They say you should be grateful to receive any response from a job application these days, but when that response is a rejection, it can really dent your confidence. The sight of those simple few words, 'We regret to inform you...' can cause a whole load of doubt even for the most confident of job searchers.
It needn't feel like the end of the world, however - as long as you see it as a chance to learn. Although it may not be apparent straight away, there are plenty of things you can take away from an unsuccessful interview or application. Let's take a look at the most valuable.
What did you miss?
To impress at both the application and interview stages, you'll need to include and say the right things. It's a delicate balance to find too - you should cover your relevant technical expertise, character strengths and useful qualifications, but also show a little about who you are outside of your professional life.
Think about the things you missed that might have made a difference. Perhaps you forgot to include a relevant course you completed recently, or maybe you spoke too much about your personal life and not enough about the strengths you'd bring to the role.
How interested were you?
Look back and think about how much enthusiasm and interest you displayed, both for the role and the company. It may be your dream job and you know you're desperate to get it, but unless the employer can see that in your application and interview, they might not realise it.
It's useful to go back over the questions you asked in the interview, if any. These meetings, as formal as they tend to be, should always be seen as two-way things. The more you want to find out about the position and the employer, the more interested you'll seem. It shows that you're careful too - and that you pay attention to detail.
Address the obvious issues
Job interviews are enough to make even the most confident person a little nervous, simply because of the pressure they involve. As you look back on your unsuccessful first meeting, think about the elements that made you feel uncomfortable. This way, you can think about how you might tackle them next time.
You may have stumbled at one of those cliché questions that has 'no right or wrong answer'. Or perhaps you had to complete a test unexpectedly. Whatever it was that threw you, come up with a way you could approach it next time - as it may well happen again. Scripted answers are a bad idea, but it's true that many interviewers work in the same way, so there's no harm in being prepared with a few loose thoughts.
Your application may not have turned into a new job, but you won't know why unless you ask. Get back in touch with the company's HR team, or better still the person who interviewed you, to find out if they can give you any insight on why you weren't successful.
First and foremost, this will allow you to iron out the mistakes you made in preparation for your next opportunity. They may say you came across too nervous, in which case you can work on relaxation techniques. If they state you didn't show enough enthusiasm, use it as a prompt to think of some decent questions for upcoming interviews.
If the feedback is that you didn't quite have the required experience, skills or qualifications, but you still want this role or one similar, you can go away and work on the necessary areas. It may be that you sign up for a particular course or ask your current employer to increase your responsibilities. This will make you a more attractive candidate should the position become available in the future.
Asking for feedback will also show that you didn't take the rejection lightly and that you're disappointed you didn't get the job. It may be that you were only just beaten by another candidate - if that person doesn't work out, or they go back on their decision to accept, you could still be in the running. Staying in contact and reminding them that you're still interested will only help your chances.
Above all, don't dwell too much on what's already happened - it'll only affect your next application. It may be that the interviewer wasn't quite on form, or that you were having an off day yourself. Just be sure to prepare as much as possible, and to give it your best shot every time.