• Judy M. Williams

A Lesson on Rejection

Updated: May 16

Rejection hurts - plain and simple. But how you choose to respond to it can determine your future.






A TALE OF TWO JOB CANDIDATES

Amanda completed three rounds of interviews for her dream role as Chief of Staff for a nonprofit organization. With over 15 years of experience directing and overseeing operations for some of city's prestigious organizations, Amanda amassed an impressive track record of accomplishments that impressed her interviewers. Unfortunately, the CEO decided to go with another candidate. Crushed, Amanda lamented daily about her lack of success in landing a Chief of Staff position after several interviews with five organizations over the course of 3 months. The rejections led Amanda to question her abilities. Now she's pursuing a completely new career direction.


Haley, a 10-year Creative Operations Manager for a luxury fashion brand has spent 3 months during her job hunt to land her dream job as Creative Director for a luxury fashion company. Like Amanda, Haley achieved a lot during her career, earning numerous recognitions and awards for her work. Interview-after-interview; rejection-after-rejection, Haley becomes more determined on obtaining a Creative Director, believing her time will come. She continues to send out her resume, has 2 more interviews she's preparing for, and is even tapping into her professional network and connections to set up information meetings with those in her desired profession.


The difference between the two candidates is their response to rejection. Ever notice how some people stop trying again after being turned down while others bounce back stronger than ever? Everyone experiences the sting of rejection, the key is to use that pain to grow stronger and become better.



WAYS TO HANDLE REJECTION BETTER


Feel the pain and move on.

It's not uncommon to try to suppress or deny the pain after being passed over for a job or promotion. But instead of trying to minimize the pain by convincing yourself that "it's no big deal", acknowledge it. One of my closest friends from college would always say "feel the pain and then move on" after a major disappointment or rejection.


Facing the uncomfortable feelings head on is essential for handling your emotions in a healthy manner. Ignoring it will only prolong the negative feelings which can affect your self-confidence and motivation, and ultimately sabotage your efforts to achieve your career goals.


Send a thoughtful response to the rejection email.

I understand that sending a response to a rejection email would be the last thing on your mind, but hear me out. Change your perception of the email from a rejection to a networking opportunity.


Sending a polite and gracious response to your interviewers can help your career in the long run by building a positive relationship with the interviewers. You never know if the hired applicant changes his or her mind and decides to decline the offer, doesn't last for more than a couple of months, or if there is opening for a similar position that you may be a better fit for.


Employers would prefer to reach out to the previously interviewed candidates rather than start from scratch and spend a considerable amount of time and money posting a job, screening resumes, and conducting interviews. Your thoughtful response to the rejection email can help you stand out from the other candidates.


When writing your response:


  • Keep it brief and polite.

  • Thank the hiring manager for informing you about the final decision and express your gratitude for their time and consideration.

  • Mention your appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the company and to meet the team (or anyone else you met during the interview process).

  • In a positive tone, express your disappointment and continued interest in working for the company.


Sample Response Template:


Dear [Name of Hiring Manager],


I appreciate your getting back to me about your final hiring decision.


Although I'm disappointed that I won't be a part of your team, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet you and [mention the names of anyone you met during the interview process or say "some members of your team"]. I enjoyed learning more about the work your organization does and I'm excited to continue following [Company Name].


Once again, thank you for your time and consideration. I hope our paths cross again in the future, and I wish you and the rest of the team all the best in moving forward.


Sincerely, [Your Full Name]


Learn from your rejection.

Rejections are wonderful opportunities for self-growth. After every rejection, identify what you can learn from this. Reflecting upon and learning from your job interviews will help you overcome similar challenges during future interviews.


  • When you send your response to a rejection email, consider politely asking for feedback from the hiring manager or recruiter (if you went through one).

  • Identify performance gaps and develop a professional development plan. This can be anything from obtaining specialized training or certifications to improving your interview responses.


Don't take it personal.

It's normal to take rejection personal. When you're constantly turned down for a job, it can make you feel like you're not good enough. But there are numerous reasons why talented and qualified candidates get rejected which has nothing to do with them, their resumes, their qualifications, their experience, or their interviews. For example:


  • Failure to get a consensus. Many companies have a small recruiting committees to make hiring decisions. The committees consist of individuals who will be working closely with the new employee; therefore, they have a vested interest in making the right decision.

  • An internal candidate was hired. It is entirely possible that you are more qualified for the position, but the hiring manager decided to give the job to an internal candidate. Companies that promote from within and encourage their employees to apply for internal postings are pretty great to work for. This demonstrates that the company's leadership is invested in keeping their most valuable assets happy and engaged. Companies who value their employees prefer to promote from within, and they will typically give the

  • A hiring freeze was imposed. This happens quite often and in the middle of the hiring process. This may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months and is a result of funding issues.



Whatever the reason may be on why you didn't get the job (and you may never know), don't let the rejection define you. One employer's decision is not an indication of your qualifications and talents. Make the most of the rejection and transform it into a positive opportunity to develop connections, strengthen your skills, and further motivate you to land your dream job.



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© 2023 by Judy Williams, L.L.C., d/b/a/ Holistic Career Guidance 

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