Rejection in Interviewing: Tackling It From All Sides

Posted January 10, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

Rejection is perhaps the ugliest most difficult to digest word in the English language. Being rejected never, under any circumstances, feels good. Whether it’s a date rejecting you from having a relationship, a friend rejecting you by not inviting you to something important, or a company rejecting you from a job, it all feels just as bad. You feel small, you feel like you’ve lost some part of your worth, and you inevitably feel afraid of the future and get scared of being rejected again.

On the other side of rejection, I’d also like to believe that it never feels good to reject. No matter how badly you bombed that date, the person rejecting you is dreaded having to do it. And you might not believe it, but hiring managers and HR representatives absolutely hate having to reject job applicants. It’s the reason you sometimes get the unfeeling letter rather than the phone call, because no one wants to call anyone else and say, “You’ve been rejected.”

So how can you handle rejection more effectively, both as the rejector and the rejectee, if rejection just plain all around sucks? Here are a few tips:

If You’re Being Rejected:

  • Say Thank You. This may seem completely ridiculous given the feeling you’re likely having after being rejected. But remember, if everyone hates rejecting someone, acknowledge how hard it might have been for that person by saying, sincerely, “Thank you for letting me know.” If the individual was truly kind, thank them for their kindness.
  • Ask for feedback. This may not always be appropriate, but often, it can. If you’re on the phone being rejected for a job, don’t say, “What could I have done better?” Instead say something like, “Would you be willing to provide me any feedback that might help me in the future?” At that point, you might hear something cut and dry – your salary requirements were too high, or we decided to hire from within. Asking for feedback can be a way to ensure you don’t feel quite so rejected.
  • Give yourself a finite amount of time to be upset. It’s easy to mope for days when you’ve been rejected. Instead, set a finite amount of time for your angry self to be in charge, at most 2-4 hours. It’s OK to say, “I’m going to spend this morning laying in bed feeling sorry for myself. But at noon, damnit, I’m up!”

If You’re Rejecting Someone:

  • Have a Plan. You don’t necessarily want to script your call or conversation, but you should have a plan. You don’t want to get into an argument with the person or get into a “he said, she said” conversation either. Have a plan, and stick to it, even if that means you have to be a bit curt when ending the conversation.
  • Remember, they’re not reacting to you. Rejection can make someone angry…and it will appear they are angry with you. They’re not. When you reject someone, remember, “They’re not reacting to you. They’re reacting to them.”
  • Sandwich rejection with acceptance. If you have to give someone bad news, try to do it before or after you’ve given someone good news. It might make the sting of the sadness of rejecting someone easier.

It’s never fun to reject or be rejected, but I hope with these tips, it can be less painful than before.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."