Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

3 Lies You Actually Believe When You Get Rejected From a Job

man on phone
Dan Dalton/Getty Images.

I know from personal experience that the phrase “We’ll let you know about final steps ASAP” is often misinterpreted as, “We’re about to offer you a job and pay you tons of money.” However, the cold truth is that recruiters are almost preconditioned to say these words to candidates they’d like to see again and to those they’re about to reject.

In fact, your final step may very well be a rejection letter (and a form one to add insult to injury). And that’s never fun to receive. If you’re like me, that might send you into a downward spiral of picking at every mistake you made, leading to a repetitive conversation with yourself that involves a lot of negative self-talk—or to put it more colloquial terms, straight-up lies.

But, instead of kicking yourself while you’re down, you need to remind yourself that the following things are simply not true:

Lie #1. You’re Not Good Enough for a Similar Job Elsewhere

Even the friendliest rejection emails are still rejection emails—and if you’re ever looking for material that makes you feel terrible about yourself, go ahead and bookmark them in your inbox. (Kidding, do not do that.)

No matter how far you go in the interview process, these messages appear to confirm only one thing: The company’s going with someone else who is a better fit. And because of that fact, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that’ll be the case for this type of role at any organization.

Here’s the thing, though—in many cases, employers have to make a tough decision between two perfectly qualified candidates. I remember at least a handful of long meetings from my days as a recruiter with hiring managers who just could not decide.

While it ultimately came down to a surprisingly nitpicky detail, all the candidates we declined in these cases were incredibly smart and talented. And we knew that they’d go on to do great things elsewhere. So before you start sulking, remind yourself that you were good enough to get to this point.

And as Muse writer Sara McCord recently wrote, there are ways you can turn a rejection into a job offer elsewhere.

Lie #2. You’ve Lost the Best Job Available for You

If you’ve stuck around the interview process for as long as you have, the odds are that you were at least a little interested in taking it. So when the news comes back and it’s not particularly good, it’s natural to think that you’ve left a prime opportunity on the table. And even worse, that you’ll never find one as good as that one ever again in your entire career.

I tend to give people this advice whenever they get bad job searching news, but it especially rings true here: Take a deep breath, maybe give it a day or two, and then peek at a few other job listings. You might not find The One, but this little exercise will remind you that you didn’t get declined for the only opening on the planet. And in the best-case scenario, you’ll find something that sounds so great that you can’t wait to spruce up your resume and cover letter to apply.

Lie #3. There’s Nothing You Can Do to Improve

You’re smart, talented, and you made it almost all the way to the end. You must be crushing it, right? In some ways, very much so. But it’s time to face facts: You got very far in the process, but you didn’t land the job. So there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

It’s never fun to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, I blew it. How can I be a better candidate next time?” But as you pick up the pieces and restart your job search, think back to how the conversations with your interviewers went. Did you struggle to answer a particular type of question? Were there moments where you tried to compensate for awkward silence, only to make things worse?

While you don’t often get direct feedback from the hiring manager, you can dissect your interview performance and identify ways to make yourself an even better candidate in the future. If you need a starting point on improvement, Muse writer Kat Boogaard recommends asking yourself these five questions.

Getting turned down for a position you really want is one of the worst feelings you’ll experience during the job search (and also in general). And there’s really nothing I can say or do to soften the blow right this second. However, you should know that the lies you’re telling yourself about what just went down are so, so wrong. And that ultimately, your dream company is just around the corner—it just wasn’t the one that rejected you.