How to Handle Rejection

You finally heard back on the job your really wanted, and the employer chose someone else. You will probably be upset, especially if you made it through several interviews, only to be eliminated at the end. It is okay to be upset, but after giving yourself some time to process the rejection, you need to get back to work. Here are things you should be doing after a job rejection:


Move On

Yes, it hurts to be rejected, but moping about not getting a job won’t help you. Most hiring decisions are not personal, and you should not take them as such.

Once you’ve taken a little time to be disappointed, you need to refocus. Hopefully, you have applications out for other jobs, so while you are processing the rejection, you may be close to getting a job somewhere else.

Learn from the Rejection

The last thing you probably want to do after an employer has rejected you is to listen to the voicemail again or reread the email or letter, but it is an important step in learning about why you weren’t chosen. When you first heard the news, you were probably emotional, and you may not have paid attention to the reason the employer gave you for going with another applicant. Many employers take the time to explain why you didn’t get the job, and while the feedback can sting, you should be grateful that it was not the typical form response that some employers give.

Form responses are generic and don’t tell you anything, but a personalized rejection often tells you exactly why you did not get the job. Often these rejections are tactfully worded, so you may have to read between the lines to understand what the problem was.

For example, if it says that you were an excellent contender, but the last person you interviewed with decided to go with another candidate, you now know exactly where the process went wrong. Did you say something wrong in that last interview? Did that interviewer just not seem to like you? There could be many reasons why one piece of the interview didn’t go well, but compare it to other parts and you may get an idea, too. Keep in mind that sometimes higher-level executives at a company have different ideas than their subordinates do about whom they want to hire, and you can’t help that. You may not have done anything wrong, but at least by knowing who made the decision, you can determine if there is something you need to address in your strategy.

If the response lists something specific, such as experience or scheduling availability, you can think about those problems as you apply to other jobs. Is your schedule more flexible on second thought? Maybe you can adjust it for the next application. Did you apply to a job that requires more experience than you have? Search for other jobs with lower requirements.

In some cases, it can be appropriate to call a company and ask why the employer chose someone else. Do not make this call when you are upset, and don’t try to change the employer’s mind. The decision has been made, so accept it. Yelling at an employer won’t get you anything but a bad reputation; however, calling and professionally asking about the decision is appropriate if the company has been in contact with you and generally seems approachable. Make sure you ask the right way. For example, you could say:

“I understand that you have decided to go with another candidate for the job, and I respect your decision. I was wondering if you could give me more information about why someone else was selected, so that I can better prepare for future interviews.”

Most recruiters or employers will be open to this type of question, since you say it is to improve. Some may even admire your professionalism and tell you to apply for a different position you would be better suited for, but don’t expect it. You are only calling to find out how you could have been a better candidate. Thank your contact after you speak, and then leave him alone. It is not appropriate to call again with more questions, and it is not appropriate to comment on the reason why he or she made the decision.


Once you understand the reason why you were not selected, you can actively work on improving whatever the issue was. If you didn’t have enough experience, you can look for different jobs or try to find other ways to get experience. If you didn’t meet specific requirements, such as scheduling flexibility, try another company or industry. If something was wrong with your interview, take the feedback and practice before the next one. If it was just a personal decision, don’t sweat it and move on. Not everyone will like you, and you won’t meet everyone’s expectations. Remember that employers are human, and they don’t always have realistic expectations, too.

Send Out More Applications

Once you’ve learned from your mistakes or improved on whatever feedback you received, you need to send out more applications. Use that information when you decide on companies you want to apply to and in your application. Keep repeating the process until you find something that works, and try not to get too discouraged.

If You Keep Getting Rejected

You may get multiple rejections. It happens, and you should not worry about it. The job market is fiercely competitive, and it may take you time to find the right fit. Do your best to learn from every rejection, and think about when you were rejected.

If you frequently get rejected before the interview, there may be a problem with your applications, cover letter or resume, so you will want to review them. Maybe you are applying for jobs you don’t have the experience for. If that is the case, maybe you need to look for other ways to earn experience, such as volunteer work or extra classes.

If you find that most of your rejections happen after the interview, you probably need to practice your interviewing skills. Practice with a friend or a staff member of your school’s career center and ask for feedback.

No matter what the reason is that you have been rejected, you need to keep working on improving yourself in order to improve your chances of finding a job that you love. Find ways to keep in touch with professionals in your industry who can give you advice or consider additional certifications that may make your resume stand out from other applicants.

Stay positive, stick with it, and learn from your experiences. With persistent effort, you will eventually find the right fit.

Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers