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How To Handle Negative Interview Feedback

By Simon on

It is unequivocally a royal pain in the derriere when you’ve been to one, two, or sometimes even three interviews, and you receive a response that says “we really liked you, but we’ve found someone that is a better fit”. It may be dressed up differently at times, but the bottom line is that you’ve not been successful. Receiving negative interview feedback is simply not a pleasant experience.

Feeling Rejected

I’ve no doubt this will leave you feeling frustrated, irritated, or angry, or maybe a mix of all three. The brutal reality is, however, that it is completely out of your control. There is nothing you can do to reverse the decision. It is entirely down to you, though, whether you let it get to you or wash over you. My advice is do the latter. Please don’t think I’m being complacent here, particularly if you’ve put in a lot of effort into the process. But don’t beat yourself up if the job has been offered to someone else. My advice is to take control of your thoughts. See it as their loss and keep moving forward, until you find a role that is exactly what you want.

You may look back and realise that you could have answered some questions a bit better. If that is the case, you’ve got to view it as hard-learned lesson and realise that the chance of you being asked similar question(s) at future interviews is highly probable. The format of interviews has not really changed over the past decade. There is every chance you will be asked the same questions, possibly in a different order, at most interviews. So it’s all about getting yourself ready for these common questions and being able to answer them clearly and concisely. You cannot beat the experience of a live interview, even if you’ve had a stinker, because you can always look for opportunities to improve and enhance your responses.

Learn From Negative Interview Feedback

Do learn from the process if you’ve had a positive experience. Take on board constructive feedback particularly if it will help you perform better in future interviews. It’s also important to note, however, that constructive criticism isn’t always delivered in the nicest way. You sometimes need to put your feelings to one side to learn from negative feedback. In reality, it is probably one of the most difficult challenges you will face during the selection process, but it shows a lot of character to take it on board and learn. It may still feel harsh, but if there’s greater value underneath, don’t dismiss it. It may help you in the long run.

The way to gain employment, particularly for those who are looking for more junior roles in the creative sectors where there is a lot of competition, is to keep applying and build on your interview experiences. It is also really important to keep the momentum going and focus on getting interviews that are relevant to your aspirations. I have seen many people become dispirited after a couple of knock backs. But you have to keep going and take confidence from getting recognised by a company. There are numerous applicants that don’t make it past the application stage! If your application has led to an interview, and subsequent further interviews, then you are definitely on the right track.

Context Is Important!

It is also worth bearing in mind that, even if you’ve been unsuccessful on several occasions, you are competing for jobs in a highly competitive job market. This is particularly relevant for roles at Account Executive level in the PR, digital and marketing sectors. Where you may feel that you have 90% of the required qualifications, the employer may be in a position where they need to hire someone who ticks all the boxes. This is incredibly frustrating and it’s not uncommon for people to feel a sense of rejection. But, in seeking out new employment, there is always the risk of not being selected. So just take it on the chin and continually look for ways you can improve your chances.

It is also worthwhile to hold out for something you really want to do. You will often hear people urging you to choose a career or job which can offer long term security. My thought is that this may be good for those who long to be teachers or accountants, but it won’t work for those who don’t. You’ll most likely spend your time feeling frustrated or hemmed into a job you resent that is the opposite of what you want. I’ve yet to meet anyone who regretted having followed their passion! Even if it doesn’t work out or you have less money or job security, you will always feel fulfilled.

Move On From The Rejection

Disappointed candidates quite rightly often ask us why they weren’t selected and, in all honesty, you may never be given the real reason. Employers have no legal or ethical obligation to explain in detail why you aren’t the chosen one, and those that do are always worth listening to. When you’re not offered the part, square your shoulders and become even more determined to nail the next one. Remember that U2 were rejected by RSO records for being “not suitable at present”. Wonder if they ever regretted that decision!