Woman meditating, doing yoga in office.


Just the word in its written form elicits feelings of frustration.

As toddlers we threw tantrums when adults used the word.

“No” meant we couldn’t have something or do something that we really wanted – like stay up past our bed time or eat one more cookie.

As adults, we’ve moved past the tantrum phase (hopefully), but hearing people tell us “no” – especially when it comes to our careers – can still make us want to scream.

Handling Rejection

While employers don’t exactly say “no, you can’t have the job,” they use other mechanisms to convey the rejection such as emails, letters and sometimes the uncomfortable phone call.

They often start out letting you know they “appreciate your interest in the company” and that they “received a number of applications from many qualified candidates,” but ultimately “you weren’t selected for the position.”

If this isn’t your first letter of rejection, then you may start to feel desperate or wonder why you aren’t getting selected for the position.

While throwing a tantrum might make you feel better, it’s better to find healthy ways to handle rejection and to learn from it.

Here are some tips:

First, don’t take rejection personally. If you don’t get a “yes,” mentally reframe it in a positive way. Consider the possibilities that you didn’t hear back because the company decided not to fill the position. Or maybe that position wouldn’t have been the right job for you. There are countless reasons why you might not have gotten the job, so try to keep a positive mental perspective.

Ask for feedback. This is a tough one for some people, but experts agree that you should swallow your pride and ask for feedback after being rejected. Here’s an example of an email you could send to the hiring manager post rejection.

Hello [interviewer name],

Thank you for the update. I enjoyed meeting with you and the other members of your team, and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about [company name].

If possible, I’d love some feedback about my interview skills and overall qualifications. I’m always looking for ways I can improve, and I would really value your insight as I continue my job search.

Thanks again for your time, [interviewer name].

Best wishes,
[Your name]

Feedback from hiring managers has many benefits. First, it will add insight into how to improve your job search and nail your next interview. Second, you may learn something new about yourself. Maybe you were super qualified but had a bad habit of finishing other people’s sentences or constantly fidgeting. Either way, constructive feedback will prepare you for future interviews.

Practice more. You don’t want to sound too scripted or rehearsed in the actual interview, but you also don’t want to stumble over your words. Recruit a friend, family member or colleague to practice your interview skills. Are you stories memorable? Do they clearly, passionately and confidently convey your value proposition to an employer? Are your responses concise and well-organized?

Revise your approach. If you’re not getting calls when you send out your resume, assess whether your skills and experience are aligned with the positions where you are applying. Spend time vetting your skills with specific positions and tailor your resume and cover letters for each application. You have to do your homework. This is even more important for job transitions or those coming back to work after taking a long break. Be strategic. Set aside time for networking, conducting informational interviews and creating new relationships. If you’re having trouble with your resume, there are experts who can help. Search online for resume and interview tips or hire someone to polish it up for you. Well-written resumes are the first impression a hiring manager has of you!

Build stronger job esteem. If you find yourself constantly downplaying your accomplishments and feeling like a failure, create a list of “bragging rights.” Log all of your accomplishments and contributions, and develop three key stories about times when you overcame an obstacle in the past. You might talk about when you stepped up to lead a project, how you landed new business, or even the skills you used to resolve a sticky office situation. By recognizing your strengths and ability to succeed in the face of challenge, this simple exercise can instantly shift you from bummed out to totally psyched.

Remember that in the end, “winners are just people who keep trying.” As you encounter setbacks it’s what you do when you face adversity that defines you. Prevent rejection from derailing your job search efforts by not taking it personally, keeping a smile on your face and staying mentally tough. If you’re still not getting anywhere in your job search after six months, look for help. Seek out a career course or a negotiations course. Consider engaging the services of a professional career coach. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it.

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