You applied to the job. You passed all three rounds of interviews with flying colors. Your references were off-the-charts amazing. But still, you got rejected from your dream company. Now what?
Should you throw your hands up in despair, form a grudge, and vow to never apply again?
Not so fast, experts say.
“It's absolutely possible to get hired at a company even if they've previously rejected you. There are many many proven success stories,” says Lori Scherwin, executive coach and the Founder of Strategize That. “First off, especially in large organizations, there are various divisions, functions, teams, managers, all with a different culture, requirements, and fit. So perhaps you won't be considered for the same exact position you initially applied for, but your skills are quite likely useful elsewhere in the organization.”
Alternatively, you may have come in at a very close second to the person who was originally hired — meaning you have a leg up if the same role opens up in the future.
“Everybody who makes the so-called ‘short list’ for a position, likely meets most of the preferred requirements that the organization was seeking. So those applicants might well get a second shot if a similar position opens up at some point in the future,” says Timothy G. Wiedman, retired Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources at Doane University.
But you don’t want to pester recruiters non-stop, or continually apply to positions that aren’t the right fit for you. If you’re going to come back from a rejection, you need to be strategic about it. Not ready to give up on your dream company just yet? Try these tips, and you might just find that the second time’s the charm.
You may be feeling hurt at the time, but the last thing you want to do is throw a hissy fit at your rejection.
“Many companies almost, de facto, treat the first application as something akin to a test. Therefore, how you respond is important,” says Success Strategist Carlota Zimmerman.
So instead of sulking, you need to swallow your pride, thank the company for interviewing you, and leave the option for communication down the line open.
If you’ve made a connection with a recruiter or hiring manager, “reach out to [them] within a day” of your rejection, “Have some empathy for them. Especially given that you’ve been rejected, I’d suggest sending them a thank you note for all their time and support, stressing why you’re still interested in the company and then take a step back.”
Find Out Why
If you haven’t already done so, now’s your chance to ask for feedback on why exactly you didn’t get the role while it’s still fresh in their mind.
“If your personality, values and goals aren’t aligned with the business, it becomes a bit more difficult,” says Jamie Finnegan, Head of Talent at personal finance comparison site finder.com. But “if you get rejected from a company due to lack of experience or a particular skillset, this is the best news you can get (other than getting the job, of course). This means you can develop whatever it was you were lacking at the time and be hired later on down the track.”
Try to press for specifics as much as you can — the more detailed the feedback is, the more concrete of an idea you have about what steps you need to take to make a comeback.
Work on Your Weaknesses
Once you’ve heard back about what exactly you need to fix, it’s time for a little self-improvement.
“The first step is to take the feedback onboard and proactively try to increase and diversify your skills based on this,” Finnegan says.
Try taking classes (either online or in-person), networking with those who have experience in the area you’re interested in, or finding a way outside of work to grow those skills. For example, if you want to gain more experience in marketing, offer to take on some marketing responsibilities for a non-profit, club, or organization you’re involved in. But keep in mind that you can’t just put in a few weeks of work and call it a day.
“Typically, for someone to attain a particular skill set or experience, it can take anywhere between 6 to 24 months,” Finnegan shares. “Some skill sets you can build quicker than others, depending largely on the dream job you’re after. For example, a UX course for an entry level job would take much less time to acquire than building the experience needed for a CEO or executive role.”
You don’t need to hold yourself to any particular timeline, but “you want to aim to have added to your resume before applying again. Once you feel like you’ve reached that level,” you can consider applying to the company again, Finnegan explains.
Keep in Touch
While you may not want to apply again until you know you’ve improved in the areas you need to, that certainly shouldn’t hold you back from reaching out to your contacts at your company of interest.
“Connect to them on LinkedIn. Periodically, send them email updates about what you're doing, check in with them, and consider sharing industry related articles that may be helpful,” suggests career coach Angela Copeland.
However, you want to be careful that you don’t end up pestering them.
“It’s all about keeping the dialogue open with the hiring manager, but keeping a balance between being friendly and not annoying them with constant updates,” Finnegan says. “Build a rapport with them outside of the job to make your relationship with them more than just a transaction, like opening a discussion on an industry trend or a company achievement. This will show your passion and personality, which may end up putting you in the forefront of their mind over other candidates.”
And don’t hesitate to reach out offline, either.
“Does the company have any public events, or panels, or workshops scheduled? Go. You’re not stalking, you’re simply genuinely invested in the company’s brand and purpose,” Zimmerman says.
Stay on Top of the Latest Openings
Keeping in touch with your company contacts is a great way to find out when new positions are opening, but you’ll want to consistently monitor the available opportunities yourself as well. Keep an eye on the open jobs they list on Glassdoor, and consider following the company on Glassdoor so you know about open positions the minute they’re posted.
Once you find something that fits with your interests, backgrounds, and experience, apply to it, and let any contacts you have at the company know that you have so that they can refer you or just keep an eye out for your application.
“Never give up if it’s your dream company,” says Annie Boneta, Head of Talent for AutoGravity. “If you have done your research and your career aligns with the culture and business model of a particular company then articulate it in a passionate way… [recruiters] can see fire in the belly of those that truly want to work for us vs. those that are considering us just for a job.”