Cara Jo Swetsky is a marketing professional and recent graduate. In this post, she talks about how young professionals should learn from rejection to become better job seekers.
As a young professional, you may find yourself going through interview after interview with little to no positive results. It can be unsatisfying, frustrating, and highly discouraging. But don’t fret. This is your first real go at finding a job, and it’s meant to be a valuable learning experience. There are steps you can take when you don’t land the job you want that can better serve you and your interview experiences in the future. Taking in these lessons and using them to become a better job seeker will get you closer to that job of your dreams.
When an employer tells you no, take time to follow the steps below, and then take yourself out for a margarita, because, well damn, you deserve it!
Thank the interviewers
Landing an interview alone is a pretty big deal, especially if you’re a recent college grad. Be considerate of the time the interviewers took with you, asking you questions and learning about who you are, even if it didn’t work out in the end. Let them know that it was a pleasure meeting them and that if they happen to have any openings in the near future, to please keep your name and resume in mind.
It happens all the time – You don’t get the job you wanted but in three months you’re getting a call for another position within the same company. You’re not always denied because you weren’t capable; you just might not have been capable for that specific job. So be sure to send your thank you – you never know what might come out of it down the road.
Consider their feedback
Sometimes, interviewers will explain why they turned you down beyond the stock “more qualified candidates” line. And if they didn’t tell you, it’s okay to ask in addition to the ‘thank you’ you send. Ask if they could send you a quick list of some of the reasons they felt that you were not applicable for the position or what about your interview was dismissible. Frame it as things you could work on for your next interviews.
Take everything they say into consideration, even if you do not agree. You might not have realized you were doing something in the interview that they did – and that’s something you’ll want to know for the future. It’s not a lack of experience that dooms candidates. It’s the inflexibility and inability to adapt to feedback that keeps them making the same mistakes.
After taking what they said into consideration, make note of what you can do better next time. Sit down and say, “Okay, this is what they didn’t like, and this is what I can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” Whether it was being late or being unprepared for certain questions, there are always going to be ways to improve. It’s in your best interests to prepare for them ahead of time.
Review the questions
Part of improving as a job seeker requires that you write down and review the questions you were asked. Try to make a mental note during the interview of the questions they’re asking – especially if you’ve never heard them before. A lot of industry specific questions aren’t written about online. Only through prior experience and review will you learn how to properly answer them. Older, more experienced job seekers already know them, but it’s your first go at them, so make sure you pay attention.
Make a habit of writing down these questions when you get home from an interview. Try to remember what your answers were and think about how you can elaborate on them more next time around. Chances are you’re going to hear them again in another interview or two, especially if you keep applying within for same type of role and industry. Once you’ve prepared, you’ll ace them every time. This experience gained is a major benefit of going on interviews and not landing the job.
Recap with a mentor
To get a good perspective on what went wrong and what to improve on, talk about your interview with a mentor, professor, or experienced acquaintance. Sit down with someone you respect professionally and describe the interview to them; the setting, the questions, your answers, the atmosphere, the vibe. They may be able to pick up on something that you didn’t and give you critical feedback. Be as honest and descriptive as possible in your runthrough.
It’s easier to be an outsider looking in to identify the rough spots. Sometimes, an interviewer is a ‘dud’ – making it hard for you to answer questions or feel that you are able to answer appropriately. Or maybe you were interviewed in a noisy open office and it was hard for you to concentrate on the interview. Ask them their opinions and what they think could be done differently if you’re ever in a similar situation again.
Revisit your job search aims
If you're getting a lot of interviews but never landing the job, you might be aiming at the wrong opportunities. It's part of being an inexperienced job seeker - you don't always know what you want or where you want to be. This is learned over time as you work different jobs for years, but not something you might be aware of just out of college. As a result, you may be applying for jobs that require too much seniority, a slightly different skillset, or traits like leadership that you have yet to fully develop.
Revisit how you conduct your job search to see if you're applying to the wrong roles. You might be a great candidate that's applying for jobs outside your reach. Find a common thread among your rejections that show you either need more experience or just don't fit the requirements. Candidates do often get hired when they don't fit the job description in one way or another, but not when the misfit is fundamental to the role. Make an adjustment to the jobs you apply for based on your findings or you'll keep getting interviews but not the job.
Keep your frustration private
Don’t yell about the company or interviewer online. Nothing makes me cringe quite as much as logging into my Facebook and seeing my post-grad friends yelling about a recent interview – or not getting the job – on social media. Under no circumstances should you ever post about a company online, whether you include their name or not.
Everything you post is public, even if you don’t think anyone but your friends can see it. And even if the company you’re talking about doesn’t see the post, that doesn’t mean another company considering you for a position won’t either. They won’t see you as a loyal or respectable candidate, and you could blow your chances even before you land another interview.
Learn and move on
Be grateful for all of the interviews you go on. Each one will help you to realize what kinds of jobs you do and do not want to take, what kinds of companies you want to join and avoid, how many various questions can be asked, and what you can work on for next time. They also have the ability to make you realize that an interview can go on for five minutes or two hours. You’ll learn different ways to interact with different types of employers. You’ll begin to understand the different types of hiring managers and interviewing styles.
Every interview you go on is beneficial to your career in the long run. So even if you didn’t get the job, nothing about an interview should ever be considered a failure. And the most important thing to remember? Don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s easy to become distraught, especially when it seems like you may never find that perfect job. Don’t dwell on failed interviews and think about all that went wrong – think about all that could come from that experience. You’re becoming better and more prepared with each and every interview, so never overthink or regret something you said in one interview for too long. Pick yourself up and move on to the next one.