We’re all familiar with that period of torture after you submit a job application and are forced to wait (for what feels like ages) for any sort of response.
In the end, the waiting is all worth it if you land the job of your dreams. But if things don’t go according to plan and you’re eventually met with rejection? There’s no doubt about it—that stings.
Here’s the thing: dealing with rejection is never going to be fun. You’re never going to hope that you get turned down for something. However, it is possible to deal with that letdown in a way that presents you in the best light possible—and hopefully sets you up for even better opportunities in the future.
Here’s how to handle job search rejection with grace:
1. Don’t Respond Immediately
If you’re being rejected face-to-face (ouch), then you obviously have no choice but to respond immediately. In those circumstances—regardless of what your insides are screaming—simply thank them for the opportunity and get out of there.
But if you’ve received a job rejection email, the smartest thing you can do is take some time before replying. This gives you the time you need to cool off, get your emotions in check, and avoid firing off a heated reply that looks something like, “Thanks for wasting my time!”
You can go ahead and type out a reply right now if you feel like you need to get your thoughts on paper—just don’t send it. Come back to it later when you have a clearer head so you can ensure you don’t send a note that you’ll regret.
2. Start Your Response With a “Thank You”
Huh? They just gave you a sucker punch to the ego? Why on earth would you thank them for that? I get that this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. It’s not only a professional and polite way to start your response, it’s also well-deserved.
Despite the fact that you didn’t end up with the position, that employer still sunk time and resources into your candidacy—whether it was just in reviewing your resume or in putting you through multiple interviews.
So, start your response off with something like, “Thank you so much for letting me know, and for the opportunity.” Trust me, it goes a long way when it comes to bolstering your reputation.
3. Ask for Feedback
Rejection hurts, but it can also be an incredibly enlightening learning experience if you’re open to it.
After you thank the employer for their time and consideration, ask if they have any feedback about how you could improve moving forward. Let them know that you’re still actively continuing your job search and would value any insights they have about how you could be an even more impressive candidate.
Be aware that not everybody will be willing to fulfill this request—some companies actually have policies against it. If you get some helpful feedback in return, that’s great. But if not, just asking shows that you’re someone who is not only willing to accept disappointments, but someone who can learn and grow from them.
4. Resist the Urge to Trash-Talk That Employer
When we think about responding to rejection, we often only think about what happens in the heat of the moment and what we say directly to that employer. However, it’s not just what you say when you’re within earshot that matters.
I get that you might want to vent about your disappointment, but resist the temptation to talk poorly about that employer or about how they “strung you along.” You never know who in your network is connected or how the things you say might make it back to the wrong person. If and when someone prompts you to find out if you landed that specific job, keep things vague by saying something like, “I didn’t land that role, but it was a great experience as I continue looking for new opportunities.”
Control Your Reaction, Maintain Your Reputation
Here’s the hard truth: rejection is always going to sting, but how you react to it will make all the difference—especially as you continue your job search.
Use these four tips to respond to rejection as positively as possible, and you’ll move on from that letdown with your reputation (and your professional bridges) intact.