5 Steps to Help You Bounce Back from Job Rejection

Being rejected for the Perfect Job was painful for Emily. Part of the problem was that once an interview was over, she had a habit of entering an alternate state of being wherein it was impossible for her to keep from imagining how wonderful life would be when she got the phone call and resulting job offer. Job rejection was out of question.

In her mind’s eye, she saw herself at her new desk doing amazing things for the company, all the while winning the admiration and respect of her new colleagues. The awards piled up, and the raises? Those just went without saying.

She even imagined herself standing confidently at the water cooler where a hoard of her coworkers had gathered—as they did every morning since she started her new role as senior copywriter—to laugh heartily at her latest joke.

Emily, ever the hopeful applicant, had the uncanny ability to imagine these and other rosy scenes without any real provocation, making the reality of rejection that much harder for her to bear when the dreaded “thanks but no thanks” emails finally came.

Dear Emily,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for employment. We have reviewed your background and qualifications and do not believe them to be a match for this position. We will keep your resume active for other openings with our company. We appreciate your interest in Best Company Ever Inc. and wish you success in your job search.


The Best Company Ever Inc. Recruiting Team

Letters just like these deliver debilitating blows to countless numbers of would-be employees every day all over the world—maybe even you. And, sadly, they offer no real explanation about why things didn’t work out.

Emily and other job seekers are left to their own devices to navigate an uncertain future with the weight of job rejections bearing down heavily on their shoulders.

How, then, will these weary laborers pick themselves up by the pantyhose and better themselves? They’ll do it in just 5 heartbreaking but necessary steps… like the countless other rejects that have gone before them.

And you can do it too!

Step 1: Grumble

To pretend that rejection doesn’t hurt is to ignore one of the most basic human needs: the opportunity to briefly wallow in self-pity. Get that junk out of your system posthaste.

While everyone else tells you to focus on the positives of your present situation, I recommend consoling yourself by remembering that no job is perfect. Potential reasons you wouldn’t have liked the job anyway could include: the benefits were mediocre, the new boss had an incompatible management style you were glossing over, or you would have been chained to a desk all day.

Step 2: Speculate

It’s hard to get the gory details from your interviewer either because they’re too nice or they fear lawsuits.

Instead of badgering for better answers, play back scenes from the interview, and ask yourself where your responses were weakest. Then write down three answers that would have been better for each of the questions you think you failed.

While this might feel a little like you’re dwelling on the past, it is actually one of the best ways you can prep yourself for future interviews.

Step 3: Revise

Get out the red ink pen and mercilessly critique your cover letter and resume. If, perchance, the interviewer stares at your resume and asks, “Now where have you worked again?” you’ll know this step is not optional.

Using the original job announcement, highlight where your resume falls short when compared to the minimum and preferred qualifications.

Step 4: Backfill

Are there critical areas of expertise you’re missing that will prevent you from getting similar jobs in the future? Backfill holes with freelance projects and supplemental training or by proactively taking on key assignments at your present job.

Record these accomplishments on your working resume as you complete them. That makes it easier to shoot from the hip the next time you get dreamy about an open position.

Step 5: Regroup

Once you’ve accepted the rejection for what it is—a minor blip on the radar of life—it’s time to move on. Either focus on a new goal or seek a different path for achieving your current one.

Because no matter what the rejection letter says about keeping your application on file, the odds of working for The Best Company Ever Inc after a rejection are not in your favor.

Fortunately, Emily’s story has a happy ending. In a matter of days, she made her way through all five steps and devised a plan for restructuring her part-time freelance business while setting new goals at her day job. In her spare time, she now imagines the folks at The Best Company Ever Inc. weeping over their decision to let her get away.

How do you handle job rejection?


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Emily Suess is a freelance copywriter in Indianapolis and a contributor at Small Business Bonfire. She hosts Writers' Week on her blog, Suess's Pieces, each September and offers coaching to aspiring freelance web writers through her Break Into Freelance Writing program.


  1. Dolphin247 on the 20th June

    your articles are realy good and speaks about the real fact, i keep reading your blogs often.

  2. Warren on the 24th June

    My grumble stage didn’t last long. I got fed up after 5 years and walked out one day and never looked back. Started my own business and have been happy ever since!

    PS. Maybe I’ll send them this link because technically I rejected them! 🙂

  3. servermanagement24x7 on the 13th September

    Yeah I too feel the same…. I do agree with your views totally…. I have been working in the IT industry for the past 6 years.. too long… may be its time to make a decision….

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