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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Rejected For a Job You’re Perfect For? Now What?

by | Jun 19, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Communication |

How to get through the rejection

It’s hard enough to be rejected for an opportunity you really want. But what do you do if the rejections keep piling up?

I am interviewing candidates for an important role on my customer service team at Verizon.

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 within 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

 How you handle rejection paves the path to future selection.

4 Ways To Handle Being 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”
  • “What if 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. ”

  • What could I do next to be the obvious choice the next time an opening like this comes up?
  • Is there anything that I could do differently in the interview to be more effective?
  • What suggestions do you have as I work on my development this year, so I’ll be a better fit next time?

And of course, thank them for the feedback, even if it’s hard to hear.

4. Don’t Give Up

It’s natural and tempting to feel defeated. Keep leading. Work hard. Focus on making the biggest impact you can in your current role. You will need great results and a strong brand for the next time.

Your turn.

What’s your best advice for someone who’s been rejected for a job they’re perfect for?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Marcus Hurt

    Great post! You are right. It isn’t personal. Just keep swimming.

  2. letsgrowleaders

    Marcus, even if you have to side stroke through the ironman 😉

  3. Cindy


    Again another great post. It hurts at first when you get the word you weren’t selected. I have found that if you take the high road, and do like you said keep working hard, and not take it personal a BETTER opportunity always presents itself.

  4. Lolly Daskal

    Rejection always “feels” personal and it is not easy to digest.

    Fact is, if someone says a “nice” thing to you and a “not nice” thing to you, you only remember the not nice thing.

    So how do we take rejection?

    We see it for what it is and we learn from it.
    Thanks for sharing a great article. Appreciate your wisdom.
    Lead From Within

    • letsgrowleaders

      Lolly, Thanks so much for enriching the conversation. I’m guilty of obsessing on the minority negative comment. I think most of us do….

  5. Rohit

    Great article Karin, this is going to be a bookmark!

    I have been rejected by 7 companies in the last 8 months. Top 2 of them being Google and Boston Consulting Group. The worst part is that they never tell you the reason. I feel like the paragon of being a loser. But then again lately I have come to a realization that I won’t be happy until I do something of my own.


    • letsgrowleaders

      Rohit, Great to have you join the conversation. It sounds like you have had a really disappointing time… and yet, it also sounds like it’s helping you clarify what it is you most want. Maybe this is a blessing. I have a pod cast brewing about start-ups… perhaps that will be useful. Namaste.

  6. "mike"

    This is great – I remind myself that a “rejection” (which is sometimes not even a ‘no’ but a ‘not now’) is a good thing because it steers us towards the thing that, eventually, WILL work. Even at the absolute worst, a rejection can mean that you now know where you need more work, time to develop.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Mike, thanks for your comment. No may just mean, “not now” … what an important perspective.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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