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How to deal with job rejection

If you landed an interview, you did better than most.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 2:13AM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.


When I first graduated, the job market was bleak. It was so bleak, I opted to start attending graduate school even before I was accepted. (I graduated early in December and wanted to take classes immediately, so I attended while applying.) In the few months I did look for a job, I received rejection letters from all types of companies. The worst ones were from the companies I didn't even want to work for, but would accept just to have a job.


It wasn't a pleasant time for me or my graduating friends, but it taught me a lot about dealing with rejection.

It really isn't just about you. Much like love, getting a job is about making a good match. You, the candidate, must match the job better than anyone else the company is considering. Precision matters here. If you're not a strong enough candidate, they won't hire you because you won't be able to do the job. If you're too strong a candidate, they won't try to hire you because you might want too much money or you'll leave at the first opportunity.


I took the first few rejections personally, especially for those jobs I thought I could land. I knew I was up against the best of the best, though. These were the same classmates I had competed with for the last four years. I got over it when I went on a site interview with Ford. I was peppered with information-technology-related questions I couldn't answer. "How do you set up a local area network?" "What's your experience building server racks?" Computer science is different from IT. I stood no chance of getting a job because they misunderstood what my degree was about. It was obvious then, but in a lot of interviews it's not quite so obvious. (At least I got a few meals and a nice leather messenger bag of out it. I still use it today.)


Rejection beats being ignored. While being rejected sucks, it beats being ignored by a long shot. There's a certain monotony to submitting resumes in an online digital drop-box when nothing ever comes of it. You feel helpless, like throwing stones into the ocean. But when you get a letter back telling you that you won't be a good fit or that the position has been filled, you should learn from it. If you weren't a good fit, why? Did you not satisfy one of the requirements? Can you take a class or do something to improve your resume and your skill set for next time? If the position has been filled, perhaps there's a person you can contact to talk about other opportunities you might be a good fit for. An answer, even a negative one, can be the beginning of a dialog that ends well. If nothing else, it's feedback you can use.


It's a numbers game. Finding a job is a numbers game, and in a recession the percentage of success gets smaller and smaller. You're trying to hit the bull's-eye on the dart board, so the more darts you throw, the better your chances. What that also means is that every dart -- except the last one -- will be ignored or rejected. The best advice I can give on dealing with this is in this post about three morale-boosting job-hunting tips. They served my wife well and I hope they help you if you're searching. They show that you're making progress when it feels like you've made none.


Learn from being rejected. A common vein throughout these points is that you should try to learn from the process. If you are interviewed and told you aren't the person for the job, gather feedback. Ask why you aren't the strongest candidate and use those answers to make yourself a better candidate for next time. The keys to winning the job search marathon are to learn from your mistakes, make yourself stronger, and keep working at it.


Do you have any tips for dealing with being rejected for a job?


Related reading at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity:

Published Jan. 19, 2009
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