Interview rejection: how to cope and what you can learn from it

Guides, Jobseeker, Jobseekers / 01 September 2021

Rejection is never an enjoyable experience. Interview rejection, after you’ve built up your hopes of landing a job and envisioned yourself working for that employer, can knock both your confidence and your career progress to the floor.

As with any setback though, there is plenty to be learned from interview rejection that can boost your self-esteem and help your performance in the next interview.


Ask for feedback

The reason for that ‘no’ from the employer may be obvious to you, or perhaps it came as a complete surprise. Either way, ask for detailed feedback on why you weren’t suitable for the job this time around. Be polite and professional, but assertive.

An employer doesn’t have to provide you with feedback, but generally they will be prepared to explain their decision. Their reasons may be as vague as ‘your face just wasn’t a fit’ or as detailed as laying out the exact experience and skills you lacked. If you feel that their feedback isn’t clear, ask for more information.

What can you learn from that feedback?

  • It could flag up skills you hadn’t considered as a necessity for the job.
  • You may have given the wrong impression of yourself at the interview, perhaps as a result of nerves.
  • Alternatively, the decision may have been based on something completely out of your control such as the other candidates who also interviewed for the job.


Self-assess your performance

With the knowledge provided by the employer feedback in hand, assess your performance at the interview. What did you do well and what could you have done better?

For instance, how effectively did you answer the questions you were asked? One of the best ways to respond to interview questions that ask for an example of your work experience is to use the STAR method to structure your answers:

  • S – describe a relevant situation
  • T – explain a task you were asked to carry out in that situation
  • A – recount the actions you took to complete the task
  • R – explain the result, including what part you played in that result

Other factors you might like to assess include whether you acted in a suitable, professional manner, fully expressed your suitability for the role through your skills and experience, and demonstrated your enthusiasm for the role.

This self-assessment should indicate how you could have improved your performance at interview.


Remember: It’s business, not personal

When you have been rejected for a job, especially a dream job, it’s easy to take the employer’s decision personally. What you must remember though is that this was a business decision.

Ultimately, the employer will choose the candidate who:

  • has the skills, experience, and qualifications that are the best fit for the job
  • has the personality to fit with the team, department, and work culture
  • is likely to stay with the company

You may have got on like a house on fire with the interviewer, but ultimately another candidate had a more suitable job history. Perhaps you had exactly the right work experience and skills, but the interviewer felt that you wouldn’t fit in with the existing team.

Whatever the reason is for your rejection, try not to take it as a personal affront. It is not an insult, just a ‘no thank you’.

You, as a person and a candidate, are worthwhile and will be of value to the right employer.


Move on to the next

It may feel as if you’re back at the bottom of the job-search ladder again with your foot on the first rung. That isn’t true though, because you’ve learned from your interview rejection. You know:

  • the kind of issues that employers face when recruiting staff
  • how you can improve your interview performance
  • the type of impression you portray at interview and whether that should be improved
  • how to craft an application that will land you an interview

All of that knowledge puts you ahead of other applicants who have not reached the interview stage so far and prepares you to take the next job interview by storm.

If you want to brush up your skills in the run-up to your next interview, why not read our guide How To Prepare For An Interview?

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