Being rejected after a job interview can severely dent your confidence. Many candidates I have worked with over the years tortuously dwell on being turned down, often forgetting the bigger picture. Rejection, while not pleasant, can often be blown out of proportion and viewed as a sign of failure. However, by thinking objectively, candidates can use it to build on their core strengths, address development points and ultimately find a job that suits them best.
The positive side
At the very least you should feel as though you have learned something through the interview process. We all learn from our experiences, and interviewing is no different.
However, if you performed to the best of your ability, displayed all your relevant technical expertise, demonstrated your competencies and communicated in your most engaging manner in an interview but were still turned down, then you can take comfort from knowing that it was the wrong firm for you.
You may find your mind unable to rest until you establish a logical explanation for the rejection. Thorough feedback may not be provided, as candidates are often rejected because of an interviewer's gut feeling – despite meeting technical requirements. Instead of dwelling on your disappointment, keep your mind focused on other opportunities and continue to present yourself to the best of your ability. If you find you are facing continuous rejection then use it as a means for developing resilience. But ensure that you also take action to remedy any personal shortcomings brought to your attention from feedback.
Narrow your search
The job market is getting more competitive by the day. Pre-recession organisations had larger budgets and less lean organisational processes. Thus they were more flexible in their hiring. If a candidate matched 90% of their criteria they would consider that a good fit. Now, with stricter requirements, companies cannot afford to hire you unless you are a 100% match.
Be highly selective with where you apply. Don't be afraid to turn down opportunities pitched to you as perfect by headhunters and recruitment agencies if you feel they are not right. Where you feel you are suitable, research the role, the company, its culture and the team you will be working with in as much detail as possible to gauge how appropriate you are before accepting an interview. If you are being represented by a headhunter ask them to provide you with as much accurate information as possible and back this up with your own research. It is advisable to read the profiles of those interviewing you on LinkedIn.
Address the issues
Whatever the reason for rejection from one company there is a way it can be improved and transformed as a reason for acceptance at another. The most common reason for being turned down is a lack of technical knowledge. To improve this you may simply need to revise answers for technical questions in more detail or you may need to pursue further courses/qualifications. You should always ensure that you obtain feedback post-interview, either from your headhunter or the firm directly.
Another common reason for rejection is interview style. Interviews can make the most confident of us extremely nervous. After all you are being interrogated under a spotlight and the slightest miscommunication or, worse, the mood of the interviewer, can jeopardise your chances. Some people of incredible technical calibre struggle under such close scrutiny. Often it is a psychological thing. People know there are so many external factors influencing the decision and by giving too much thought they set themselves up to fail, forgetting that excellent preparation, coupled with an ability to think on their feet, can help them overcome the sternest of objections from interviewers. Competency-based interviews are increasingly used now and many people fail to deliver at these as they require highly detailed responses.
I have been coaching a senior candidate who is very accomplished but struggles to communicate his leadership skills, despite leading a sizeable team. He always used examples of the team working as a group and gave the impression he was not leading but managing by consensus. I have been helping him to break down the relevant parts of his role that reflect core leadership competencies and ensuring he showcases these correctly at interviews.
One method that can be applied to answer all competency questions is the Star technique. By sticking to this method you can use specific examples of competencies you have displayed and answer them in a clear, concise and engaging manner. Star is an acronym for situation (describe the situation you were in), task, (what was required of you), action (what you did and/or delegated to others), and the result. Good interview techniques such as this can be learned and developed. However, Star is of little use unless you can think of appropriate examples. Many people struggle with this. If you are thinking of changing jobs keep a brief diary of how you perform core competencies in your current role – such as motivating others, displaying resilience and engaging stakeholders – on a daily basis using the Star technique and revise these during preparation for interviews.
This can be difficult, but it is essential for your development. You may find it easier to receive if you apply through a headhunter as they usually have long-standing relationships with employers, ensuring that candid feedback is given to them about a candidate post-interview.
Make the interviewer aware how important feedback is to you, as this will show them how committed you are to self-development and may convince them to hire you – attitude can be just as important as ability. A follow-up email after an interview is the best way, showing professionalism and interest in the role. Most people will not do this, so you will be separating yourself from the competition. You should also state in the email that you welcome any feedback (positive or negative) as a way to improve and that you take each interview as a learning experience. This will encourage a more detailed response. Once received, take any feedback with an open mind and make the relevant improvements to find the job you want.
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