close icon


Reject! Didn’t get your dream job? How to bounce back

Posted: May 2023
Disappointed woman head in hands 414x300

If you’re actively searching for a new role, then chances are, at some point, you will experience the heartbreak of losing out on your dream job. And, unfortunately, if you’re going to apply for jobs and move forward in your career it can be a necessary part of the process. Nonetheless it’s going to hurt, especially if you’ve been for your third, fourth or in some cases fifth interview, met the team, been shown around the office and decided where your favourite lunch spot is! So, how can you bounce back and even learn from this painful experience?

Firstly, let the emotions out

It’s an important step in the process to grieve for an opportunity you thought would change your career. But don’t wallow in the rejection and take it personally. There could be all sorts of reasons why the other person got the job.

This was the case for Communications Professional, Jenny, who was devastated when she got down to the last two candidates for a Corporate Comms Manager role with an international cosmetics company. The process involved a three-stage interview with a presentation to the board.

“I was so close to securing my ideal role, within an industry that I loved, I felt I had the skills to do the job and grow, but it turned out someone else had more in-house experience.

“Although I had a big cry, I quickly realised that mulling over my disappointment wasn’t going to help. Instead, I decided to recognise my success in getting so far along in the process and use this positive energy in my search.”

Make a list of your successes

It’s easy to focus on the negative, especially if you’ve invested so much time and effort into searching, applying, and interviewing for a role, but do take time to make a list of where you were successful. Realise that if you got anywhere in the interview process, then this is a major success.

Just identifying your dream job is very helpful to move your career forward. And, if you’ve been selected for interview then the hiring manager must have liked your CV, seen that your skill set is relevant for the job and if you make it to the last two or three then you are very nearly there. Use this information to help your search. Are there similar companies that you could apply to?

Ask for feedback

After the interview email your main point of contact, or if you’re working with an executive search agency, they will do this on your behalf. If you receive the dreaded email saying: “We’ve selected another candidate”, do acknowledge it and thank them for considering you. Also ask if they have any feedback as this could help you make successful tweaks to your interview technique.

What can you learn from the process?

There’s always something that you can take away from the process, even if initially things seem bleak. Following a two-month application for a Head of Comms role at a high street bank, Rupert was completely deflated when he was pipped to the post by someone with more retail banking experience.

“I’d told friends and family about the role, I’d invested weekends honing my presentation and interview answers and I’d decided how to spend my extra earnings, I was that confident I’d secured the role. And, when I didn’t get it, my confidence started to wane.”

This is not unusual, says the Live More Coach, Hannah Buchan, who explains: “Our sense of identity can feel wobbly when things aren't going how we want to in our career. But a job title does not define you. Take time to be clear on your core values and what matters to you. Knowing them will give you the power to find joy and contentment everyday no matter what life throws at you. If you're not sure what your core values are, start by asking yourself, how do I want to feel? [calm/fun/confident/content/creative, brave, adventurous... ]

“Then get clear on the little everyday things that make you feel like that. For example, if you want to feel calmer you might keep Sunday mornings free, or step outside at lunchtime, or listen to Classic FM on the way to work rather than Radio 2. The little stuff REALLY matters. Get clear on how you want to feel and take action – this could have a huge impact on your future career and happiness.”

For Rupert, understanding that his dream position isn’t going to materialise immediately, he’s now assessing “what I want not just from my work, but life as well, the things I do when I’m not in the office!”

Get inspired

It is also useful to learn from other people’s experiences, continues Hannah: “There are loads of stories of very successful people who have not only experienced huge setbacks but have gone on to acknowledge that those setbacks were the making of them. Tune into podcasts such as "How to Fail' by Elizabeth Day for a brilliant reminder that setbacks are normal and can often be the best thing that ever happens to you (although it rarely feels like that at the time).

“Not getting the job you want can feel like a huge blow. But problems can be our greatest teachers. We can not only survive our setbacks but use them as an opportunity for growth, becoming more resilient and braver, on the other side.”

Don’t panic and rush into the next role

Now you know exactly what you want from a new job, it’s important to remember that you might not be offered your dream role straight away, particularly in the current market – so be flexible with your expectations. Your search might also introduce you to roles you hadn’t previously considered, so prepare to be open-minded and assess every role on its merits. For example, we speak to numerous senior and mid-level corporate communications professionals who are adamant that they just want an in-house role and won’t consider an agency. However, when we delve deeper about their wants and needs it transpires that they are just working in the wrong agency!

Call in the experts

Working with an executive search consultancy such as The Works Search, can give you the upper hand in your job hunt. We focus solely on senior corporate and financial communications roles, so we know the industry inside out. We can help you refine your CV, match you very carefully with suitable roles and give you access to career-making roles, solely managed by us. We help prepare you for interviews thoroughly and when you are offered your dream job, we step in and expertly negotiate your salary and benefits for you. If you’re thinking of looking for your next role or perhaps looking to hire a high performer, then do get in touch and click here for a list of ways we can work with you.

Find out more about Hannah Buchan Coaching and connect with Hannah via @the_live_more_coach on Instagram.

For a free download of our full Annual Salary Guide 2022, click here.

Time for a change? Check out our latest jobs!

The Works Search is a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email:

Want to read a little more