How to Deal with Job Interview Rejection [7 Tips]

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The waiting game is over!

You’ve received a notification from the hiring manager. But this isn’t the correspondence you’re hoping for — it’s a rejection letter. 

Job interview rejection can be a hard pill to swallow. You spent time preparing and did what you thought was your best, yet it wasn’t enough.

I can understand your feelings. I’ve been there and felt the same way. 

But it’s time you move forward!

Getting rejected after a job interview is part of life in the working world—it happens to everyone. Sometimes employers hire internally, or someone else may simply be a better fit for the job opening. That doesn’t mean it was your fault or anything was wrong with you as a candidate.

Your best bet is to learn from your mistakes and move on. To help you with that, in this post, I’ll discuss seven tips on how to deal with job interview rejection and land more opportunities. But let’s begin with why you should be ashamed of the situation. 

Why Interview Rejections are Normal and Nothing to Be Ashamed of

Interview rejection is an inevitable part of landing a fulfilling job. It can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to reflect your abilities or character.

Interviews are about much more than assessing whether you can handle the technical aspects of the job. Hiring managers also want to determine if the real you will mesh with the company culture. Plus, people get hired for all sorts of reasons — personality traits, communication skills, and experience being just a few. 

Furthermore, you’re not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of February 2022, the average unemployment rate in the U.S. hovered around 3.8%. That means close to 6.5 million Americans are unemployed at any given time.

Even if you have all the qualifications and experience, some companies just don’t think you’ll fit in. It’s their prerogative.

But bitterness isn’t the answer.

If an employer doesn’t see you as a good fit for their company, fine. But at least examine the exact motives behind the rejection so you avoid repeating the mistake(s) when exploring other opportunities.

Possible Reasons for Your Interview Rejection

The job market can be brutal, especially when many candidates fight for the same position. More stable and secure, corporate jobs tend to attract an average of 250 applicants. But only 4-6 applicants make it to the interview stage. That’s enough to confirm that hiring managers are picky, so you must be persistent. 

With that, let’s examine possible reasons for job interview rejection:

  • The interviewers felt you were underqualified
  • You’re overqualified
  • You were inarticulate
  • They don’t feel you’re a cultural fit
  • You didn’t connect with the interviewer(s)
  • Subpar manner and decorum 

The interviewers felt you were underqualified

This is among the most prominent interview rejection reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not qualified overall — just that you don’t have the specific experience the hiring manager wants.

For example, they could be looking for someone with marketing experience, but you only had HR under your belt.

You were overqualified

You may be too experienced for a junior position or too expensive for a small company to hire. The employer may feel that an overqualified candidate will become bored with the job and leave as soon as a better offer comes along.

You were inarticulate

While many people know how to be professional in writing, it’s often spoken communication that is the downfall of many otherwise qualified candidates. Fumbling words makes it difficult for the interviewer to understand you and conveys a lot about your confidence and social skills

They don’t feel there’s a cultural fit

Cultural fit can mean work ethic, philosophy, focus, and attitude. 

Employers want more than someone who can do their jobs well; they also want people who will uphold their standards, work well with others and stay with their company for years to come. 

It may be that they can quickly train someone on the job’s technical skills, but they can’t teach them how to mesh with the rest of the team. 

You didn’t connect with the interviewer

Over 3 in 10 (33%) hiring managers decide whether to or not hire a candidate within 90 seconds

You’ve probably felt this way yourself. You’re immediately drawn to some people and not to others for no apparent reason, but your first impression usually holds throughout. 

That doesn’t mean that you said something wrong or behaved awkwardly; it’s just that your communication or presentation style didn’t match theirs. 

Your interview etiquette is subpar

Even if you were technically qualified, you could still get rejected if your manners were lacking. 

I’m not referring to table manners here. I’m talking about basic job interview etiquette. That could range from arriving late, inappropriate attire, overtired appearance to offering too casual salutations. 

Now the question is: how do you handle rejection after a possibly great interview?

7 Tips on How to Deal With Job Interview Rejection

1. Reflect on why the company rejected you in the first place

If possible, try to get feedback about why the interviewers didn’t select you for the role. A simple email will suffice. 

Avoid coming off as bitter or resentful when requesting feedback. Instead, sound curious about the changes you can make to improve your chances of getting hired in the future.

It could be among the interview rejection reasons we discussed earlier or something to do with your resume. 

A resume is essentially a self-advertisement—it should catch the eye of a potential employer and make them want to know more. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are if your cover letters and resumes leave out your best attributes.

If you were underqualified for the job, start checking if your qualifications match what companies need. 

Could you be missing any skills? Learn and train!

Sometimes, it’s about how you deliver yourself during face-to-face interviews. A potential employer can turn you down for poor verbal communication skills or body language. If that’s the case, consider practicing interviewing with friends or family members. 

While as many as 94% of candidates wish to hear back from interviewers, only 41% have ever received feedback. 

So, in case you don’t hear back from the hiring manager, think back on your performance and try figuring out where things went off track.

2. Plan how you will correct your past mistakes going forward

Now is the time to analyze what went wrong to prevent it from happening again in future interviews 

Let’s say you didn’t adequately answer one of their questions. Prepare a better answer for the subsequent appointments. If you had little clue about the company and it showed, take the time to learn about other companies before interviewing with them.

You also want to review your resume and check for any improvement gaps. Trim out unnecessary words and get rid of old-looking formats. Include all attributes needed to increase your odds, but don’t lie. 

There are plenty of online tools to help you create eye-catching resumes that will land an interview every time. For more, please check out these resume statistics of 2022

3. Realize that everyone also receives many rejections after job interviews

Keep in mind that most people go through multiple interviews before landing their dream job. Even the most successful people get turned down. 

If anything, your friends have probably had to deal with more rejections than you have. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that you’ll never find something better. Don’t take it personally!

4. Realize it’s nothing personal

It’s easy to interpret interview rejection as a sign of personal failure or inadequacy. 

But more often, the reasons for the company not moving forward with your application have nothing to do with your character.  Perhaps your skills, experience, or personality don’t align with the company’s current requirements. 

Sometimes employers won’t provide feedback after interviews due to time constraints and concerns about legal issues. And while it’s easy to blame your shortcomings, perhaps you performed exemplarily, but only that another equally qualified candidate was more conversant with the business. 

And when you realize some things are way beyond your control, it’s time you accelerate your job search efforts with a refreshed mindset.

5. Do something you enjoy to get your mind off the rejection

Don’t dwell on the negativity after receiving an interview rejection letter. Instead, find comfort in something relaxing or fun. 

Whether going for a run, seeing a movie, or talking with friends and family members, surrounding yourself with things that make you happy can help take your mind off the rejection. 

6. Start applying for other opportunities with your best applications

One of the best ways to deal with a job interview rejection is to progress your job search goals.

As soon as you receive the interview rejection letter or email, start applying at other places with the same enthusiasm and passion you had for your previous application. 

Get started with the following pointers: 

  • Learn from past mistakes

So, you suspect the interviewers rejected your candidacy because of something you said or did or simply because there were better-qualified candidates. Do what you can to learn from the experience and improve your performance next time around. 

Look over your notes from the interviews and think about what went wrong, what went right, and how you could have done better. Then use those insights to inform your future interview preparation. 

Were you rejected from multiple jobs? If so, reviewing any feedback or objections from the hiring managers could reveal any patterns or negative traits holding you back.

  • Do everything in your power to increase your success chances

Figure out what the hiring manager is looking for, be on time for the interview, look presentable, and show up prepared to answer questions about yourself and your experience.

Is anything compromising your candidacy (such as a lack of relevant experience)? Then, this is an excellent opportunity to try and rectify them by gaining new skills through coursework or volunteering. 

You can also try improving the quality of your application materials. Go the extra mile to revise your resume, cover letter, and portfolio with feedback from professional recruiters and hiring managers.

Among the reasons why recruiters reject resumes is the lack of customization. Many companies now use applicant tracking software (ATS) to screen CVs. The best way to work around it is by incorporating keywords from the job posting into your resume and cover letter.

  • It’s a numbers game

The more applications and interviews you do, the greater your chances of getting hired. 

So don’t let one rejection knock your confidence. Instead, work hard to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed next time around.

7. Try to network with people at the companies you apply for

Did you know that only 20% of available jobs are advertised? Yup, the rest are filled internally or via mutual contacts. 

Having an “in” at a company can help increase your odds of getting hired. The contacts may not offer you a good reference now but can surely help you get a leg up on future opportunities at their company or elsewhere.

LinkedIn is an excellent platform for networking with professionals. Optimize your profile and craft a personalized message when connecting with each contact. 

Summary

And folks, that’s how you deal with job interview rejections. 

It’s not fun, but it’s part of work life.

So try to embrace rejection and move forward. Take the time to reflect on your actions and learn from them. Only then can you emerge as a better candidate for future job interviews.

The bottom line is to keep working hard on other opportunities, and ultimately, rejections will not bother you as much anymore. Plus, it never hurts to learn how to prepare for a stellar interview performance

Best of luck as you explore other opportunities!