What to do when you're rejected for a job: 6 questions to ask yourself, and how to rise above it

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Rejections are tough, especially after you couldn’t help imagining how a new career opportunity could change your life.

Here are six questions you should ask yourself after a job rejection and how you can rise above it.

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6 questions to ask yourself after a job rejection

Thinking about whether you were a realistic fit for the role could provide clarity. (iStock)

1. Ask yourself how your salary requirements match up with your experience, and if you requested too much.

"You could ask, ‘Was it the money or was it my experience?’" said Ira Wolfe, president at Success Performance Solutions – an employee testing service based in Pennsylvania.

"If it was the money, you can ask if the managers undervalued you," Wolfe continued. "Or you can self-reflect on whether you were you asking for higher compensation because you need that much money to live on… but you're really not worth that much compared to other candidates and employees."

2. Ask yourself if you really wanted the job in the first place.

Dr. Cleamon Moorer, Jr., president and CEO at American Advantage Home Care, Inc. – a Detroit-based leader in home health care services, told FOX Business that job candidates need to think about whether they were a "fit" for the role they applied for. 

"Is this the organization and or industry that will enable you to realize your full potential and promise ultimately?" Moorer said. "Or would this just have been a stepping stone on your career path toward your ultimate career goals?"

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3. Ask yourself if you’re in the correct line of work.

Tim Toterhi, chief human resources officer and coach at Plotline Leadership – a human resources consulting firm in North Carolina, suggests job candidates ask themselves: "Am I pursuing the best career choice?"

Taking in the rejection while remaining objective is usually your best course of action. (iStock)

"Our hustle culture praises persistence, but passion and competence are rarely doled out in equal measure," he explained. "Make sure you’re not chasing someone else’s dream or an antiquated goal you need to leave behind."

4. Ask yourself if you should start your own project or business.

Another question Toterhi thinks job candidates should consider in the face of rejection is whether it’d be worth it to start your own project or business in the same line of work.

"Did they just dare me to prove them wrong?" Toterhi said this is the exact question he tells candidates to ask. 

"If you’re still committed to work for their competition, start your own company…heck, do both," he said.

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5. Ask yourself if you had internal competition.

"When a potential employer does not make an offer after a series of great interviews, my first reaction is that the employer had an internal or designated candidate in mind from the beginning," said Sara Hutchison, CEO and executive career consultant at Get Your Best Resume – a career transition support service she leads in Nashville.

Being honest with yourself about your skills, performance and experience could help you understand a rejection, especially if competition for a role is tough. (iStock)

Hutchison told FOX Business that she encourages her clients to ask employers if they’re interviewing internal candidates early in the interview process. 

"Putting in immense effort into great interviews that do not result in offers can be incredibly disheartening," Hutchison continued. "Set expectations early on about the possibility of promotions from within."

6. Ask yourself if you really were a ‘dream’ candidate?

Dr. Eli Joseph, an educator and faculty member at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, said it’s important for job candidates to ask themselves whether they’re "the dream candidate" for their "dream job" at a "dream company."

"When you are actively pursuing your dream job and you are going through the interviewing process, the hiring managers for this role may realize that you may not be the dream candidate for the job at that company," Joseph told FOX Business. "It's important to diversify your skills and be open-minded when pursuing other roles that may fit you and the organization’s needs."

How to rise above rejections

Staying cordial with hiring managers after a job rejection could be helpful in the long run. (iStock)

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

"Take some time to reflect, process your emotions and take care of yourself," said Cornelia Bearyman Shipley, CEO at 3C Consult – an executive development and leadership solutions company in Georgia.

"Make sure you are eating well, moving your body, getting enough rest, and drinking enough water," Shipley added.

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2. Ask for feedback.

Shipley recommends seeking out feedback after rejection, so job candidates can learn where they need to make adjustments.

"Reach out to the interviewer to thank them for the opportunity, ask them for feedback as to why you were not selected and let them know you would be interested in other opportunities with the company," she said. "Reach out to the recruiter – if you used one – and ask them for feedback from the interviewers, so you can improve next time."

3. Stay in touch.

Unlike relationships, it doesn’t hurt to stay in touch after a job rejects you.

"If it is a role you are really interested in, continue to reach out to the hiring manager with relevant information about what is happening in the industry and what you learned in the interview process," Shipley said.

Remaining positive before and after a job rejection could help you move forward. (iStock)

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4. Remain objective.

"Know that there could be many reasons why you didn’t get the offer," said Tanja Hinterstoisser, assistant vice president and career collaborative at Champlain College in Vermont. 

"Rejection for one particular job doesn’t mean you didn’t perform well at the interview," she said.

5. Be grateful.

Showing a little gratitude can go a long way, according to Hinterstoisser.

"Opportunities for experience are always valuable," she said. "Even if rejected, thank the interviewer for their time and interest in your candidacy."

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6. Stay confident and optimistic.

Hinterstoisser thinks job candidates shouldn’t feel shaken by rejections.

In her own words, "Don’t take rejection personally. Stay confident in your skills and keep applying."

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