I didn’t get the job. Now what?

How to move on & prepare for the next opportunity

4 min read

There is nothing more immediately maddening than not getting a job you applied for, especially when it’s with a company you REALLY want to work for. Chances are, you might not always land that job on the first try. Here are some things I’ve found that helped me and others move on from being turned down.

Take a deep breath

You’re probably feeling about 10 different emotions right now ranging from disappointment to frustration, possibly even anger. Allow yourself a day to obsess about not getting the job and then take a deep breath and start moving forward. Staying in a negative mindset won’t get you anywhere. That’s why you get one day to feel bad, sad, or mad, but then it’s time to move on.

Ask for feedback

If the company you’re applying with is worth its salt, they will be anxious to share with you where you fell short in the interview process. Take time to write a professional email to the recruiter asking if they could arrange a time to discuss your interview. Keep the email short, clear, and friendly. Remember these feedback conversations can sometimes be tough—it’s never fun to hear about our opportunities—but they can help you tremendously as you move forward and pursue future roles.

Invest in yourself

First, acknowledge your performance in the interview. I once interviewed for an internal job and after I hung up the phone I thought, “Gee, could you have rambled more? I wouldn’t even hire me now.” Things happen. Be truthful with how you thought you did and learn from that experience. Secondly, find ways to apply the feedback you receive. If you were advised something like, “The other candidates possessed a stronger skill set than you did,” ask for specifics so you can better understand what you’re missing to make yourself more marketable. Is there a special license or certification you might be able to obtain on your own? Should you finish that degree before applying again? Lastly, are there any interviewing skills workshops in your area? There are usually lots of ways to beef up your skills, you just need to be willing to admit that you have opportunities, and then find a way to address them.

Dig into research

If you’re turned down, go back to the drawing board and read everything you can about the company, its culture, its people, and the job you’re applying for. When you come back to interview in the future, show the recruiter that you took the time to really learn about the company. Be sure you know things with roots vs. quick hits.

Practice, practice, practice

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” Now’s your chance to put that action into play. A great way to practice is to do a mock interview. Whether alone or with another person, practicing how you’ll answer questions is a great way to organize your thoughts. It may even help you fend off some nerves during the real interview. Before you interview again, look at the job posting. Think of questions you would want to know about someone based on the qualifications in the ad. For example, if a job calls for “conflict resolution” think of a time when you had a conflict with a customer, peer, or maybe even your boss. Be sure you can share what the situation was, what your actions were, and what the result was. The more time and effort you put into practicing, the better you’ll do.

Reapply when the time is right

Many times, people ask for feedback and state, “I do have that experience, I just didn’t bring it up in the interview.” This might be the case, but it doesn’t mean you should apply again right away. With many companies, you’re able to apply for a “like” position anywhere from 6-12 months post interview. Use that time to sharpen your skills and come back when you can answer a question like, “I see that you interviewed last year and received XYZ feedback, what have you done in the interim to enhance that skill?”

I know it’s super disappointing to not get a job—I’ve been there myself. We have hundreds of people that work for Progressive—who are now very successful—that didn’t get hired on the first, second, or maybe even the third try. It’s all about timing, being prepared, and learning from past experiences. Take that disappointment and use it to fuel your future…you’ll be glad you did.

Julie Magruder has 20 plus years of recruiting experience at Progressive. During that time, she’s experienced first-hand the many opportunities for personal and professional development.

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