I had an interesting conversation with a man who called to reject my employment the other day. After the initial “we’ve decided to go in another direction for this position,” he and I managed to have a refreshingly honest discussion. I respected the company’s decision not to hire me, and I understood that they felt somebody else was better suited for the job. And as frustrating as it is to know that I did everything in my power to get this job (including a second-round interview during which I was in rare form), there was one thing he said during this exchange that made it bittersweet.
The man told me that I was his choice for the position, but that he and his superior agreed that the other candidate would stay at the company longer. They liked me and knew I would benefit their business, but they felt like I would use the position as a stepping stone and find another job within a year or so.
Of course, there are some obvious factors that may have contributed to my recent job interview rejection. Sure, my résumé could always use tweaking, and maybe I should’ve worn my blue tie instead of that green one. Oh, and I knew I should’ve spent an extra few minutes perfecting my hair and shining my shoes. But these aren’t the reasons I didn’t get the position.
I have been on many interviews for jobs and internships, and I have found that I learn a valuable lesson from each one. The interview mentioned above taught me something about myself, which is the first of various lessons you can learn from a job interview rejection.
1. Always be yourself.
For a while, I entered interviews acting like the person I thought the company wanted me to be. Most employers and interviewers are smart enough to figure out whether or not you are actually a good fit for the job, and if you’re even really interested. You have nothing to lose by simply being genuine.
2. Be confident.
Confidence is attractive to employers. For a company to believe in your abilities, you need to believe in yourself. They want a worker who trusts his/her gut and makes difficult decisions without looking back. There is a reason the company called you in for an interview. Sometimes, you need to approach a job interview like a tryout for an athletics team and put the competition to shame. Remember that this is a competition of sorts, so don’t sell yourself short.
3. Be humble.
You never want to be too self-assured, though. There is a major difference between being a team player and thinking you are the entire team. Nobody likes a showoff, and very few companies view arrogance as a desirable quality. Show that you believe in yourself, but remember that modesty shows maturity.
4. Being able to identify your weaknesses is a strength.
A popular question interviewers ask is: “what is your biggest weakness?” Now, while this might be more difficult to answer than a question about your strengths, it is just as important (if not more important). Part of modesty is acknowledging that you have weaknesses, as well as the patience and determination to turn those weaknesses into your greatest strengths. If you know the areas in which you excel and the areas in which you can improve, then you will be a much more valuable asset to any team.
5. Ask more questions.
Don’t be afraid to take the offensive. Become the interviewer for a portion of the meeting. This shows that you have interest in the company and the position, and it gives you a chance to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. Sometimes, on the ride home from an interview, we will remember questions we wanted to ask the potential employer. Well, ask them in a follow-up email or phone call. This demonstrates your passion and perseverance.
6. There is always room for improvement.
Let’s not kid ourselves; we can always get better. Find out what companies are looking for in an employee. Be sure to get feedback from the interviewer after the interview, or even after the rejection. If you’ve already been rejected, what do you have to lose by asking? This is when some of the most genuine dialogues occur, including my aforementioned experience.
7. Be more than just a piece of paper.
Changing a few words around is not going to be the determining factor in a job interview. Yes, your résumé is important, and so is your cover letter. But no company is going to hire a piece of paper. The personality, the skills, and the work ethic of the person behind the résumé is the key to winning the position.
8. Sometimes, rejection is a blessing in disguise.
Adversity makes future success taste even sweeter. Sure, it is a nice feeling to have the world in the palm of your hand right out of college, but the process of reaching out and grabbing it is what truly matters. And that is something we must never forget: it’s a process. So, let’s worry about the things we can control and learn to put less weight on the things we can’t. All we can do is continue to get better and hope that our progress doesn’t go unnoticed.
While getting turned down is certainly not the best feeling in the world, there are definitely some lessons you can learn from a job interview rejection. Hopefully, we can use these lessons that I have learned personally to keep improving. And I’m willing to bet that every time one of us shakes hands and sits down with a potential employer, we will take away something valuable from the experience, regardless of the outcome.
Now just get ready for the next interview: 20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview
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