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How to handle job search rejection

4:09pm Friday 10th August 2012

So you didn't get the job. You might prefer to never speak to the company again but there are some good reasons to ask for feedback. Here's how and why to do it...

With soaring unemployment rates and a high number of people vying for the same vacancies (each graduate role attracts 83 applications, according to a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters), getting the odd knock back is only to be expected.

While it can be disheartening to get a 'thanks but no thanks' letter - or no response at all - how you handle rejection can have a big impact on your future job hunting success.

Getting a set back

'It's natural to feel upset when you don't get a job that you really want,' says Dr. Sally Ann Law, Personal and Executive Coach. 'People often feel a personal sense of rejection when that happens. While this is a natural reaction, it's not a state you want to remain in for too long.'

So how do you pick yourself up and move on? 'Rather than be despondent put your energy into learning from the experience - and doing better next time,' says Law.

Ask for feedback

Approach the recruiter and you may be able to find out why you weren't selected. 'Just remember that the employer is under no obligation to give you feedback, warns Corinne Mills, Managing Director of Personal Career Management. 'You are asking for a favour so be positive and charming rather than demanding and defensive.' It's best to phone the recruitment decision-maker, as email requests are easier to ignore.

'Ask them when would be a convenient time rather than expect feedback on the spot,' says Mills. 'Tell them you would like to work for them in future and this is why the feedback would be so helpful. Busy employers are more likely to invest time talking to you if they think you could be a potential employee in future.' And don't forget to say thank you - even if you don't like what they had to say.

Making sense of the feedback

Once you get the feedback, it can be tempting to ignore it- particularly if you didn't like it - but do this and you miss out on a valuable learning opportunity.

'If you don't understand the feedback, don't dismiss it - make the assumption that you did or said something that the recruiter didn't like,' says Richard Maun, career coach and author of Job Hunting 3.0. 'Treat every item of feedback as a small piece of evidence to be analysed - and then put it together to reveal the bigger picture.'

Not everyone is comfortable giving honest feedback, so be prepared to read between the lines - and dig a little deeper to get to the truth. 'Rather than ask them to clarify negative feedback, say, "Can you tell me specifically what I should do differently next time,"' suggests Maun. 'People tend to repeat the same failures, so if you've been turned down several times despite being a good fit on paper, there's likely to be something you're doing at the interview which is giving the wrong impression. In one case, it was only when I sat down to practise interview technique with a client that I realised his eye contact was letting him down - otherwise he was a perfect fit for the job.'

Ask yourself some tough questions

You should also ask yourself some questions, namely whether you had everything the employer was looking for. 'If you didn't, then work out what you need to do to plug those gaps and apply again or look for a stepping-stone role,' advises Mills.

Secondly, are you sure you really wanted the job? 'Employers will always prefer candidates who are genuinely motivated over those who are ambivalent,' says Mills.

Finally, are you doing yourself justice? You may be the best candidate for the job but unless you can convey this to an employer, you will never get the chance to prove it,' adds Mills.

Learning from the lessons

Always stay positive and don't let what's gone before affect your future performance. As Maun says, 'Looking for a job exposes you to the possibility of rejection and the thing to remember is that job hunting is a process.

'Your next experience can be a better one and what has gone before might just be telling you to practise more thoroughly or to sit down with a careers coach or someone you trust to talk through your job hunting activity.'

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