So you’ve been declined – now what?

It’s a painful thing for anyone to go through. A company, department, or team turns you down for a role. It can feel like someone is saying, “we didn’t like you and we don’t want you.” The truth is, the hiring team may have really liked you, or even felt you got really close. Just because you weren’t right for the position today, doesn’t mean you can’t nail it the next time.

But the way you handle this news can determine if you’re successful in the future. Use this step by step guide to navigate the tough waters of being turned down for a job:

Picture of two people talking at a meeting

Do some reflection

Was it really the company or role you wanted? Were you on your A game? Spend some time jotting down your reactions to the experience—how you felt about your performance, your impression of the company, what you did well, and what you think you could improve. It’s helpful to do this exercise immediately following an interview so the experience is fresh in your mind.

Get some rest

Going through an interview process is exhausting and emotional. After you’ve completed the reflection stage, take a breather to avoid overloading your brain. Take a day to go hiking, have dinner with a close friend, or binge-watch your favorite show. Downtime is an essential part of being a high-performing professional.

Picture of two women on a walking trail

Make a plan

OK, now it’s time to get to work. Think about how you can tackle what you identified during the reflection phase. Did you ramble or come across inarticulate? Practice slowing down and speaking more clearly. Maybe it’s just a matter of polishing your appearance or impression: Was your interview attire wrinkled? Were you unprepared to take notes or share your resume?

Enlist some help

Practicing is a key element of interviewing, but who you practice with makes a difference. A professor, experienced parent, or former colleague will be better armed to offer you insights than someone who has never interviewed or held a professional position. At this time, you may have to ask for some tough feedback. I once had a mock interview where I was asked to discuss a time one of my projects shifted and how I reacted. I shared a story about having to host a video at the last minute. My mock interviewer said that, while the story was interesting, displaying my video hosting skills wasn’t relevant to the role I was pursuing. I had never even considered choosing answers related to the duties of the role I wanted. Her feedback helped steer me to identify more applicable experiences to share.

If your choices are limited, give your practice partner specifics to look for: clear communication, professional presence, and a tailored appearance.

Picture of two people talking at a meeting

Balance your goals

It’s not always necessary to make major changes, sometimes just making more eye contact can improve your chances. Think about the kind of person who has impressed you in the past. What was their body language? How did they speak about their goals and accomplishments? Envisioning the individual you want to portray works wonders in making a memorable impression.

Try again

Give it some time, but do apply again if you feel there’s a fit. Many employers welcome “silver medalists” back to the application process. And be prepared to discuss the improvements you’ve made since your last interview. You may share something like, “I realized my coding knowledge wasn’t where it should have been. Since then, I have taken a class to brush up on my skills.”

As you go through your plan, continue to think of other job opportunities so you avoid limiting yourself. Acknowledge that you may not get hired at your dream company this time, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance in the future. And don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for taking on a challenge and doing something scary, no matter how well you did or didn’t do.

Most of all, remember that there’s a company out there just waiting for someone like you to walk through the door.

Recent Posts

More career tips from our crew

Two new employees
Two women talking
Woman using computer
Questions not to ask a recruiter
LinkedIn myths
How to prepare for a Vanguard interview
Vanguard push to increase diversity
Woman using cell phone
Personal branding