You Didn’t Get the Job: Ten Ways to Use Negative Feedback to Your Advantage

We’ve all been there. You get home from a killer interview—you clicked well with the hiring manager, answered all of their questions, even got a tour of the office—and you know you nailed it. But a week goes by and you get a call only to find out you have been rejected. Or even worse, you never hear back. What went wrong to lead to this job rejection and what should you do now?

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to ask for feedback. Yes, it’s awkward. Yes, you’re frustrated and confused. But finding out exactly why you’ve been rejected can be super helpful in preparing for future interviews. Ask as many questions as you can to find out your areas of opportunity and improvement. And once you get the feedback, jot it down and use it! Below are 10 common reasons for job rejection, and some tips on how to use feedback for the future.

     1. Underqualified: Let’s face it. Sometimes job rejection is due to the fact that you are just not as seasoned in your career as the hiring manager needs you to be. There’s not much you can do about this one, except to keep working and gaining as much experience as you can. If this is the only reason for rejection, ask the manager to keep you in mind for more junior openings they may have coming up and see if they’re willing to connect with you on LinkedIn to stay in touch.

     2. Skills don’t match what’s listed on resume: If you have technology, skills, or abilities listed on your resume, but are unable to speak to them during an interview, that will almost automatically get you disqualified for a role. If this is the reason for rejection, do some resume clean up and make sure that you only have skills listed on your resume you feel comfortable talking about.

     3. Internal referral/promotion: You didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, and that’s probably why the interview seemed like it went so well! But the hiring manager had an equally impressive internal candidate and decided to go with that person instead. While you can’t change the fact that the internal employee already knows the ins and outs of the organization, you can try to get on a level playing field. Read up on the company and its culture on their website, LinkedIn page, press releases and blogs. If you can learn more about the job and company than the internal candidate, you’ll have a leg up.

     4. You didn’t seem interested or didn’t ask for the job: This is something a lot of people don’t do on interviews and should. At the end of the interview, if you want the job, ask for it! Tell the hiring manager how interested you are and that you would be thrilled to be part of their team. This seems intimidating to some candidates, but it’s important to end the interview with the hiring manager having no doubts about your interest.

     5. Lack of engagement/distracted: When you are on an interview, it is important to be present. It is understandable that you might be nervous, but if the nervousness leads to distraction, poor eye contact, or forgetting the questions, it can be detrimental. The best way to avoid this is to prepare. Do your research, have answers prepared for typical interview questions ahead of time, and go in confidently!

     6. Didn’t do company research: This can be a big deal breaker for a lot of companies. Many managers will begin an interview by asking: “Why do you want to work here?” or “What do you know about our company?” If you can’t produce a sentence or two about what the company does and why that appeals to you, you’ll likely be out of the running before the interview has even begun. Be sure to do your research ahead of time as noted in tip #3!

     7. Didn’t dress the part: Know your audience. Some companies, like start-ups, have a very laid back dress code, and will think you don’t fit in if you show up in a suit and tie. Other companies, like financial institutions or law firms, are very polished and will disqualify you immediately if you show up in anything but business professional attire. So do your research ahead of time, find out what the environment looks like and dress the part.

     8. Late for the interview: This one is obvious. Plan for traffic, use Google maps or Waze to determine what time you should leave and arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Some companies just can’t look past tardiness for an interview, and I don’t blame them. It shows a lack of preparation, indifference about the role and is disrespectful to the interviewer’s time. Plus, if you’re late for something as important as a job interview, they likely will begin to wonder what time you would show up for a typical day at work.

     9. Money: Pay for contract roles is usually discussed up front and is not an issue. But if you’re interviewing for a permanent role and are uneducated on the market rate for the position, you must do your research regarding salary expectations. Have a range in mind and try to get this nailed down as quickly as possible so you aren’t disqualified for having out-of-this-world pay expectations. Glassdoor offers a great salary estimator that you can use to prepare!

     10. No feedback: There are occasions when hiring managers are interviewing many candidates for jobs and have so much on their plate they simply do not have the time to provide specific feedback from each interview. You may get a generic rejection email or not hear back at all. The best you can do in this situation is follow up with an email or call and ask for specifics. If you still don’t hear back, chalk it up to “it wasn’t meant to be.”

There are many reasons for job rejection. Knowing exactly why can help you prepare for the future. So the next time you get passed up for a role, ask for feedback and use it!

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