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Turning Setbacks Into Opportunities: What You Can Learn From Being Declined

 22nd Apr 2024

No one enjoys being declined for a job, especially if it’s a role you really wanted. It’s disappointing, but it shouldn’t ever be viewed as a waste of time, there is often a lot to be learned from the experience. The more you know about why you didn’t get a job on this occasion, the more chance you have of getting the next one. So, what can you do that will help you turn the rejection into a positive for your career? 

Ask for Feedback 

Asking for and listening to feedback is the most valuable thing you can do when missing out on a role. Self-analysis alone won’t paint the whole picture of why you weren’t the right person for the role. 

Understandably, this can be difficult to hear but it is essential for your development. You may find it easier to receive if you apply through a recruiter as they often have long-standing relationships with employers, ensuring that candid feedback is given to them about a candidate post-interview. Good recruiters can pass on both pros and cons in an empathetic, constructive and non-judgemental manner.  

However, if you aren’t using a recruiter, a follow-up email after an interview is the best way, state in the email that you welcome candid feedback (positive and negative) as a way to improve and that you take each interview as a learning experience. This will encourage a more detailed response. Once received, take any feedback with an open mind, put yourself in the interviewer's shoes and try to understand how your responses could have been interpreted that way, whether you initially agree with the feedback or not.  

What else can you do? 

If you don’t get any feedback or the feedback isn’t very helpful, don’t stop looking to improve. There are still a few things you can work on.  

Go back over your CV and application information and check it says everything you want to tell potential employers. It’s easy to miss some context and sometimes seemingly unimportant items that could tip the balance later. 

Think about the interview and try to see how things looked from the other side of the desk. Did you ask and answer questions well? Did your questions convey your interest and understanding of the role? Were there any moments where you felt you could have added more context? Think about how the conversations went and try to find anything that may have affected the outcome. 

Did you research the company and sector enough to help you stand out from the crowd? It’s best to really get to know the business and the trading environment in which they operate, even if you already do know them, take the time to make sure you are up to date and get to grips with what the opportunities and risks applicable to the company and the market they are in.  

Ask someone whose opinion you value to listen to your responses and/or ask you mock interview questions. Whilst this isn’t the same as the real thing, it can still be helpful to simulate an interview scenario.  

Could there have been someone better suited than you? 

Sometimes you can smash an interview, perform to the best of your ability and still not get the job! This is an unfortunate reality of a competitive interview process.  

Even if you felt your interview went perfectly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the role within that specific company was perfect for you. 

Sometimes the interview process can make you realise that, although it’s disappointing to be rejected, the role didn’t feel like quite the right fit for you either. Look back over the job specification and ask yourself if you could truly see yourself in that role on a day-to-day basis and/or if you translated that appropriately to the interviewers. If there were aspects of the role that didn’t excite you, the interviewer may have been able to see this too, pushing them toward another candidate.  

Learn and move on 

Finally, don’t take it to heart. Whilst interview feedback is invaluable, it’s important to note that interview feedback is often opinion-based and therefore subjective, so you’re entitled to disagree with it if you like. Importantly, however, always try hard to see and understand how your responses could have been perceived.  

Pick yourself up, learn from the experience and move on to the next opportunity. In the end, we all face being declined, and it could just be that this was simply not your day. Review, and renew your approach, which will help to build resilience and confidence. 

Get in touch to see how we can help make the next interview the one that gets you the perfect job. 


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