Recruitment Rejection: How to Bounce Back

Madison Recruitment
5 mins read
Recruitment Rejection: How to Bounce Back
Job Seeker candidates career interview job search

We’ve all been there. It may sound corny, but rejection really is a learning opportunity.

When it comes to rejection in the recruitment process, regardless of whether you are the eager candidate applying for your dream job, or the business hiring essential talent, there are some key factors to bear in mind and help you through it.


First, feedback

For both parties, it’s useful to ask for feedback, and then (the hard part!) take it onboard. If as a job seeker, you’re keen on the business and would like to be kept in mind for future opportunities, or if you’re the employer and you’d like the candidate to keep you in mind for future roles (or referrals),  it’s important to leave a positive impression. How you react when you receive feedback may impact the relationship between you and the other party, so prepare yourself for this conversation. Cultivate an open mind; focus on listening and learning. Every relationship that you build can make a  positive difference to your working life.


For Job Seekers

There are several different points throughout a recruitment process where you may be declined, and while each may sting a little, you can use that moment to reflect on what you learned, for next time.

  • Have another look at the initial brief or job ad. Did you match it, or can you now see that you were missing significant “must-haves”?
  • Did you do all that was needed and requested for the application; a personalised cover letter, adapting your resume to the role, answered mandatory questions?
  • Assess your interview performance. Did you show respect, enthusiasm and industry knowledge? Could you have done more preparation, or communicated your skillset more clearly?
  • How did you act throughout the process? Did you respond promptly to communication; were you professional, and personable?
  • Were you consistent and up front about your goals throughout the process? While it’s not unusual to change your position as you learn more about the role, it’s important to be able to explain and communicate any changes in requirements.

When you aren’t successful, remember; it’s not that you’re ‘no good’, it’s just not the right match. Even if, when you reflect on the process you believe that you did everything right, it’s worth remembering: sometimes we just miss out. Nonetheless it’s still good practice to consider what you would do differently (if anything) for your next application.


For Businesses

In the current market of extremely low-unemployment, it’s not unusual for savvy job seekers to reject job offers. Employers are fighting to keep the good people they have, and counteroffers are all the rage.

When a desirable candidate declines your offer, use the rejection as a time to reflect on yourself, your business and the approach to recruitment. Was your recruitment process all that it could and should be?

  • If you have offered someone a role, and they choose to decline and instead accept another role, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback: find out exactly what was more attractive about the other offer.
  • Reflect on whether the job offer that you presented actually matched the initial advert and conversations that you had. By the time you get to offer stage, there shouldn’t be any surprises in title, salary, duties etc. However the dish is described on the menu, is what should come out of the kitchen.
  • What happened during the interviews? Interviews should be two-way, the candidate is also finding out if you are a company and a team that they want to work with. Was the candidate offered enough time to ask questions? Did you highlight opportunities for career growth with the business? Did the candidate feel respected in the interview, do they believe in what your company does?
  • How quick was the process? Timing is everything. If you take too long between interviews, or from interview to offer stage, it leaves a window for the candidate to receive other offers. No matter how excited you got the candidate about working with you, stretching out a process loses momentum, and can make the candidate feel unvalued.
  • How did you sell the offer? Salary is important, but it isn’t everything. Did you actually listen to the candidate to understand what’s important to them? If you truly understand the candidate and what matters to them you will be able to uncover the elements that won’t necessarily be outlined in the official offer, but should be clearly shared with the candidate. For example, flexible hours, employee discounts, clear pathways for career growth, mentorships, charitable opportunities.


No one likes being rejected, but it’s a normal part of (working) life. Treat it as a skill like any other: with practice, you’ll find you can get ‘better’ at being rejected. This means you don’t take rejection to heart, and that you find the way to learn and grow from the experience.

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