I Got Rejected After My Interview. I thought I Nailed It, What Went Wrong?
Dealing with interview rejection is tough. You see so many stories about how a guy was headhunted by a tech giant and they loved him so much they made him an insane offer, or someone will tell you how they went for an interview at Google or Facebook or Microsoft and the panel was so impressed that after only 30 seconds of meeting, they were offered a job. Success stories are everywhere, whether it’s someone who has landed a high-flying job with one of the Big Five or a person who walked into their dream job at a hip startup. And that’s great. And absolutely acceptable that they want to brag a little about their success.
The trouble is, it can make the rest of us feel like we’re failing when an interview goes wrong. Or when an interview seems to go exactly right, you feel like you nailed it, but you still don’t get the job. And when it happens a dozen times in a row, it’s painful and demoralizing. But buck up, because it’s actually not the end of the world. Here’s Paysa’s guide to dealing with interview rejection, moving on, and using it to help you get the job that’s right for you.
Remember That It Happens to Everyone
It’s really not just you. 90 percent of applicants don’t make it as far as an interview. In fact, 50 percent don’t even make it to a thorough resume review. Yes, interview rejection is tough. But it’s an important part of finding the right job with the right company. Yes, some people luck out and land their ideal job with the first interview of their job search. But for most of us, it takes repeated attempts, applications, screening calls, first round interviews, and callbacks before we get that job offer we’ve been pursuing for months – or even years. So, don’t get too downhearted, it’s part of the job search experience, and it happens to everyone.
Ask for Feedback
Not every company is willing to provide feedback directly to a candidate, but it’s definitely worth asking. Make a polite request for feedback on the basis that you’d like to use their constructive feedback to improve yourself for other opportunities. If you applied through a recruiter, they will likely receive feedback from the employer, so you’ll likely get a fast and thorough response.
Keep it professional and send a followup email asking for a candid critique of your performance. Tell the interviewer that you are committed to self-development and that, because you view every interview as a learning experience, you’d appreciate any feedback they are willing to share.
Doing this right after the interview, before you hear back, is a pretty smart move. It ensures that your interview is still fresh in the panel’s mind and it shows them you are committed to being the best you can be and that you don’t shy away from hearing the truth. It might even get you a few brownie points as you’ll be one of the only people to bother with this step. Brace yourself to hear the stark truth. It may not be nice, but it’s invaluable.
Next Time, Don’t Downplay Your Attributes
One big mistake people often make is playing down their attributes. Yes, modesty is a good trait – nobody likes an arrogant jackass – but there’s such a thing as being too modest. Self-aggrandizement is harmful and something you want to avoid, but you should definitely be honest and explain your achievements and skills. And don’t be afraid to be proud of your accomplishments, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking pride in your work and your personal and professional growth and development.
Don’t be self-deprecating, even if you think you’re being funny. To people who don’t know you, it can come across as insecurity and a lack of confidence rather than humor. If this is a mistake you made in your last interview, now is the time to prepare for the next one. Get a pen and paper and write down all of your strengths, skills, and attributes. Don’t forget to include your achievements and the accomplishments of which you’re most proud. Rehearse them a little, so that when asked “What are your most significant accomplishments?” or “What strengths can you bring to the team?”, you have a solid list in your head ready to talk through.
Highlight the Negatives
After you receive a rejection, take a little time to dissect the interview and highlight things you know didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. What were your weak points?
- Were you babbling, stuttering, answering questions too quickly, or otherwise displaying extreme anxiousness? If so, you can work on those things. Take a look at How to Overcome Job Interview Anxiety by Pamela Skillings and put her advice into practice. It makes the world of difference to your performance.
- Was your technical interview an unmitigated disaster? You can work on that with practice scenarios and even mock technical interviews with your peers at PRAMP.
- Did you bomb the knowledge test, even though you knew the answers? You can fix that. Getting into the habit of revising before your interview ensures the knowledge is right there in the forefront of your mind.
- Did your body language scream abject terror, resignation, or defeat? You can definitely change that. Studying confident body language makes you aware of all those normally unconscious postures, poses, and mannerisms that tell interviewers so much about us. Once you’re aware of it, you can keep conscious control and adopt an open, confident, relaxed body language that recruiters will take note of.
Whatever didn’t go well in that interview, you can tweak. The next time, you can make sure you take a fresh approach that highlights your skills, aptitude, and attitude. Don’t dwell too long on this one. Just take a few minutes to analyze the interview, and write down the things that you wish had gone better.
Make a Plan
Once you know what didn’t go well and that might have played a part in your interview rejection, you can make a plan to work on each of those things. Find resources to help you improve on each item on your list, then schedule enough time into your calendar to work on them. Leave ample time. This most likely won’t be a quick fix and requires time, dedication, and a can-do, want-to-improve attitude. If your technical interview sucked, for example, read and apply these great tips on how to prepare for your technical interview.
Pinpoint What Went Well
Because solely working on what went wrong is demoralizing, once you’ve done that, finish on a positive by listing the things you think you did well. Just take a couple of minutes to boost your interview esteem by making a note of all those things you wouldn’t change. And yes, there are lots of things that went well. Maybe you shook hands confidently with dry palms. Maybe you leaned forwards and talked with real passion about the role. Maybe an item in your portfolio really impressed the panel. Whatever is on the positive list should make you feel good.
View Interview Rejection as Valuable Experience
Given that, for example, the average corporate job has a whopping 250 applicants, if you got down to the interview stage, which usually consists of 4 to 10 candidates, you did amazingly well. Some jobs receive many more than that. A paid editorial internship for a BBC publication received a startling 200 applications per day earlier this year. If you made it to a call back interview – or even a first round interview, congratulations – you’re already way ahead of 90% of other applicants.
Take each rejection as a stepping stone on your path to your ideal role with your ideal company. Every rejection you get is an opportunity to gain experience and to hone your interview technique so that you’ll do better at the next one, and when you get in the interview for “that” job – the one you just have to have – you’ll have learned enough from all those rejections to blow the interview panel away with your smooth, polished interview skills.
Review and Improve Your Portfolio
However good you think your portfolio is, there’s room for improvement. Whether you’re a nurse with a reflective portfolio or a software engineer with an expansive portfolio of projects, there are things that could be better. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make huge changes – it could simply be that something small needs tweaking. But it’s a really good idea to take an hour to review your portfolio or asking a professional to give you feedback on it.
You should also consider the type of company you’re interviewing for, and what portfolio items will most impress them. The different kinds of tech companies, for example, will likely want to see evidence of different kinds of projects. It’s true that a perfect portfolio won’t guarantee you won’t be facing interview rejection, it’ll definitely help if you impress the panel with your presentation. There are an array of resources for helping you pull together a magical portfolio, but this one aimed at graphic designers has lots of great advice for everyone, whatever their field.
Have Multiple Prospects Simultaneously
Having multiple prospects simultaneously is a great strategy if you are a person who struggles to handle interview rejection. Immersing yourself in a handful of opportunities ensures you don’t grind to a halt in your job hunt because of a bad interview, don’t dwell too much on the negative, and don’t get overly depressed and disheartened. Instead, when you get a “no” from one opportunity, you can focus on the others and find an extra opportunity to replace the one that turned you down.
Suck It Up, Buttercup
Sounds harsh? Possibly. Is it good advice? The very best. Take a little time – a day or two – to dissect the interview, pick over the bad bits, and figure out how to improve. Then pick yourself up, close the door, and move on. Yes, it’s hard advice to follow when you’re facing rejection letter number 12, but it’s vital.
If you let it get to you too much, you’ll stall in your job hunt and there’s a good chance you’ll get into a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. When you get interviews, you’ll begin to think “I’ll never get this job. What’s the point?” and then you’ll project that resignation and negativity in the interview itself, and will likely get rejected, thereby self-fulfilling the prophecy, and the cycle starts again. So yes, suck it up. Deal with it and move on. Eventually, you’ll succeed and find the company that you’re the exact fit for, and your interview rejection days will be over.
Whatever your career path, cracking the interview is often the hardest part. And the things you need to work on are pretty much the same across every industry. Whether you’re interviewing for a job as a software engineer at Facebook with earning potential of $160,000 or a nurse practitioner with a $100,000 base salary, you can use this post to enhance your interview technique and improve your chance of success.