Career Coach: Getting Turned Down for a Job Brings You One Step Closer to Success

KRT illustration
KRT illustration

You’ve resolved to find a new job. You’ve sent resumes. Done interviews. But sometimes you just don’t land the job. Hearing “no” from potential employers can affect you mentally, psychological, even physically. But keep your chin up: You can deal with the rejection and the setbacks. There are ways to cope, reframe the disappointment, and learn from the experience.

I was speaking recently with a student in the thick of the job search. He was frustrated that he was hearing “no” so often, but I urged him to instead look at each rejection as one step closer to getting that “yes.”

Here are some tips:

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

If you don’t get a “yes,” mentally reframe it in a positive way. Instead of feeling hopeless, embarrassed or frustrated, 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. Don’t assume you blew the interview. Try to keep a positive mental perspective.

Get Comfortable With ‘No’

Kids will keep asking for things no matter how many times they hear a “no.” Adult job-seekers should take a page from those children The average job seeker is rejected by 24 decision-makers before he or she gets the “yes,” according to research from career coach and author Orville Pierson. Staying resilient throughout the job-search process means getting comfortable with rejections. In my teaching, I challenge my MBA students to get comfortable hearing “no” by assigning them to ask people questions that will get them rejected at least 10 times — things like going into a restaurant and asking for free food, or asking a police officer if they could drive the cruiser. My students hear a lot more than just “no.” They hear alternatives and excuses. But the goal is to get them comfortable with “no” and the excitement of getting a “yes.”

Reflect on Your Interviews

The training and development literature suggests that reflection can help fuel deeper learning and insight by looking at situations through a different lens. Don’t just take a rejection as the cue to send out another resume. Take a hard look at why you aren’t getting the results you want and break down the process into steps to better understand where things went wrong. Ask yourself: How am I opening? What’s happening during the conversation? What kind of messages am I conveying verbally and nonverbally? Am I asking three to five smart questions that convey I’m intellectually curious and will add value to the organization? Am I asking questions to learn about the interviewer? Am I closing too strong? That is, am I coming across as too boastful and slick, or perhaps too eager or desperate? If you can pinpoint the downfalls in your approach, you can correct them. Don’t oversell yourself and be sure you’re walking the fine line between confidence and arrogance. Prepare great interview responses that connect your experiences with the organization’s mission and values, and never miss an opportunity to ask meaningful questions.

Ask for Feedback

When you don’t get a call back, ask your interviews for feedback on why. Though some organizations have policies against providing the information, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The responses can be invaluable when applied to your next interview.

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. Find others in the job-search process. Seek out groups for building confidence and leadership presence, such as joining Toastmasters International or a local improv theatre. Or just get out the iPhone and record yourself answering job interview questions. Watch it back to critique your responses and your delivery. Are you stories memorable? Do they clearly, passionately and confidently convey your value? Are you responses concise and well-organized?

Revise Your Approach

If you’re not getting calls when you send our 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 transitioners or those coming back to work after taking a long break.

Be Strategic

Expand your job search by exploring “career ecosystems” (potential jobs with suppliers and vendors, relevant trade associations, etc.). Set aside time for networking, conducting informational interviews, and creating new relationships. Along the way, keep in mind this mantra: “If you ask for a job, you’ll get advice, and if you ask for advice you’ll get a job.”

Jeffrey Kudisch is co-founder and principal partner of Personnel Assessment Systems, a human resource consulting firm.

Author: Jeffrey Kudisch

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