Dealing with job rejection: the cold truth

Understanding job rejection: why?

So you didn’t get the job. The competition was tough. You weren’t quite what they were looking for. The other candidates you met seemed far more experienced and really had it together. You weren’t really trying anyway, just testing the water to get some experience at job interviews. You didn’t click with the interviewer. Clearly they were looking for something very specific.

Have any of these thoughts gone through your head?

If so, there’s a good chance you’re going to fall into one of the two following types of people, so read on and try to be honest with yourself.

The blamer

Blamers, as the label might suggest, will always find someone or something to blame for job rejection. Whether it is a difficult childhood, lack of opportunities, a poor school, an interviewer with PMT or some other factor, blamers fail to accept responsibility for the fact that life is not going as they would like it to.

Because they always have something to blame for their failures, they do not learn from them and will miss out on opportunities to make positive changes that will influence their life.

Tall person and short personThe self-pitier

The self pitier is convinced that life would be better if their ‘lot’ was different. For example, they might say:

  • I’m naturally shy
  • I’m no good at speaking to people
  • People don’t see what a nice person I am
  • I’m quietly spoken

They might wish they were a little bit smaller, taller, prettier, smarter or any number of other things. It doesn’t matter what. The main characteristic is that they really believe that these missing attributes are responsible for their job rejection and generally their lack of success in life, and worse, that there’s nothing they can do about it.

Self pitiers find it difficult to hear critical feedback, seeing it as unfair because of their deep-rooted conscious or subconscious belief that they cannot change what they have to work with. They will often interpret remarks made towards them in the negative.

Are you a blamer or self pitier?

If so, you need to get a grip. You didn’t get the job because of one, simple, cold, hard truth: you blew it. Stop shaking your head, mumbling something about doing your best or telling yourself you gave a good interview. You didn’t, because otherwise you’d have the job. And just for the record, you had as good a chance as anybody else who was invited for an interview. Companies don’t invite people to interviews unless there’s a good chance they’re thinking of hiring them for the job. So it’s true, you totally and utterly messed up.

Now get over it because it’s not happening again. The next interview you give is going to rock.

How to avoid job rejection next time

You can already be confident that you had the qualifications and experience on paper that your prospective employer was looking for, because that’s why you got an interview. So avoiding job rejection comes down to is how you came across to your interviewer.

Andrew Leigh, co-founder of Maynard Leigh Associates, details 7 different things that affect the personal impact you make on people. They are:

FLUENCY – the ability to speak fluently and well.

CONFIDENCE – the willingness to accept alternative views, to be open to challenges, not to be defensive and to be able to be spontaneous.

PRESENCE – the level of alertness to the present situation, the display of gravitas, maintenance of eye contact, demonstration of stature and substance.

AUTHENTICITY – the ability to be true to oneself, not to put on a front, and to be reliable and dependable.

COURAGE – the willingness to be different, to challenge and question, to think outside of the box and to take risks.

PASSION – the ability to share personal values, energy, open commitment, enthusiasm and the ability to engage other people.

DEMEANOUR – physical bearing, personal presentation.

(Source: “The Charisma Effect” Andrew Leigh, p.15)

Achieving what is referred to as ‘the Charisma Effect’ – the ability to make a lasting and powerful impression, and ultimately, land the job you want – involves developing a mix of all 7 elements.


Developing your fluency is not just about being good with words. Communication is a blend of words, verbal elements such as tone, pitch, speed and intonation, and non-verbal elements such as body language, gestures, expression and posture.

It takes time to develop fluency so for now we’ll just focus on one goal: to speak clearly and audibly. This means speaking at a good volume, at a good speed, with appropriate pauses in the right place. Remember:

If they haven’t heard it, you haven’t said it.

And yes, the onus is on YOU, person-with-the-vocal-chords-of-a-mouse, to ensure that your message is delivered; not on the other person to exercise superhuman hearing to be able to receive it.

So far as job interviews are concerned, being well prepared helps a lot with fluency. Be ready with examples of projects you’ve completed, successes and failures that you’ve experienced, results you’ve achieved and what you would have done differently – these are the types of things you’ll usually be asked about. Articulate your achievements clearly, at a good volume and steady pace.


If you don’t consider yourself a confident person, it’s going to take more than a couple of paragraphs to change that but there are two things to work on in the job interview context.

Imagining the job interview

The first starts before the job interview. Picture in your mind how you will look, walking through the door: the friendly, charming candidate, immaculately presented, confident and ideal in every respect for the role. As you warmly greet each interviewer, you exchange smiles, making an excellent first impression. Your body language ticks all the boxes, showing that you ooze confidence, and rightly so – you really are the best person for this job. You answer all their questions confidently and ask some of your own. After the interview is finished, you shake hands again and depart, knowing you’ll be hearing from them with good news in the next day or two. Sure enough, you get the job.

Run through this visualisation in your head over and over again. Notice the details. Notice how you are feeling. Make it real and keep it in your mind. Don’t question it. All you need to know is that this will positively affect your performance on the day.

Your second task is to be proactive. You will almost certainly be asked at the end of the interview if you have any questions, so have some thoughtful questions ready, make eye contact and ask them clearly, showing that you’re genuinely interested in the Company. Make sure they’re not too obvious (as it suggests you haven’t done your homework).

Cartoon of person breathingPresence

Presence is about being alert and fully present in a situation. This in turn gives you ‘presence’ in that others are aware of you and will remember you. Here is how to be ‘present’:

Take a breath – try it out right now – take a breath and, when you exhale, what happens? Exactly – nothing. Everything falls away for that simple span of time – a breath.

What are you doing right now? Well, right now, you’re reading. But are you just reading? Where are your thoughts? Your emotions? Your hands? Your sense of time?

Be a witness – in becoming aware of what you are doing – exactly what you are doing – in any given moment, bear witness to it. Observe it, name it and stand away from it — all at once.

Let the rest go – much like bearing witness, whatever is not there in that moment let go. Be there, right there, right then. That’s all.

Come back to the breath – when the world or your thoughts begin to again intrude, simply come back to the breath.

Adapted from 5 Steps for Being Present Published on June 14, 2011 by Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM in Enlightened Living

Being aware of your surroundings, of every little detail, every sensory input; being relaxed and comfortable in this situation and being fully present in the moment will help you make a strong impression. This is something you can practice a lot – almost anywhere – before your next interview.

100% authentic conceptAuthenticity

We are surrounded by things that are exactly the opposite of authentic. Even the very concept of online communication distracts us from real human relationships. Authenticity is, however, a simple concept – what you see is what you get. In the context of a job interview, do point out your skills and abilities but ensure these are in the context of real-life examples. Be ready to acknowledge where you could have done things better and give due credit to others where clearly you had help.

Conveying your values is another way you can be authentic. You might use phrases during the interview such as ‘This matters to be because….’. Values are important to recruiters – many companies – Virgin for example – have very customer-centric values and look for people who share these. Part of being authentic is not trying to be authentic though – it is trying to convey values that you genuinely hold.


Having courage means being prepared to challenge or question people constructively, and to express your point of view in the right way. Courage needs to be exercised carefully in a job interview, so as not to come over as arrogance. There is always a right way and a wrong way of saying something – for example, you might say:

Wrong: Your customer care is rubbish.

Right: I have some ideas about ways in which you could improve your customer care.

Rarely will prospective employers be looking for an employee who simply agrees with everything they say. People who can identify areas for improvement and suggest ways of improving them will be far more valuable to an organisation.

Passionate conceptPassion

Passion is about knowing what you’re shooting for, having the enthusiasm and passion to be able to excite others about the issue when you’re discussing it, and having the  confidence and self-belief to get your message across effectively. In the context of  a job interview, you can demonstrate passion by:

  • Physical – be conscious of your gestures, movements and actions, tone of voice and smile.
  • Words – speak from the heart about what genuinely enthuses you.

Clearly, you need to strike a good balance between showing love and enthusiasm for your specialist subject – and looking like you’ve had too much caffeine that morning. But if you really care about what you’re talking about, you’ll find it easy to speak confidently, fluently and passionately about it without coming across as over the top. This passion will shine through as an endearing and distinguishing feature that sets you apart from other less animated candidates.

What next?

Before your next job interview, make sure you have all the job interview basics right. You can have all the charisma of Richard Branson but if you don’t dress to impress or you fail to show up on time, you’ll be dealing with job rejection once more. Review all of the above and be ready to put into practice the techniques suggested. Better still, grab yourself a copy of Charisma : The Secrets of Making a Lasting Impression [updated] (Andrew Leigh, 2011, Pearson Books) which takes your personality through a step by step practical work out to transform you from wilting wallflower to confident charmer in just 219 pages. Expect results.

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