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5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself if You Get Passed Over for a New Role

Traffic cones forming question mark with woman at point standingTraffic cones forming question mark with woman at point standing

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you deal with rejection when it comes to landing a job?” is written by Rachael Powell, chief people officer at Xero.

Almost everyone has applied for a job and been rejected at some point. And while it can be a disappointment or even a shock, it can also serve as a springboard to landing a better role.

When you receive the “bad news,” do something counterintuitive: Give thanks. Send a follow-up note thanking the interviewer for his or her consideration. Turn any resentment into gratitude, as it will boost your positive emotions, and in turn, your well-being. Any interaction in the job search is an opportunity to network, refine your pitch, and practice developing a growth mindset. You’ll be surprised at how well giving thanks dispels any feelings of flatness or rejection.

See also: How Not Getting a Job Can Work in Your Favor

In your note, graciously ask for feedback. What could you have done differently? What did the interviewer feel you did well? Sometimes it may be that another candidate was simply more qualified. In other cases, there may be something you can tweak to improve your next interaction. The important thing is to avoid any downward spiral of pessimism or self-criticism. You want to get back out there and project the best possible version of yourself. There will be suitable roles around the corner, and you need to be upbeat, positive, and alert to spot them.

Next, it’s time for a self-review. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Was I prepared going in? Did I do enough research on the company, the role, and the interviewer?
  • Did I communicate my strengths? You’re going to best articulate the value you can bring to a company when you’re discussing things that inspire and engage you.
  • Did I listen? Too often, we go into interviews with a host of data points that we want to convey. Remember to read the verbal and nonverbal cues.
  • Did I ask the right questions? If you’re on a different tangent than your interviewer, and you aren’t probing or paraphrasing some of the content, then you’re unlikely to make a human connection.

Whenever you receive a rejection, think of yourself as an entrepreneur. How many entrepreneurs are overnight successes? Very few. Quite often, they go through multiple ideas before they hit payday. And with each failure, they learn and apply lessons to their next endeavor. That’s how you want to approach your job search.

I once applied for a role with a multinational company when I returned to work after having children. Throughout the interview process, it became apparent that the manager was concerned that my experience was beyond the scope of the role, as he didn’t want to hire someone overqualified. That was understandable, albeit disappointing. Although I was rejected for the job and felt deflated for a short period, I realized it was the best outcome for the business, and ultimately for me.


Sometimes the moon and stars just have to align. It can come down to your attitude, the chemistry between the parties, the competition you’re up against, the time of day the interview is scheduled, and the interviewer’s mood just before you meet. Of all these factors, the only one you can control is your own mindset. If you enter into the conversation with a fixed mindset, you will miss opportunities to explore unexpected topics, and you will have a tendency to only discuss what you have done rather than what you can do.

With a growth mindset, on the other hand, you’re going be open to exploring other areas and will be able to link your strengths to role requirements. In this fast-paced business world, no one does know it all! It’s those who are prepared to perpetually learn and collaborate who will be the most successful.

You want to be able to see a future in an organization that has a clear purpose and a strong set of values that align well with your personal profile. Patience, preparation, and tenacity sprinkled with a large dose of self-awareness are what you should arm yourself with when you begin the search. Do this, and rejection will be no more than a brief bump on the road to success.