That flashing blue light at the top of your phone makes your heart stop. Slowly, you exhale through your nose. At least all those yoga classes were good for something—you can focus on being calm. Reaching down you swipe in your code to unlock the screen. There it is. The email from company X that will let you know whether or not you got the job.
Your thumb moves slowly until it brushes against that red envelope icon, opening it up, and exposing you to a big, fat… rejection letter.
It takes everything you have not to hurl your phone at the wall. Despair, anger, desperation—you’re suddenly overcome by all of these strong emotions. Yoga breathing be damned! You’re UPSET.
How dare they?! Didn’t you come into the interview composed, looking like a boss in your pressed button-down shirt and slacks? You knew everything there was to know about the company, its mission, the culture of the office, where it was featured in the news. They’ve made a big mistake. Huge.
Almost as though you’re in a dream, you press that little arrow reply button. You start typing out a message to the hiring manager.
Dear Mr. Y,
Thanks for nothing.
Ba D. Reeahksion
So maybe that was not the most professional email you’ve ever sent, but what does it matter? You’re never going to see these people again. They rejected you and it hurt. Why should you put any more thought into the impression you leave on them?
Actually, there are a couple BIG reasons you should stay on good terms with the people and companies you interview with, even after a rejection from them.
Burning bridges can burn you
You know the game six degrees of Kevin Bacon, right? If you don’t, it’s a game that challenges players to connect actors and actresses to Kevin Bacon in the least amount of steps possible. Believe it or not, you can connect any thespian to the Footloose actor in six steps or fewer.
More often than you think, the same thing applies to the people you meet every day. In the past, we’ve recommended using the concept of six degrees of separation to expand your network, but now I’m going to use it as a warning.
Be aware that the people you meet are guaranteed to know other people within that same industry (and probably in a variety of others as well). If you respond negatively or unprofessionally to their rejection letter, you can be sure they’ll let their network know. No one wants to hire someone who can’t handle tough situations.
Instead, show them that you’re mature enough to handle the situation and if you really do have a strong desire to work for the company, let them know that you’d be interested in hearing about any other opportunities that come up.
There may be an opening later on
New opportunities within a company really can appear. A friend of mine started her job search here in San Francisco and one of the first positions she applied for was a managing role at a company she was very interested in. Their mission and values aligned perfectly with hers and she was determined to get the job.
Though the interview went well and she got along with everyone she met, her level of experience just didn’t match with what they were looking for in the managing position. She received a rejection email from them a few days later. Still, she made sure to send a follow up thanking them for bringing her in as well as reiterating her interest in the company and letting them know she would love to hear about any other openings they might have.
A month or two later, the company reached out to her. They had an opening for an administrative assistant and thought she would be a good fit. They asked her to come back in for another interview. She agreed, met with a few more people in the company, and was hired on a week later.
Now imagine if she’d let her disappointment get the best of her after that first rejection email. There’s no way the organization would have called her back when this new position opened up. Her positivity and control over her emotions allowed her to find a job at a company she’s extremely passionate about.
So even though it can be really hard to accept the fact that you didn’t get the job, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember to keep your emotions in check. Don’t burn those bridges. If you need help staying positive in the face of rejection, check out this guide to dealing with getting a “no” in the job search.
Your turn: Have an experience getting rejected in the job search? Leave a comment below about how you dealt with it and what other job-seekers can learn from your experience.