Getting rejected from a job really sucks. Whether it’s never hearing back, finding out your friend got it or receiving that crushing NO email/letter, we spoke to psychologist Felix Economakis for some ways you can move onwards and upwards. 

Know it’s a numbers game 

People who deal with rejection well are the ones who realise they’re probably not going to get what they want on the first go. Or the second. Or the twentieth. “Especially with the job market, you have to go through a certain amount of hits before you get lucky,” says Felix. “Have you ever seen those nature programmes about hunter-gatherers? There’s a one in 10 success rate with lions. It’s even [tougher] in the job market, obviously; I know lots of people who have had 60, 70, 80 interviews before getting something. The successful people are the ones who perserve and are prepared to go through a lot of numbers.”

Don’t take it personally 

About a million factors were in play when you applied for that job, and one of the infinite possible combinations meant that you didn’t get it. None of those factors were “Wow he’s just really crap at life”. No, really. “Some people take it personally, they think they are rejected as a person. But the interviewer/employer has met you for ten minutes or scanned an application; they make an impression based on unscientific methods and have a short time to make good decisions. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, and nothing to do with you as a person,” Felix reassured us. Another day, another time, another minute when they’re not thinking about soup and so didn’t read your cover letter thoroughly enough, they may have been more disposed to get to know you better. And find out you’d actually kick that job’s arse.

Don’t think in black and white terms

Just because you didn’t get the job, this doesn’t mean you won’t get any jobs. At all. OBVIOUSLY. “I was working with an actress who was looking to be Juliet but got rejected,” Felix said. “The director may have been looking for a red haired Juliet, and she was blond. I told her that it doesn’t mean in absolute terms she’s a bad Juliet. Just not the right person for this particular position; people see things in absolute terms and go ‘Well, jobs just don’t work for me’ but it’s not that simple.” Remember that there is a job out there for you where you’ll fit in, have fun and do great work. Also, that guy who rejected you? You probably wouldn’t have got on anyway – think of it as a lucky escape. 

Make a plan, and then another plan for when that one goes wrong

If this is the only job you’ve applied for this month, then a rejection is going to hit you hard. Devise a three-tiered attack before your jobhunt – that way if you don’t get your A-list choice, you know you’ve got the B-list and even the C-list to move onto. “For God’s sake, have a backup plan! You see people on X Factor saying it’s all they’ve ever thought about doing, and you think ‘How stupid are you?!’ It’s just bad thinking,” says Felix. “Obviously have a backup plan and think ‘OK you know what? There are the ten top positions and, if those don’t work, there are the ten below. And ten more below that.’” At the same time, you should be thinking laterally about other jobs.

Take the rejection gracefully 

Send a thankyou email back. On the phone, don’t yell at them for ruining your life but, instead, thank them and they’ll remember you as mature and polite. “Take it gracefully – you never know, the successful candidate might change their mind, and they’ll think ‘Well, that Jane Butler was nice…’ Remember, it’s not over till the fat lady sings.” Felix asked me to come up with a more scientific way of putting that last bit, but I think it works well. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback

It’ll help you improve, and improvement will make you feel happier and more productive. “Always say thank you and ask if there was anything you could do to improve. Was it experience? If so, then you know what to work on. If it wasn’t, then maybe everyone is super qualified and so consider the possibility of a smaller company in the same industry.” It’s so much better to draw the correct conclusions about why a job application wasn’t successful, than making all the wrong ones due to an absence of information. 

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