Three Reactions to No

Not all news is great in career searches. A seeker will feel that the résumé is perfect, the cover letter compelling, and the job requirements a perfect match for her experience. The call comes, the interview is scheduled and completed, and she waits for the offer. Instead, rejection follows. It happens. What is next is completely up to the seeker. Here are three potential reactions.

Assume the fetal position and whine. Alright, maybe not literally, but in every other way. Job seekers take the rejection at the most personal level and retract into their shells, unable or unwilling to see that the opportunity may not have been as perfect as first thought. Or it’s possible that there was some bad chemistry between the candidate and the interviewer. Or there was an equally strong candidate willing to do the job for a lower salary. Or, or, or. No means no, but nothing more than that. Unless Connie Candidate had a total meltdown in the interview or committed some egregious faux pas, the reason for the decision will likely never be known. Move on before the rejection kills confidence.

Get mad. Much like the “Woe is me!” reaction above, this is just another inappropriate emotion for something that is not entirely in the seeker’s control. Anger and the accompanying reactions – denial, obstinacy and bitterness – will not serve the seeker well. The job search is, in part, a numbers game. There may be one job and 10 qualified candidates, or 100. While anger can offer some emotional fuel, too much can lead to irrational and damaging decisions.

Learn from it. This is the best option by far. A detailed self-debriefing can pay huge dividends, especially if it is done immediately after the interview. Thoughts on which to reflect could include the following. Which questions caused me the most grief? Which questions allowed me to give my strongest answers? How could I have told my stories more effectively and concisely? If I could go back and answer one question again, which one would it be and what would I say differently?

Rejection will come to all but the most fortunate job hunters. Prepare yourself for it and give yourself a pep talk on what you will do when it happens. Which will describe you when it happens: quivering mess, ball of rage, or wiser and smarter professional? Your reaction is up to you and one of the only parts of the process that you control.


Author: Bill Florin

Owner and President of Resu-mazing Services Company and driven to help people improve their lives by helping them with professional career marketing strategies and online reputation management services.

2 thoughts on “Three Reactions to No”

  1. Good post, thanks! What is a good way to follow up an interview? Most of my work is through direct client references. For the occasional interview that doesn’t work out, the company simply doesn’t respond. I would prefer a rejection email or call over nothing after travelling to a potential employer’s place and meeting with them.

    1. Hi Tracy! Thanks for the comment and the question.

      Many of my clients feel exactly the same way. Black or white, no gray. Yes or no, but neither maybe nor silence.

      If you are not doing it already, be sure to follow up every interview with a thank you note. You could do an email or a hand written note mailed to those with whom you met. Here is a good formula to follow:

      1. Thanks for the time you spent with me.
      2. I am excited to continue to the conversation about the job. BE SURE to mention a specific reason. Example: The flux capacitor project plays to my professional experiences and interests and I would enjoy having the chance to help Spacely Sprockets be first to market with this new product.
      3. Thanks again for your consideration.

      If you have gone on interviews and heard nothing, you have nothing to lose by pinging the interviewer with an email after two or three weeks. Something like this: “I am considering different career options, and the position with Spacely is one of my top choices. Please let me know if I am still being considered for this position. If not, thank you for considering my candidacy.”

      Please let me know if you find any of this helpful.


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