When you don’t get the job


Not getting a job you really wanted sucks. Especially when you are surrounded by the success story background noise about people getting 5-digit raises overnight. About friends locking down their dream job.

Especially when you sink weeks into crafting your CV, writing a flawless cover letter, researching the organization extensively, and doing multiple interviews. To find out it was all for naught. It’s demoralizing and brutal.

This happened to me a couple months ago. I had been speaking with the organization for over a month, had several interviews, and submitted a writing sample of one of my peer-reviewed publications. I knew I had been shortlisted to the top three candidates…and then I finally got the dreaded “We’ve decided to go with another candidate” phone call.

One of the worst parts was that I had already started to check out of my current job. I had started mentally assigning tasks to my colleagues and was mid-thought about how great it would feel to resign when I got the news that oh yea, hey, did not get that new job after all.

The job hunt is integral to building a career and increasing your salary, and rejection is part of that. So let’s break down what to do when you don’t get that job you want. Forget the success stories for a minute and let’s go through some things that have genuinely helped me in the past.

As a jumping off point and for my own personal therapy, I asked the Twitterverse about how to handle a major job disappointment:

1. Believe it happened for a good reason

“I assume it is for a good reasons—not in a fate way, but as in they saw something in me that was not a good fit for that particular spot.” – Ms. Steward

This has honestly been an enormous help to me over the last couple months. The more I reflect on that particular position and the organization, the more I can see some red flags — things that would not have been a good fit for me or the organization. The research position was in a different field than I am used to, and one that I don’t necessarily know I would have enjoyed very much. I think I was romanticizing it in the moment, but I probably would have wanted to move on again in a year or two. I want my job moves to be more strategic now. The job I didn’t get would not have built toward the future positions that I dream of holding. So for many reasons, it was actually kind of great that this job did not work out.


2. Learn from it

“Learn what you can from it and apply these insights to your search. Main thing is not to let it discourage you and slow your search.” – Barnaby King

This one seems obvious, but I don’t know how many people actually do this.

A great example was when I applied for a research position back in March. Stage one of their interview process was completing a technical writing task. I was in Asia for work at the time, with a huge presentation and several work commitments during the week, but I managed to squeeze in a block of time to complete it. How did it go? It was a total shitshow. I was jetlagged, exhausted, and not at all focused. My mind was on other work obligations. But also, I just didn’t prepare. I knew more or less what the task would be, and I could have done research, taken notes, and had a gameplan for how I wanted to handle the task. But I didn’t.

Sure enough, I got the email when I got home that I had not made it through the first stage of their screening task. No surprises there. But here is where it gets good. I kept the PDF of the writing task and I still review it before I have interviews or skills assessments for other roles in my field.  It’s built-in technical practice for every interview or upcoming task I’ll see.

Another tip that never occurred to me before came from Finance Patriot Blog – “Watch YouTube videos on how to interview. This did wonders for me. I visited collegegrad.org, lots of good videos there.” I have done some mock interviewing with friends and mentors, but  never did much with online resources.  The Internet is a veritable gold mine of job searching material. Go take advantage of it.

3. Find out why you didn’t get it

“Ask for feedback on why you didn’t get it so you can improve for next time.” – Savvy in Somerset

All I have ever managed to elicit from any HR rep or manager are incredibly generic platitudes a la “We went with a stronger candidate.” But if you feel like the person interviewing you will be somewhat transparent, I am all for this.

 4. Take a beat and appreciate what you can about your current situation

I recognize this may not apply to everyone cause some people just loathe their jobs.  I am fortunate in that I do not hate my current job. Not getting the other job has actually been a really nice opportunity to re-evaluate my position, observe myself in my work, think about what I like and don’t like about my role, and apply this to my job search. I was going a little fast and furious with applications and interviews, but now I am being much more intentional with where I apply and what kinds of questions I ask during the interview process.

And for the time being, it’s making me much more appreciate and grateful for my day-to-day.  I like my coworkers, I get to work remotely one day a week, and the work is still fairly interesting.  Not a bad position to be in at all.

5. Channel the failure into motivation

I don’t know about you but there is nothing like not getting what you want to build a little motivation. Right now, I am pretty fortunate – not getting that job is not the end of the world. I am not trapped in a job I despise. But I could be in that position down the road, and I definitely don’t want to be trapped if that day comes.

Not getting this job was a good reminder not to bank on that one job as your ticket out. Do other things to ensure your freedom.

Build up your emergency fund, so that you can one day quit without something else lined up.

Give yourself a big savings cushion so that you can go back to school, change careers, or take a pay cut to take a job you love.

Not getting this job was a blessing in disguise because it has gotten me back on the “Build up a 6-month emergency fund so that you have options” train.


6) Keep the lines of communication open

You never know what will happen.  You don’t know what will end up happening with the candidate they select – what if they back out?  What if you are interviewing with the same organization two years from now?  After they’ve let you down gently, send a thoughtful email thanking them for the opportunity, and ask them to reach out if anything else comes up.  You never know how valuable those small gestures might be.


What are some things you do to learn from letdowns and stay motivated after disappointments in the job hunt?  Would love to hear from you in the comments!

4 thoughts on “When you don’t get the job

  1. Argh, I’m sorry! I spent a few months job hunting earlier this year, as my job became less and less enjoyable, and it took far longer than I expected, it got very disheartening especially after one particular rejection (terrible interview, didn’t want the job, actually thought about emailing to withdraw from the process, though I didn’t, and then got a rather painful email referencing how I came across in the interview and how I wouldn’t fit in there).

    I look back now and I’m glad for where I landed because this really was the one I was holding out hope for, and there were definite downsides upfront about all of the others (in many cases related to commute, haha)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The job hunt can be SO frustrating – it’s weird, but it’s almost harder to get rejected from a job you didn’t even really want in the first place! I have been at the job search for a few months now, and it is definitely slow going. I am being very choosy (as you said – things like commute really count) but it is still discouraging. I am so glad to hear you are in a role that is a much better fit now – sometimes not getting certain positions during your job hunt can really be a blessing in disguise!


  3. I re-read this post weekly! It has such good advice, and really helps boost my esteem when I feel like giving up. Rejection is so painful, especially when it is your dream job at your dream company.


    1. Wow, this comment just completely made my day! I am so glad it has been helpful to you. It is SO hard, especially with how rigorous the recruitment process can be. It always hurts when you have invested sometimes entire days, multiple interviews, screening tasks, etc.

      Good luck if you are continuing your search, I know that something amazing is going to come your way!


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