Be Graceful in Times of Rejection

Last month, my boss asked me to come in his office. He told me about my colleague, Jordan, and how her new promotion meant that she would no longer be a project manager for our extranet, JCCA. This wasn’t new news, but he went on to explain what being a project manager entailed. He listed several tasks and said something along the lines of, “Most of these tasks, you’ve already been doing.” He took out the sheet of paper listing my new responsibilities, should I choose to accept a promotion from Digital Marketing Associate to Digital Marketing Manager.

Yes, I did accept it. And yes, I’m very excited about it.

My promotion got me thinking about when I first went on the job market and started applying for jobs (two years ago this past October). I applied to countless companies all over the United States.

I had many interviews, eventually interviewing with JCC Association (where I currently work). My feeling was (and is) always to just get myself to the interview process so I can charm my potential future bosses and show them what I can do. A resume and even a portfolio doesn’t really do justice in showing who I am or my work ethic, at least not in the way that actually speaking with me can.

If anything, that belief is what makes rejection all the worse. When I take the time to sit down and be interviewed, and they take the time to sit down and interview me, I am fairly confident about my job prospects. But it doesn’t always work out.

The first job I was rejected for was a part-time administrator for one of the school’s at Michigan State University. I had gotten an interview, driven up to school during the summer months to meet with the woman in charge, and went back home thinking, “I’ve got this.” Two weeks later, I got an email that I hadn’t gotten the job. At the time, I was really disappointed. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. I’m not even sure I sent a thank you.

As time went on, and as I interviewed more, I had to become comfortable with rejection. It’s just a part of life. Not everyone is a fit for every job, and not every job is the right fit for every prospect. I became comfortable with turning down jobs, but it took more time to become comfortable with being turned down. Plus, responses to rejection change depending on the scenario. These days, rejection comes mostly in the form of email, but it can change depending on the person who emailed you.

Scenario One: An email from the person who interviewed you.

Let’s assume you sent a follow up note after your interview to thank your interviewer. Upon receipt of a rejection, first comes first: follow their request. If they say not to follow up, don’t follow up. If they don’t say something of the sort, it’s always good to send one last thank you for their time. This will keep the bridge open in case you should want to apply to that company in the future. If you feel it’s appropriate, ask for feedback. They may not be willing to give it to you (there may be even be a company policy against it), but if the interview went well, there isn’t harm in asking. A great blog from Ask a Manager covers this topic well.

Scenario Two: An email from the HR representative.

An email return with thanks for their time and for the interviewers. Using your best judgement, if the interview went well and you have the contact information for the person you interviewed with, it’s ok to send a separate follow up thank you email letting them know that HR has contacted you. That follow up can be similarly formatted as in scenario one.

Scenario Three: No follow up from HR or from your interviewer.

This was surprisingly more common than I had expected. Of all the possible scenarios, this one feels the most stressful. In the age of getting instant satisfaction, the waiting is hard to sit through. Sometimes, the follow up never comes. One job I applied to and had two follow up interviews for, never accepted or rejected me. They just didn’t follow up at all. I sent an email to ask about the status of my application and of the hiring process to no avail. All you can do in this situation is follow up with an email or a call to see about the status. Beyond that, if they choose not to respond to you, then it’s time to move on.

Not every company will offer you the job, no matter how confident you are in your abilities or how well the interview went. Sometimes, it’s just not a right fit. However, if you’re graceful, who knows what opportunities may open up.

It’s ok to look like this behind your computer screen. No one needs to know.

Alexandra WhiteAlexandra is a WordPress & front-end developer who builds awesome things. She loves craft beer, apple cider cookies, and traveling to new places (especially when the trip is free). You should follow her on twitter and maybe you can become internet friends. Or maybe even IRL friends.

3 thoughts on “Be Graceful in Times of Rejection

  1. What about the scenario where the interviewer actually calls to let you know they will not be offering you the position? I had that happen to me once. I think it was largely because I had been in for several interviewers and they wanted to make it clear that while they liked me, they liked someone else better. I held it together fine on the phone (or at least I hope I did!) but I cried pretty much immediately after hanging up. I’m still learning how to handle this sort of rejection!

    • That’s really, really tough. I would say that scenario is pretty rare these days (but maybe I’m wrong). That requires more preperation and practice. Thinking through how you’d respond in an email, writing it out, and saying it in front of the mirror is a good way to go about it. There’s a comfort that comes through practice and perhaps a bit of numbness, too. It’s harder to plan for in the necessity for mixed conversation. If the phone call doesn’t go as well, and you don’t feel like you made your point, a follow up email is always a nice thing to do.

      When in doubt, the written word solves problems over trying to speak eloquently.

      And I’d cry after the phone call too. But who are we kidding, I’d probably cry either way. #AlltheEmotions

      • I was actually quite shocked which is probably why I was able to deal with the situation gracefully. I totally thought they were calling to offer me the position. Otherwise they just would have let me down via email, right?! WRONG. I did send one last thank you email in case I wasn’t super articulate on the phone…but man, that was a huge disappointment.

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