What to do when you didn’t get the job

How to move on and prepare for your next job opportunity

4 min read

May 2021

Concerned woman sitting at desk holding sheet of white paper with one hand while other hand is on her mouth

There is nothing more immediately maddening than finding out you didn’t get the job, especially when it’s with a company you really want to work for. Chances are, you might not always land that job on the first try. Here are some things I’ve found that helped me and others when you find out you didn’t get the job you wanted.

What to do when you don’t get the job you want

You’re probably feeling about 10 different emotions right now ranging from disappointment to frustration, possibly even anger. Allow yourself time to think about not getting the job and then take a deep breath and start moving forward. Staying in a negative mindset won’t get you anywhere. Then once you’re ready, consider your next steps. That’s why you give yourself time to feel bad, sad, or mad, and then it’s time to move on after not getting the job.

Ask for feedback about your interview

If the company you’re applying with is worth its salt, they will be willing to share with you where you fell short in the interview process . Take time to write a professional email to the recruiter asking if they could arrange a time to discuss your interview feedback and why you didn’t get the job. Make sure your email is short, clear, and friendly. Remember these feedback conversations can sometimes be tough—it’s never fun to hear about our opportunities—but they can help you tremendously as you pursue future roles.

Invest in yourself

If you didn’t get the job you applied for, acknowledge your performance in the interview. I once interviewed for an internal job and after I hung up the phone I thought, “Gee, could you have rambled more? I wouldn’t even hire me now.” Things happen. Be truthful with how you thought you did and learn from that experience. Secondly, find ways to apply the feedback you receive. If you were advised something like, “The other candidates possessed a stronger skill set than you did,” ask for specifics so you can better understand what you’re missing. Is there a special license or certification you might be able to obtain? Should you finish that degree before applying again?

Lastly, are there any interviewing skills workshops in your area? There are lots of ways to beef up your skills, you just need to be willing to look for opportunities to address them.

Research the job you’re applying for

If you didn’t get the job, go back to the drawing board and read everything you can about the company, its culture, its people, and the job you’ve applied for. When you interview again, show the recruiter that you took the time to really learn about the company.

Practice interviewing

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” Now’s your chance to put that action into play. A great way to practice is to do a mock interview. Whether alone or with another person, practicing how you’ll answer questions is a great way to organize your thoughts. It may even help you fend off some nerves during the real interview.

Before you interview again, look at the job posting. Think of questions you would want to know about someone based on the qualifications in the ad. For example, if a job calls for conflict resolution skills think of a time when you had a conflict with a customer, peer, or maybe even your boss. Be sure you can share what the situation was, what your actions were, and what the result was. The more time and effort you put into practicing interviewing, the better you’ll do. Learn more about interviewing buzzkills to avoid .

Reapply when the time is right

Many times, people ask for feedback and state, “I do have that experience, I just didn’t bring it up in the interview.” But even if you do have the right experience, you should think twice about applying again right away. Many companies require you to wait anywhere from 6-12 months post interview before applying for a “like” position. Use that time to sharpen your skills. When you interview again, you’ll have a good answer when you’re asked what you've done in the interim to enhance your skills.

I know it’s super disappointing to not get a job—I’ve been there myself. We have hundreds of people at Progressive—many who are now very successful—who didn’t get hired on the first, second, or even the third try. It’s all about timing, being prepared, and learning from past experiences. Take the disappointment you feel now and use it to fuel your future. You’ll be glad you did.

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