How to deal with job interview disappointment
Coming to the end of your time at university? Starting to think about and apply for jobs? I remember this as a time of uncertainty and excitement, a confusing time when everything seemed possible - which felt both good and scary.
Applying for full-time work, having interviews, and dealing with interview disappointment for the first time can be tough. So let’s talk about it, because it’s probably going to happen and there are things you can do to make it easier.
Here’s my six-point guide to handling an unsuccessful job interview.
1) Ask for feedback but don’t expect too much
If you’ve interviewed for a role, you’ve got a right to expect feedback. It should be about you and your performance, so that you have something to work on next time around.
Unfortunately, constructive feedback can be hard to get. A lot of employers stick to generic lines like, ‘Other interviewees were more suitable or experienced for the role.’
But don’t let that put you off. Always ask for feedback, especially if you were put forward for the role by a recruitment agent. But if you expect the generic stuff, anything useful will be a nice surprise. Annoying, but realistic I’m afraid.
2) Give yourself time if you’re upset
Looking and applying for jobs can be tiring. Not hearing back, not making the shortlist, not getting an offer - these things can knock your confidence. It’s perfectly natural to feel a bit demoralised from time to time.
If this happens, be kind to yourself and take the time to go through the emotions. A short break from applying and interviewing could be a good idea. When you feel ready, think about the best way to continue your search.
3) Ask yourself, ‘What went well?’
Consider the effort it takes just to search for work, let alone interview for a role. Be proud of the work you’re putting in, regardless of the current results. If you’ve had an interview recently, ask yourself what went well and why.
For example, if you feel like you gave a great answer to a competency-based question, why might that be? Had you planned for potential questions? Had you practised with a friend? Reminding yourself of the positives is just as important as looking for ways to improve.
4) … and, ‘What could have gone better?’
The best you can hope for after a job interview? To be pleased with what you said and excited about the idea of working there. After that, an actual job offer would be great but who they choose is pretty much out of your control.
So if you don’t feel pleased and excited, ask yourself why. Were you more nervous than you wanted to be? Perhaps some breathing techniques would work. Struggle to think of relevant examples? Why not write a list that you can dip into each time? Didn’t like the company? How could you avoid businesses like that in the future?
Look for just one or two areas that you might approach differently. Don’t try to change everything all at once - it’s highly unlikely that you need to.
5) Go over your CV and LinkedIn profile
You can learn something from every interview. You might find you feel more confident in the morning than the afternoon, that your chosen industry is much more casual than you realised, or that you don’t like the sound of this kind of role after all.
Learning more about what employers in your field are looking for is gold dust. Look again at your CV and LinkedIn profile. Do they show people exactly what you’ve done? Are all your skills clearly described? Is it obvious what you can offer? If it isn’t, make it obvious.
6) Think of other ways to get experience
Why does it help to know what employers want? The main reason is that it allows you to see how closely you match up. It lets you spot the gaps in your skills and experience, and find ways to fill them.
Full-time, paid employment might ultimately be what you want. But there are plenty of ways to get ready for it. Blogging, part-time work, university societies, freelancing, volunteering - try some of these while you search to build up your profile.
Be kind to yourself and keep going
The time between finishing university and starting work can be strange. For me, it was a potent cocktail of relief, pride, excitement, and nerves - served over crushed ice with a twist of worry. I felt ‘ready’, but I didn’t have a clue what for.
So my advice to you is this: be kind to yourself and keep going. Give yourself a break - emotionally and literally - when things feel too frustrating. Let the feelings pass and get right back on the hunt.
Think about what you want, remind yourself of what’s going well, keep applying and keep learning, and make improvements where you can. The selection process is outside of your control, so focus on the bits you can affect and everything will be okay.