questions why you did not get the job

Dedicated to all the candidates and job seekers who are willing to do whatever it takes to pursue their passion and career. #BigIdeas

Over the past month, I have received a ton of messages from people looking for coaching on what to do if you go through the job interview process only to find out that you were not “chosen” for the role. The comments I received were colorful and definitely rich in context as people shared their rejection emails but the most common and (in)famous ones are below:

“Thank you for your time and interest with (company name) but after reviewing your resume, we have chosen to move forward with other candidates who are more qualified for this role. We will keep your resume on file should an opportunity open that better suits your background and skill set.”

~ OR ~

“Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you. While we were impressed with your background and experience, we have concluded that another candidate’s qualifications more closely match our requirements. We sincerely regret that we cannot offer you employment with our organization at this time.”

~ OR ~

“Thank you for your application for the position of (blank) at (insert company name). As you can imagine, we received a large number of applications. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected for an interview for this position.”

“We thank you for the time you invested to apply for the (insert name) position. We encourage you to apply for future openings for which you qualify. Best wishes for a successful job search.”

This really got me thinking about this topic and as I began doing my research, I realized just how many articles were already written on the importance and art of “how to follow up” with a recruiter and/or company. Many of them were spot on and had some excellent advice for candidates so I decided to focus on the other side of this topic which is the emotional aftermath of not getting your dreams fulfilled by getting the job offer you so wanted to receive.

  • Personal opinion: You absolutely should follow up to find out why (you didn’t get the job) and the one question you must ask is “was there something in my background or skills that I was missing?” – as this will set you on the path for understanding the “why” and give you a place to look for improvement. I have asked this questions numerous times over

Fact: not getting the job you interview for can definitely suck on many levels.

There I said it. Now lets move on to more pressing matters such as “how” you deal with the rejection. We have all been there at one point in our professional careers and lets face it, no one enjoys being rejected. I know I’ve had my share of disappointments over my career and it didn’t sit well especially if you go through numerous rounds of interviews over a period of time (which could be days, weeks or even months) depending on the role and company. So this got me thinking…

How do you deal with being rejected?

Lets begin with what the experts already tell us and we probably already know…

  • The first thing you need to understand when learning how to deal with rejection is that nothing is personal. I know that sounds hard to believe but barring any serious and blatant character flaws, not landing the job might simply be because someone more qualified also applied for the job. This is why following up is so important so you can learn and further develop your skills should you wish to reapply at that company or another.
  • Secondly, rejection stings because it deals a direct blow to our ego which impacts our pride, esteem and self-worth. When the ego is bruised, a core element of our being is damaged. From there it’s a quick drop down the rabbit hole where we doubt, shame and reduce ourselves to a lesser version of who we normally know ourselves to be. It typically ends with playing the blame game and possibly creating a whirlwind of victimization.
  • Thirdly from a scientific lens, humans are social animals — which makes rejection all the more emotionally painful to process. There’s a physiological basis to the pain of rejection, too. Research shows that rejection triggers the same brain pathways that are activated when we experience physical pain.
  • Last but not least, it’s important to process both the experience and your emotions.According to author Lisa Kappesser and her book “The Smart New Way To Get Hired” – it’s only natural to feel angry and frustrated when you’re working so hard to find a job only to be rejected. Anger usually results from being hurt or experiencing a threat to one’s self-esteem. She goes on to say that, pinpointing what event and thoughts created the feeling of anger and asking yourself if it’s realistic will provide some relief and place to channel your emotions.

Here are some additional ways to support yourself the next time you are facing rejection square in the face:

  • Know ahead of time what the chances are of a particular effort being successful. If the odds are long, that is not a reason for not trying; it is a reason not to be discouraged by failure. For instance, sending in a resume in response to an advertised job has been studied. The higher in demand the role is, the higher the percentage of resume and subsequently lack of review for each and everyone. That is not an argument for giving up. It means that even if you have been ignored, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your resume. It a matter of the odds, luck and timing. Keeping the odds in mind makes all the rejections along the way more tolerable.
  • Keep more than one iron in the fire at a time. This is probably the best advice I was ever given. When you only have one thing happening at any given time, your natural tendency will be to hyper focus on that one thing albeit a job, email, person, interview etc.. I recommend having at least five resumes out when you are seeking employment assuming you find that many open roles and company you wish to work for. It’s about the numbers and in the end if you are interviewing with more than one company, if you do receive a rejection – you won’t have time to over analyze the notice as you will be too busy prepping for your next opportunity. That said, don’t forget to follow up on all rejections and process what’s there for you to grow.
  • It’s not always clear cut or black and white. People get turned down for every sort of thing for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with merit. Some people will really be taken with you just as others will immediately turn away, for reasons that are not even clear to that other person, let alone to you. There are so many variables involved with a job opening even becoming an actual opening so before you get too stressed out, remember that positions open and close as often as a Starbucks pours a cup of coffee. The world of talent acquisition is a complex machine and many people and process exist to keep the engine running and as result there is good amount of grey matter which is (again) why you should always follow up to find out why you didn’t receive the position.
  • Don’t take it so personally. The only reason we suffer the sting of rejection is because we feel emotionally attached to the role and company. If we didn’t care (and were robots) the rejection would be meaningless but since we aren’t the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz – we will have to process the rejection. When we finally process the rejection, it becomes a burden we carry entirely on our shoulders — we blame nobody but ourselves. We truly believe there must be something intrinsically wrong within us to cause a person to dismiss us. Yet oftentimes it has nothing to do with us – see the previous 4 bullet points.
  • It happened for a greater reason. When we feel rejected, we trap ourselves in a moment of doubt and distress. But we must learn to see past the fleeting period of pain and acknowledge that there is a higher purpose to not getting what we want. That higher purpose is usually revealed in time which can feel like a lifetime for many. You don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to believe that things in life happening for a larger purpose that’s outside our area of knowledge sphere. Sometimes you have to pause take a breath and trust that there are reasons and forces out there that do what they do to protect us. Being that it’s happening to us without our consent makes it a hard pill to swallow but I personally invite you to adopt this belief system (on some level) as it’s incredibly freeing. Giving up how you think it’s supposed to be and instead allow what is as part of the process and journey for you will pay off dividends in the long run. Read on…
  • A chance to evolve. Rejection offers us an opportunity to evolve through and learn from our experiences. It allows us to look within and say, “Okay, maybe I can grow from this,” or “Maybe I can see a new side to myself.” After all, there is room for betterment in each of us, and sometimes it takes professional and emotional setbacks to be able to demolish the ego and come face to face with our truest self. If there is any constructive way to view rejection, it is through the lens of an earnest effort at self-improvement.

Final thoughts:
Rejection hurts, it actually sucks but guess what? It’s part of life and the sooner you can accept this, the better off you will be. As an ego-reducing emotion, it’s nothing short of painful but once you can see rejection as necessary positive – it will help you overcome whatever job interview (or life) throws your way. I invite you to embrace the experience of rejection as catalysts for productive change towards a better, stronger, more powerful you. 

And finally, I leave you with this gem…


How do you handle rejection when you don’t get what you want? The floor is yours.

With leadership,


Not-your-typical Personal and Executive Master Certified Coach.
Joshua Miller is a creative and impactful leader. His career experience has spanned both the advertising world and the world of leadership and organizational development. In advertising, he was responsible in delivering campaign strategies for Fortune 100 companies. Now he innovates and delivers results when supporting executive talent development and change management for the same clients.

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