How to Bounce Back From Being Turned Down for a Job

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Remember: Things may crumble, but you can always rebuild.

Remember: Things may crumble, but you can always rebuild.

It happens to the best of us.

Sometimes what we thought was a surefire job opportunity just doesn’t work out.

In a down economy, chances are you’ve been turned down from a couple of jobs. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in emotions caused by rejection, it’s very important to dust yourself off and keep at it.


Below, you’ll find some tips I give my own coaching clients when they’re having a tough time on the job hunt.


The last thing you should do is be hard on yourself for being bummed out. You’re disappointed, and it’s completely normal and OK. In fact, you’re better off giving yourself a little time to mourn rather than pummeling into applications and job interviews.

Why? Because recruiters and hiring managers can tell when you’re bummed—and they may just mistake it for your character. You also don’t want recruiters to know that you’ve been turned down for a job; after a while, they start to wonder why and may even become hesitant about hiring you.

Just make sure not to go on a sabbatical. It’s hard to explain to a hiring manager that the gap in your employment history is because you were crying over a job you didn’t get. Give yourself a couple of days and move on.


This isn’t to pour salt on the wound; this is to better prepare you for next time. If you can, ask why you didn’t get the job. Great opportunities for this would be if the recruiter calls you personally (some are cool like that) or if they send you a direct email.

On the other hand, if you get some automated rejection email, you’ll have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting a hold of HR. You can also forget about trying to find this information out from an agency—they interview so many people they can barely keep everyone straight.

If you find yourself in these scenarios, then simply replay the interview in your head and see if you spot anything that could have been better. You may also want to role-play with a close friend to see if they spot anything.

It’s very important that you do this step without judging yourself, or else you’ll get stuck in a negative thought spiral that may keep you from moving forward. Simply witness, correct wherever necessary, and move on.


Attend networking events, review your contacts, send applications, tweak your résumé, keep up with industry news, and get your name out there. Don’t run yourself into the ground, but do actively look for work. (Applymate is a great free resource to help you keep track of all of this stuff.)

If you’re looking for some juicy job hunting tips, Kate White, the former EIC of Cosmopolitan, offers some spectacular advice on how to do this in her latest career book I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know. Don’t let the name fool you—there’s a ton of great stuff guys should know too.


OK, perhaps this seems unconventional in an article about job hunting, but regular exercise is really the only thing that has helped me deal with any rejection life throws at me—career or otherwise. Simply put, exercise is one of the best ways to manage the stress that comes from job hunting.

If aerial skills aren’t for you, find another productive way to blow off some steam. Sitting on the couch and gorging yourself may seem like the answer, but they aren’t.

While job hunting can lead to some painful rejection, it’s up to you to make the best of it. Use it as a learning experience, trust that you’re on to something better, and continue searching with a good attitude and a smile on your face.

How did you bounce back after losing out on a job (and respect your journey to employment)? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Freddy The Boy)

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  1. Anne February 8, 2013 / 7:50 am

    This article helped me understand that I’m not alone. I’ve been turned down 5 times in the past year. At first I didn’t take it personally, but now I’m starting too. My friends tell me there is way more competition out there than there was a few years ago. I don’t care. I still take it personally. I really do need to start working out again.

    • Ryan Lane February 8, 2013 / 8:47 am

      Thanks for the comment, Anne. Stick with it! You should check out Evelyn Ngugi’s archive on our site (; she has a lot of posts around her job search and the challenges she faced. You’re definitely not alone.

  2. R.F. April 3, 2013 / 3:03 pm

    Great comment on following up to find out why you didn’t get a job. I had a great interview recently and was complimented by the interviewers on my skill set and how they have hired people with my same background in the past and were happy with the results. They even introduced me to other people in the office.

    Needless to say, I was pretty shocked when the recruiter called me a couple of days later and said, “We will not be extending an offer to you because you interviewed poorly.” I wasn’t confrontational, but asked for examples so I could be prepare next time. He then followed up with, “You didn’t spend the time to prepare for the interview.” I was extremely confused, so I did what you suggested. I called the phone number of one of the interviewers. He was extremely nice and completely disagreed with the reviewer. He thought I was wonderful and interviewed extremely well. They just felt like some of the other interviewers would be better in a slow paced team environment.

    My point is, if I hadn’t asked, I would be beating myself up over what some dumb recruiter told me.

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