6 ways to deal when you're rejected for a job

Being turned down for a job sucks, especially when you don’t know why your application was rejected, or when you’ll finally land one. The good news is that if you're wondering how to get over rejection from a job, there are steps you can take to stay positive while you continue to look for a position that’s right for you. Keep going!

1. Talk yourself up

If you're dealing with rejection from a job, it’s easy for your confidence to take a hit. Self-talk (your inner voice that says the things you don’t necessarily say out loud) can have a big impact on your self-confidence. The effect can be good or bad, depending on whether your self-talk is positive or negative.

If you need to shift your self-talk into a more positive gear, try the following:

  1. Listen to what you're saying to yourself - is it mostly negative or positive? Each day, make notes on what you're thinking.

  2. Challenge your negative self-talk by asking:

    • Is there any actual evidence for what I'm thinking?

    • What would I say if a friend was in a similar situation?

    • Can I do anything to change what I'm feeling bad about?

  3. Change your self-talk:

    • Make a list of the positive things about yourself.

    • Instead of saying, 'I'll never be able to do this', try: 'Is there anything I can do that will help me do this?'

2. Focus on your strengths

When you get rejected, it’s very easy for your mind to go to a negative, self-critical place. Focusing your attention on what you’re good at can give you a definite boost.

Try doing the free VIA Character Strengths Survey to find out what your top strengths are. You could write them down and keep the list handy for when you’re feeling down. Try saying to yourself something like, ‘I’m a valuable person with lots of strengths, such as [your strengths].’

Find ways to refer to your strengths in job interviews and your resume. For example, if you’re a good leader, how have you demonstrated your leadership skills in past jobs or activities? Maybe you led a certain project, or made suggestions to your boss on how things could be improved.

If you find that you’re lower in some strength areas, you can do the following things to help build on them:

  • Courage: practise dealing with conflict by reflecting on what type of conflict you usually avoid, and then writing down what you could say and how you’d say it.

  • Kindness: do something small and unexpected for someone, such as sending a friend a thank-you text or helping out a neighbour.

  • Wisdom: watch an inspiring documentary about someone who overcame a big challenge.

  • Fairness: consider volunteering with a charity whose work inspires you.

  • Humility: practise active listening by asking lots of questions in your next conversation.

  • Gratitude: practise writing down three things you’re grateful for at the end of each day.

3. Ask for feedback

Asking for feedback can feel scary, as we don’t always like hearing what we need to improve on. However, getting feedback on your resume, interview technique or experience can really help you to land the next job. You could try calling or emailing the hiring manager and asking, ‘Are you able to give me any feedback about my application/interview?’

Use that feedback to make changes to your resume, or take a short course that might help fill any gaps in your skillset. Courses are run at some TAFEs and universities, or check out a site such as Udemy, Coursera or even YouTube.

If that feels too difficult, or if the employer isn’t able to give you feedback, ask a friend or family member to comment on your resume or to do a practice interview with you. Try to stay open to constructive feedback – it will make you more likely to succeed in the future.

4. Try to stay positive

It’s totally understandable to feel a bit crap when you get rejected for a job. Help lift your spirits by doing things you enjoy (outside of work), such as meet with friends, spend time on your hobbies or do some fun exercise.

Work on strategies to help you cope with a crap mood. These could include talking to someone you trust, writing a list of what you’re grateful for, sticking to a routine, looking after your physical health and setting goals. You could write a list of these coping strategies and keep them handy when you need a reminder.

And when all else fails, remember that every ‘no’ (job rejection) gets you closer to a ‘yes’!

5. Keep your options open

Keep your job search in motion until you’ve accepted a position. It can be tempting to get your heart set on a certain job, but by keeping your options open, you’re more likely to land a job. While you’re waiting to hear back from an employer, keep sending out other applications.

If you’ve been rejected from a job that you really liked the look of, analyse what it was about the role that interested you and look for similar qualities in other job listings.

6. Know that it's not just you

Looking for jobs can be tough, especially in the current job market. So many factors are out of our control – for example, a company might be looking for someone to fill a specific gap in their team, or there might be heaps of competition for certain jobs.

Even someone with all the experience in the world may find it hard to get a job. Try to focus on what you can control (such as the other suggestions in this article) and let go of what you can’t. Keep going, and pat yourself on the back for putting yourself out there.

What can I do now?

  • Watch our video on how to avoid feeling crap when you don't have a job.

  • Check out our 'best of the web' guide to getting a job.