How to recover from a letter of rejection

It can be hard not to take a job rejection personally but at some stage of the job search process, chances are you’ll be turned down for a role. It’s never a fun experience but the key is to turn a negative into a positive – and understand how to deal with a letter of rejection to stay at the top of your game.

A letter of recognition can bring on negativity bias

Research from Case Western Reserve University confirms that as humans we experience “negativity bias” – in other words, we tend to be more impacted by negative events rather than positive or neutral events. This being the case, it can be easy to blow a job rejection out of proportion.

However, after an initial outpouring of frustration it’s important to let the negativity go. Pent-up frustration won’t aid your continuing search for a new job. Bear in mind too, if you got as far as the interview stage, you’ve done extremely well. Plenty of other candidates would not have progressed that far.

Most importantly, don’t dismiss the company altogether. It is possible you may want to reapply for a job with that employer further down the track so don’t burn any bridges.

Don’t take it personally

Don’t regard a letter of rejection as a statement about you personally. In the cut and thrust of the commercial world, employers need to make a decision based on the candidate they believe is best suited to fill a role.

So, rest assured, it’s unlikely that not getting the job was the result of the hiring manager making a conscious vote against you. The greater likelihood is that another candidate’s experience or personality resonated more strongly with the hiring manager.

Put the opportunity to work

A knock back can be especially frustrating if you are unsure about why you were turned down, and it can be worth asking for constructive feedback.

Not all hiring managers will provide this but a simple phone call or email can at least give you a clearer idea of why you didn’t receive a job offer. There could be a good reason why you were overlooked and it will at least put an end to any nagging doubts you may have. If it turns out there are gaps in your skill set, consider enrolling in a course. It could give you a real advantage when you apply for other roles.

Focus on your strengths

There will always be areas where each of us can improve, but remember that you bring your own unique value proposition and passions to the table. Focusing on these can provide the renewed energy and momentum you need to find the job that’s right for you.

Create a list of your strengths and key contributions you’ve made to previous workplaces. Not only will this reaffirm your value as an employee, it can also come in handy for your next job interview.

Practice self-awareness

Consider how you present yourself to others. Take this opportunity to go over your cover letter and resume for areas that could be improved. Think about how you answered key interview questions, and whether you highlighted your experience in the most favourable light. Then put the experience to work by aiming to do even better next time around.

Stay positive

Sustaining a positive mental attitude is an important part of dealing with a letter of rejection. Maintain a strong outlook by treating yourself to rewarding behaviours. Meet with friends, maintain personal interests that fulfil your life outside work and exercise – it can be a great way to clear your head.

Remember too, you’re not alone. The reality is that the number of people turned down for jobs often outweighs those who receive an offer. Focus on the next opportunity – it could take you one step closer to your dream role.

Maintain your momentum

It can be tempting to put your job search on hold while you wait to hear back about a role, but it’s important to keep your job search in motion until you have accepted a position. Continue to stay in touch with your network of professional contacts and maintain contact with your recruitment professionals. This sort of pro-active approach nurtures your confidence, and also helps to prevent you putting all your eggs in one basket – banking on a role that doesn’t land in your lap.

Handling a letter of rejection is never easy but it does offer valuable opportunities to discover more about yourself and enhance your job search techniques. Good things are always worth waiting for, and with persistence and a positive outlook, your dream job could be just around the corner.

Take a look at our find a job hub for more job search tips and advice.