Getting rejected is devastating and unnerving, and it's easy to obsess over what went wrong. Was the interview bad? Was the position filled internally? Instead of wallowing in self-doubt, take the opportunity to conduct an honest assessment. Don't be afraid to follow up and ask why you weren't the right fit. If you don't ask, you'll never know.
Following up with the employer
Some employers may be nervous to tell you why you weren't hired because of potential litigation. Instead of asking why, ask how you can improve so you're a better candidate for the company in the future.
Michael Mercer, Ph.D., author of "Job Hunting Made Easy," says that when you receive feedback from a hiring manager or recruiter, you should always be gracious. "Regardless of how smart or dumb their reasons for rejecting you, smile and thank them multiple times for giving you 'wonderful help' and 'wise insights,'" Mercer says. "Your thankfulness and compliments will make the hiring manager want to help you. Also, your kind, considerate listening to their reasons will make the hiring manager feel good about you. And a hiring manager who feels good about you will want to help you."
Tapping mentors or colleagues
Kelly Donovan, a certified professional résumé writer and career communications strategist, says that it helps to talk through your experience with a trusted colleague or mentor who has hiring experience. "Describe what transpired with the employer, and see if your contact has any ideas on what you might have done better," Donovan says.
If you aren't even getting to the interview stage, start by assessing your cover letter and résumé. "Go back and read the job description again, and compare it to your résumé," Donovan says. "Does your résumé include keywords that were in the job description? Would a reader be able to recognize within 10 seconds that your qualifications are relevant for the job?" If the résumé does not include language from the job description, you're missing a major opportunity.
Donovan also recommends asking a mentor or trusted colleague for feedback on your cover letter and résumé. It never hurts to have someone with an objective eye provide suggestions and areas for improvement.
Seeking professional help
You can also consider paying for a professional critique or rewrite of your résumé, or you can seek out a career coach. If you're operating in a bubble where you receive no feedback, you won't change, and that could mean the difference between getting picked or rejected for a position.
Justin Thompson is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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