Rejected Again: How to Handle Rejection

The game of life involves more rejections than selections. If you’re always getting chosen, you’re not shooting high enough. You get it. But, rejection still sucks.

I am interviewing for a substantial and pivotal leadership position in my organization. The resumes are piling up fast with qualified candidates. I see the scurry of activity as candidates prepare. They’re doing their homework. Some candidates are those I’ve mentored recently. Others I’ve worked with in the past, or know by reputation. I also have a big pile of attractive “out of the woodwork” resumes filled with strong results and diverse experiences. I anticipate some great interviews. So many qualified candidates, and I get to choose one. Despite their backgrounds and efforts, the rest won’t be selected this time. Some will feel rejected. For those I’m closest to, it may feel personal. It’s not.

Not selected isn’t rejected

This scenario is playing out all over the world. How you handle rejected paves the path to future selection.

4 Ways To Handle Rejected

1. Stop The Negative Self-Talk

The harshest words won’t come from the person doing the rejecting. They’ll likely come from you. Don’t over interpret the “rejection.”

  • “I’m never going to get promoted”
  • “I will never be successful at this company”
  • “I don’t have what it takes”
  • “I don’t know how to play the game”
  • “Maybe I’m not that smart”
  • “It’s too late”
  • “I’m not cut out for this”
  • ?

2. Support the Selected Candidate

Early in my career, I lost out to a colleague for a promotion. Rejection comes early and often. My boss immediately took me aside and said,

“Everyone is going to watch how you react to this. I happen to think you’re the best qualified candidate. We could speculate all day about why he got selected over you. If you need to come into my office and shut the door and say all that crap once you can. But then let it go. Don’t let ANYONE else hear you say it.”

I’ve repeated those words many times over the last 20 years.

Take the high road. Smile. Congratulate. Support their success. Don’t engage with anyone who says, “it should have been you.” Okay, okay your spouse, dog, mentor and coach can know the truth. Be careful.

3. Ask For (and be ready to hear) Feedback

Ask for feedback from your interview and on your qualifications. Ask for straight talk. Be open to hear the reasons.

4. Keep Swimming

It’s natural and tempting to feel defeated. Keep leading. Keep working hard. Keep winning. You will need great results and a strong brand for the next time.

Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

It takes more than qualifications to get the job. Don’t count on your track record. In a close race, best prepared wins.

Two candidates were interviewing for a District Sales Manager position. Both had great backgrounds and qualifications. Both nailed the Behavior Based Interview, and we moved on to talk about their planned approach.

Joe (not his real name) came with his generic 90 day strategy. It was as if he had read Michael Watkin’s Book, The First 90 Days,* and copied the generic advice into his plan. His key actions looked like that of so many other candidates. Part of Joe’s plan was to visit every store in his territory in the first 30 days. Yawn.

*p.s I love Watkin’s book. It’s a great read when applied well.

Before her interview, Jane (not her real name), took 2 days off and visited all the stores in the new territory (across a 200 mile radius) in plain clothes. She came prepared with a list of observations, priorities, a platform for improvement, and a robust plan to begin tackling the issues in the first 30 days. She nailed the interview.

Jane’s now knocking that job out of the park.

A Deeper Approach to Interviewing

When interviewing, don’t bring generic plans. Do your homework. Go learn something deeper to discuss.

1. An Understanding of the Business

Talk to people. Arrange advanced visits if you can. Determine who is best-in-class. Understand the current priorities. Use real data to share specifics for your strategy. Come with informed questions. How far you can go with this will depend on whether you are interviewing internally or externally. However, you may be surprised how much data you can find in either circumstance. You can gain much from a solid google search.

2. A Platform

Just like a political candidate, be prepared to share your vision for this role. What is the one big thing you will accomplish? Share why you are passionate about your vision. Articulate the unique aspects of your leadership.

3. Your Angle

Describe your key skills and abilities and how they will benefit this organization. Make connections between unrelated roles. Describe how your diverse experience has built transferable skills perfect for this position.

4. Your Track Record

Come prepared with specific results and deliberate stories that highlight your leadership. Don’t just share your stack rankings(a common approach), share how you achieved them.