future – your job interview went well; you were dressed to impress, you’d done your research on the business and you had responses to a myriad of possible questions all rehearsed. You’d even allowed yourself to imagine where your desk might be or what your colleagues might be like.

Then the call comes and it’s not good news. So, where do you go from here?

The important thing is to remember that there’s a huge amount you can take from the whole job interview experience, whether you end up with an offer or not. Taking time to reflect ensures that you can objectively assess your performance and learn to understand where your opportunities to grow and develop lie for the next time – whenever this may be.

The single, best piece of advice is to focus on being proactive and evaluating your own performance while it’s still fresh in your mind. If rejection comes, it can be tough to deal with; it’s inherently emotional and instinctively feels personal so taking control is a great way of getting ahead of this.

The importance of self-evaluation after a job interview

Following each job interview, and it’s important that you do this as soon as you can, take time to properly reflect on the experience and capture your thoughts. Think about your rapport with the interviewers, how you coped with the flow of the interview and the questions being asked of you, even whether you were comfortable in how you looked and presented yourself. Reviewing this through objective eyes means you can identify what you might do differently next time – anything from being better prepared to wearing a different outfit.

An objective evaluation of your performance also means that if you don’t get the offer you were hoping for, you can be more impartial about the feedback without trying to recollect the events of the interview through the lens of negative emotion.

Interview feedback is a gift – but only if you listen properly

If you are lucky enough to be given meaningful feedback as part of the interview process, it can be all too easy to focus on the more critical elements of why you weren’t good enough. What we’re not as good at hearing is the positives that are sure to be there; after all, you were on the short-list to get the job so of course you are at the top end of their candidate list.

Dr Rick Hanson, a leading American psychologist, talks about ‘negativity bias’, which is typical of how we respond to interview rejection. He believes that ‘the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones’, which for most of us rings truer than it should. Our inability to hold on to the positives in the event of bad news means we skew our thinking about what we do or don’t need to do next time we’re in an interview situation. So, again, the timeliness of your self-evaluation is key so that it’s truly reflective of what happened.

Recognise your own positives

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘you have to love yourself first’; well in interview situations you have to believe in yourself first! Not only will this project itself in your personality and performance during an interview but it will also help you identify what actually went really well. As part of your self-evaluation you should take time to savour the positives and reflect on what you are proud of as this is too easily forgotten if rejection happens.

With each self-evaluation, complete the process by objectively comparing your own analysis to the feedback you’ve been given to understand whether there are things you need to work on.

Focus on what is within your control

 When dealing with rejection, especially after a job interview, is it vital to reflect on whether you were actually responsible for all of the factors at play and be honest with yourself about what is within your own sphere of control.

Despite the emotional knockback it may simply be down to someone else pipping you at the post and there is nothing you could have done differently – you can’t control or influence someone else’s experience or level of expertise. It could also be that the company was prioritising one specific criteria that you didn’t meet this time.

Focusing on what you can control helps you to keep things in perspective and work on the things that you can do something about for next time rather than beating yourself up about things you really cannot do anything about. However, it’s not an excuse, or a get out of jail free card.

A popular way of looking at it is summed up this way by Reinhold Niebuhr: “Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

An interview is a fantastic learning opportunity to explore yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and your performance in a stressful situation. There’s so much you can learn!

If you’d like some support in understanding your personal approach to job interviews and how you can be better prepared to get your dream job then please do get in touch – I offer a free chemistry session for all new clients to check we can work together and if we’re both on the same page then I’m confident that I can help you make the leap you want into your next big adventure.


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