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How to handle job rejection

Updated on 10 June 2020

We all start university with grand thoughts of coming out at the end of it with a secure, well-paid job in hand, but with the graduate job market the way it is at the moment, unfortunately that just isn't particularly likely to happen.

How to handle job rejection

With so much competition for a limited number of graduate places, statistically speaking your application is more likely to be rejected than accepted, therefore the first step to dealing with rejection is to make sure you don't get your hopes up before you even send an application off.

It happens to all of us

You have to rationalise the fact that only one person out of all the applicants (which may number into the hundreds) will have been accepted for the job, so you're not alone. We all know someone that came out of university and got his uncle to give him a leg up into an amazing job where he works 20 hours a week and is paid £70k for the luxury, but most people will have trod a path similar to yours.

The important thing to do is to learn from the experience! To use the old cliché – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so find out what your weak points are and make efforts to strengthen them.

Find out what went wrong

Give the company a ring and try and find out what went wrong. It might be something as simple as not enough work experience, or slightly unoriginal answers in an interview. If this is the case, you now know what you need to do to improve your chances for the next time!

Likewise, if it turns out your qualifications just weren't up to scratch, then you know you need to balance out your CV with more work experience or aim for a less ambitious job and work your way up.

Not all companies will offer feedback – it may not be ‘company policy', but as job applications can take a long time to fill out and the amount of time and effort you will have put into the interview stages comes to a considerable amount, stress that you feel you are entitled to at least some basic guidance on what went wrong.

Don't blame other people

The shock and regret of receiving a rejection letter may cause you to lash out and blame others. For one, your destiny lies only with yourself, so swallow your pride and realise that something about your application just didn't cut the mustard. You won't be able to move on and smooth out your creases until you can objectively analyse your mistakes.

Plan B

It's important to have a back-up plan so you have something to focus on and you don't fall into depression. If you find out what mistakes you made, you can hopefully refine them before the next interview, which will give you a confidence boost before going in.

Don't take things to heart

If a company is looking for graduates with no personality who will simply be a quiet little office mouse, and you're an outgoing, vibrant personality who enjoys forming strong relationships with your colleagues, you will probably be rejected.

Most people would say that your character qualities are a good thing, so just because you don't fit into one organisation doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. Having said that, if you have an attitude or arrogance problem, you may need to consider if it's actually you that's getting rejected, not your CV. If you're not sure how you come across during an interview, stage mock-interviews with family and friends.

Be resourceful

Despite your newfound hatred for the company that rejected you, it may be worth giving them a ring just to thank them for the opportunity and let them know you would like to be considered if for some reason a similar post arises.

For all you know, the successful candidate could have had a change of circumstances and the company may not have got in touch with their 2nd choice yet. If you happened to be choice number 3, and you strike lucky and ring up in the meantime, you may find that they're impressed by your politeness and initiative. You could also try asking if they know of any similar jobs going in affiliated or sister companies.

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