Handling Rejection

The real first step in the recruitment process..

Jordan Yeo


Don't worry, it happens! A lot more than anyone would like. Getting rejected is part of the process when applying for internships and graduate programs, and almost anything in life for that matter. It's not the end of the world, even though it may seem like it. Only you can decide what happens next. Do you accept it and keep moving forward? Or do you let it stop you from trying?

Since you're reading this section I'll assume you are done wallowing in self pity (I did it too) and are ready to keep trying. So what can you do now that you've been officially rejected?

In no particular order of importance, here's a list of the things that I believe you can do

The advice and tips you read on this page came from people I talked to when I was applying. Some of the advice are direct quotes from what they've said.

Talk to someone you trust

"Talk about how you're feeling"

This was something that I wasn't comfortable doing at first, but it was a tremendous help once I learnt how.

Being able to talk to people that have already been through what you're currently dealing with is helpful for numerous reasons. The first is to let you know there is hope and a light at the end of the application tunnel. Another being, they can give you insight that you may not have known before. Or if you did know it then having someone spell it out for you and tell you again can be helpful too.

Don't be so hard on yourself

"It's not a reflection of your skill"

As difficult as it may be to not take each rejection personally, try your best not to. There are numerous factors surrounding the hiring process for every position you apply for and there's many external factors that are completely out of your control.

It's not all about you. You're competing against numerous other people for the exact same position. Everyone is going through the same process and feelings as you.

Along with that, if the rejections start piling up, try to take each one individually and see it as "that was a rejection" rather than "that was the nth rejection". It's a subtle difference, but it can make a big impact on your state of mind. When you allow yourself to look at each rejection separately it won't feel as bad as when you allow it to build up.

One of the most important lessons I learnt was "don't take it as a reflection of your own skill!." This is much easier said than done, but a lot more goes into the decision to hire or reject someone than simply your own ability.

Keep applying for positions

"Don't stop trying"

Just because you received a rejection from one company, doesn't mean you aren't the perfect fit for another. Never stop applying. The guaranteed way to not find anything is to give up as soon as you get a rejection or two.

Don't just limit yourself to just graduate programs either. While those are the positions you hear about the most, that isn't all that's out there. The whole point of applying is to be given the opportunity to gain experience in your field. A graduate program isn't the only way to gain experience. Expand your horizons and apply for graduate programs, start ups, junior positions, entry level positions. There are so many places you can go to gain experience.

Reassess yourself

"Take an honest look at yourself"

Honestly, rejection at any stage in the application process sucks. There's no sugar coating this. But depending on the stage you were rejected at, it can tell you where you need to reassess.

Just because one company rejected you at a particular stage and another didn't. this doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. Equally, this doesn't imply the opposite and that you need to drastically reevaluate that section either. What one company doesn't like, another may love.

Regardless of what you read on this page, the decision to change is entirely up to you. If you feel it doesn't need to change then stick to your guns. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself. Don't lie to yourself an pretend you're better than you are.

Stage Action
Initial Application Reassess the content in your resume
Online Assessments Practice solving problems under time pressure
HR Interview Improve your answers to behavioural questions (E.g STAR)
Technical Interview Reinforce your knowledge of core concepts and your ability to explain them
Assessment Centre Improve your group problem solving skills

Listen to feedback

"Be open to hearing feedback"

From almost every rejection at a stage later than the HR interview, you'll receive helpful feedback on why you're being rejected. If you don't get offered feedback, simply ask for it!. It's valuable information that you can use to make the appropriate changes to avoid making the same mistakes next time.

I know what it's like to be rejected from a position you had your sights set on and then be told why you're not the right fit.. If you can get past the initial disappointment to listen to the feedback you'll be better for it.

Do your best to take it as constructive criticism. it's not a personal attack. Also, take whatever feedback with a grain of salt. You are still going to be the one making the final decision with what you do with that feedback.

For example, I went to assessment centres (AC) for EY and Bankwest. I didn't get an offer from either but I did listen to the feedback from each. EY said the interview was good, but the group portion was one of the main downfalls of my AC. I knew that to be the case already so I didn't need to decide if I agreed or not. I took that into consideration when entering the Bankwest AC. I tried to improve my group portion of the AC, while keeping the interview to the same standard as I produced for EY. After being rejected from Bankwest the feedback I received include:

  1. My answers to behavioural questions did not answer the underlying question asked
  2. I didn't stand out or perform as well as needed for the group portion
  3. The interviewers felt I was bluffing my way through the technical interview

This was a lot to take in. Immediately after being rejected, being told the everything I did that day was done poorly. More importantly I didn't know what to think. EY just told me my interviews were good and now Bankwest was saying the complete opposite. I had to decide whether the feedback was something I agreed with and thought needed to change.

In the end it's completely up to you whether you make any changes based on feedback, but I truly believe it is worthwhile listening to it with an open mind.