Advice, Interview Tips

Four Steps To Take After Your Unsuccessful Job Interview

What to do when you've failed a job interview

Dear {Name},
We are sorry to inform you that the decision has been made not to progress with your application for the {role}. I'm sorry it isn't better news.

Recruiter/Hiring Manager

We have all seen this kind of messages. Unfortunately though, it doesn't get easier no matter how many times you have seen it.

As someone who has been on the other side of the table many times as an interviewer and have had a good track record when it comes to nailing interviews as an interviewee, I still can't completely escaped from such rejection messages.

In this article, I'd like to share with you four steps that you can take to still walk away as a winner even after being rejected at an interview. 


1. Obtain as much feedback as possible

If you don't hear from the company a few days or week after your interview or if you receive a generic rejection email, it's on you to try and obtain as much feedback as possible. Be polite and professional and tell them that this will help you understand what you had done well and what you could do to improve next time. As long as you were honest in your ask, most companies will get back to you with some form of feedback. You will be using this feedback to adjust your game plan and strategy as needed, which is part of step 3.

What you should avoid doing though is to argue or counter their feedback. The decision is already made. Don't waste your time. However, in rare occasions, if incorrect assumption was made regarding your take home exercise, or live presentation interview, you can provide more information to address the feedback. But do not expect to be considered for the role again - in other words, do not keep your hopes up. 


2. Give yourself time to digest and process your emotion

Being rejected and being unsuccessful at an interview is disappointing. There is no other way to put it. Even if you have got another offer from a different company or a different role, you would still want to get an offer for all the roles that you applied for. That's human nature.

It's completely ok to feel disappointed, upset, angry, defeated, or any other negative emotion for a while. Take the time to process your emotion. Personally for me, I go through a cycle of disappointment, sadness, anger, and then finally, acceptance. It usually takes me two hours, but every person is different, so it might just be 20 minutes for you, or 20 hours for another person. The key here is to allow yourself to feel that negative emotion instead of trying to push it aside. Once you've felt all the emotions, you will find that you're ready to move on and think clearly again.

Maybe the interviewer made an error in judgement, maybe you said something that were taken on the face value, maybe your interview performance was not good enough, maybe there are more suitable candidates, it doesn't matter what the reason is. What matter is for you to be able to move on without getting paralysed by what could have been. 


3. Adjust your game plan and strategy if needed

Based on the feedback that you receive, you can do one of three things. First, you may want to change how you present yourself and how you communicate your skills to be more aligned with what interviewers are looking for. Second, you may decide to gain additional knowledge and skills in the areas that were identified as gaps. Third, you may accept that you are not going to change your tactics but apply for different roles that are more aligned with your skills and experiences.

To give you my personal example, one of the feedback that I receive from those who do not know me or have worked with me in the industry is that I do not have a leadership presence. The perception comes from the fact that technology is a male-dominated industry and people are used to seeing assertive leaders who value hierarchy and command and control. To add to the fact that I am female, petite and soft-spoken, it's hard for some to accept that I am an effective leader. While it's sad to see gender and leader stereotypes in the 21st century, I have come to accept the fact. I am not willing to put on an act during an interview and display the masculine attributes commonly associated with effective leadership, such as assertiveness and competition, just to get the job.

This doesn't mean I do not apply for leadership roles nor get leadership positions. I just have to understand myself well and know how to present myself in the best possible light without losing my integrity. And if I am unsuccessful because it was still not good enough in the interviewer's opinion, then so be it. 


4. Remember the golden rule

What's the golden rule, I hear you ask. Dalai Lama once said, "Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." Whether the reason for rejection was because you didn't yet have the technical skills required for the role, personal traits that were deemed necessary by the interviewers and/or company, or purely a misjudgement from the interviewer's part (yes, interviewers are humans too and they may make wrong decision), know that your worth is not tied to the performance of an interview.

I truly believe that everything in this world happens for you, not to you. Every time after I was rejected for a role, I got a better offer from another company. So my advice for you is to spend your time and energy on becoming a better person every day instead of dwelling on the rejection, and trust that a superior offer is just around the corner. 


Take the next step forward

So what you were rejected for a role. Your life isn't over, your career isn't over. It's ok. The important thing is for you to pick yourself up again and take the next step forward. You win some, you lose some, but those who are the ultimate winners are those who have the courage to keep going until they get what they deserve, in this case, a role that is aligned with what you're looking for and a company and colleagues who will appreciate you for what you bring to the table.

If you're interested in doing well at interviews at a tech company, you can check out my Nail That Interview online course and Nail That Interview ebook.

Good luck! 


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