Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

5 Tough Questions You Need to Ask Yourself When You Get Rejected From a Job

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Getting that dreaded “thanks, but no thanks” email for a position you were really excited about is a tough pill to swallow—there’s really no way to sugarcoat it.

If you’re like most people, you immediately experience a mix of anger, sadness, and a dash of hopelessness. And, while that’s totally normal (you’re allowed to feel upset—at least for a little bit!), that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s productive.

Rejection is actually a great time to reflect, evaluate the situation, and determine where you can improve next time. So, in order to help you do just that, here are five questions you should ask yourself after getting turned down for a job—that don’t involve, “What the heck is their problem?”

1. Did I Really Want That Job?

Your search can be filled with many emotions—including blind optimism. It’s easy to get so swept up in the prestige of a certain employer’s name or the numerous perks of the company culture, that you neglect to think about the responsibilities and duties that would come along with the job you’re applying for. It is a job, after all.

So, after you’ve received that brutal dose of reality, it’s time to do some self-reflection and determine whether or not you really wanted that position. Were you only interested because you wanted an in at that particular company—regardless of what you were doing? Did you only apply because you thought it would be impressive to your friends and random Facebook acquaintances?

Interviewers can typically tell right off the bat whether you’re truly excited about the position or if you have ulterior motives. Take some time to determine if you were actually eager to land that gig (and, if so, what exactly drew you to it), and you’ll be much better informed to continue through your search!

2. Was I Adequately Prepared?

When your search for employment grows long, you may find yourself falling into the trap of driving on autopilot. You’re coasting along, putting in the bare minimum, going through the motions, and winging it in your interviews.

But, as pretty much everybody knows, that’s not necessarily a recipe for success. The hiring process takes a lot of preparation, and it’s important that you’re honest yourself about whether or not you held up your end of the deal in that regard.

Did you tailor your resume to that specific job? Did you actually research the company—or just spit out some generic hogwash that could’ve applied to literally any employer? Chances are, you already know whether or not you laid the necessary groundwork. But, being painfully honest with yourself now (no matter how humbling it is to admit to your own faults) will help you improve your methods and tactics in the future—so you can get an offer letter instead of a cold, cruel rejection.

3. What Else Could’ve Contributed to My Rejection?

You’re thinking back on what got you to this point, and you can’t figure out where things went wrong for the life of you. Your resume and cover letter were flawless. Your interview went smoothly. The hiring manager even let a, “We’ll see you soon!” slip as you were walking out.

So, what on earth happened? What changed?

It’s important to realize that your rejection could have nothing to do with what actually happened during your different interactions with the employer—there could be another piece of the puzzle that you’ve neglected to consider until now.

Did you make sure that your social media presence was as clean as a whistle before blanketing the whole world in your resume? Or, was the hiring manager greeted with a profile photo of your blue-ribbon-winning keg stand? Were you rude to the receptionist on the way into your interview?

It’s easy to place all of your focus on only what happened in the interview. But, you have to remember that the hiring process (and your professional reputation!) extend far beyond the four walls of that conference room. Take some time to consider what else could’ve led to your ultimate demise, and then take care of it—immediately.

4. Should I Have Seen This Coming?

If you’re one of those people who tends to read into every single part of the job search process (ahem, well, that’s likely all of us), it becomes a tad too easy to get your hopes up. You become so consumed with the little details that you just know indicate you’re going to land the gig, you manage to turn a blind eye to those giant red flags that are waving directly in front of your face.

So, since you’re doing a bit of self-reflection anyway, now’s the perfect time to rewind everything in your head and determine if you should’ve seen this coming.

Was your interviewer awkwardly tight-lipped when you asked about next steps in the process? Did he point out numerous times where your skills didn’t match up with the requirements of the position?

This is where that blind optimism comes into play again. You’re so busy picturing your name on those glossy new business cards, you can’t be bothered to see what’s right in front of you. So, now’s your time to collect the facts—as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

5. What One Thing Could I Do Better?

After all of those thought-provoking questions, you’ve likely identified a solid 50 areas where you could improve before applying to your next job. And, while your ambition is admirable, it’s likely only going to end in you feeling completely stressed, burnt out, and overwhelmed—which isn’t necessarily the attitude you want when strolling into your next interview.

Instead, zone in on one key area where you could do better next time. Perhaps you need to rehearse answers to some of the most common interview questions so you don’t ramble through aimless responses next time. Maybe you need to proofread your resume more carefully. Or, perhaps you need to be more thorough in your research to find jobs and organizations that are a better fit for you.

Whatever it is, focus your attention on one thing. You’ll see significant improvement, without feeling like you’ve spread yourself too thin.

Getting rejected from a job (particularly one you were excited about) is never easy. Even those who claim to “thrive on constructive criticism” mope around for an hour or two after receiving that dreaded email.

However, it’s what you do after facing rejection that really matters. So, remember to ask yourself these five key questions, and you’ll use that negative experience for a positive gain.

Photo of sad person courtesy of Martin Dimitrov/Getty Images.