Tired of learning that a company you applied to filled the position with a different candidate? Rejection never feels good, but it's an inevitable part of the job search process. Research shows that the average applicant hears "no" from 24 hiring decision-makers before receiving that coveted "yes."
While downing a pint of consolation Rocky Road ice cream might offer some comfort, a more productive (and less caloric) alternative is determining how to turn this negative into a positive that might help you reach your ultimate goal of landing a position.
Consider these five ways a rejection today can propel you toward success tomorrow:
1. A rejection shows where you need to improve
While many possibilities exist as to why someone did not land a job, a common reason is that she did not present as well as another candidate. Ask the interviewer or recruiter for feedback, and press for details. Some may hesitate to reveal much, but others will provide valuable insight.
"Rejection can be something that helps identify a problem," says Ron Auerbach, author of "Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success." "For example, you might have been rejected because you lack a certain skill — something you may not have even realized until the employer mentioned it in their rejection. Now, you can use this info to help improve yourself going forward by acquiring that skill or furthering your education."
Or, perhaps, you learn that the employer felt you lacked enthusiasm. Examine what might have given those you spoke to that impression. Did you only ask general questions rather than gearing them towards learning about this specific opportunity? Were you late? Did nerves keep you from smiling or making regular eye contact? These are all pieces of feedback that you can improve upon for next time.
2. A rejection can reveal strengths to showcase
During the interview itself or in the feedback you request, you'll likely receive some positive comments. Take note of them. If this company was impressed by the examples you gave of your problem-solving abilities, the odds are good that similar employers will feel the same way. Be sure to highlight these achievements on your resume and cover letter and find ways to mention these impressive skills during future interviews.
3. A rejection helps target where to invest efforts
From scouring job boards to tailoring cover letters, conducting a job search takes substantial time and energy, especially if you are applying for a variety of different kinds of roles. Taking note of where you are having the most success can make the process more fruitful. If, for instance, you rarely receive a response when applying for jobs in customer service but make it to the interview stage for administrative assistant positions, focus more heavily on the latter.
4. A rejection can point out the need to expand your job search
Industry and location are two critical factors to landing a job. Trying to find work in a discipline that does not possess an abundance of openings or has limited opportunities in your geographical region can prove frustrating.
"If you're applying for work in an area where there are few jobs for it, the likelihood of rejection here is expected to be high," Auerbach says. "It's not your fault that there's a lack of those kinds of jobs — some things aren't under your control. Thus, if you're being rejected because of limited availability of jobs in a particular region, the easy fix is to expand your job search area."
There are two ways to do this. The first is to begin applying for a wider variety of roles. Start by looking at your transferable skills to determine other roles that might suit you. Transferable skills are abilities you possess that have value across roles and industries. For example, your talent for explaining complex concepts in understandable terms might make you attractive as a technical writer, a tech support specialist, or an academic tutor.
Another way to expand your search is to consider remote opportunities. Job search expansion nowadays does not always mean willingness to move or take on a longer commute. Remote opportunities skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and many companies intend to keep them in place.
5. A rejection can be a wake-up call
Lastly, few women see rejection as a blessing in disguise. Being turned down may save you from a role that you actually would not enjoy. You're forced to continue looking for a better fit.
Such was the case for career counselor Emily Kikue Frank, now the owner of Career Catalyst: "Years ago, I was working at a university in an environment that had become quite toxic. So, I was seeking something new, and I applied for similar positions at other universities. I kept getting turned down, and by the third time, I had to stop and think about why. I realized that I was interviewing badly, and upon reflection, I came to understand that I was doing that almost on purpose. There was a part of me that recognized that I didn't want another university role because, in addition to escaping the toxicity, I was also seeking new challenges and career growth. All those 'rejections' led me to quit my job and start my private practice, which is the best career move I ever made."
Admittedly, seeing rejection as a learning experience does not come easy when caught up in disappointment. But for those able to put emotion aside and look for a silver lining, growth opportunities abound.