Learning from rejection

Even if your application is unsuccessful, you can benefit from the process and use this to your advantage in future applications. Focusing on your strengths is important when bouncing back from rejection – something that will happen to most of us at various times in our career.


Reviewing your approach

If you are receiving rapid rejections without being offered an interview, you may need to review the type of jobs you are applying for, and the quality of your written application.

  • Make sure you meet the required qualifications or academic average.
  • Ensure the position is suitable for a recent graduate.
  • Tailor every application to clearly show you meet and understand the job requirements.
  • Your résumé and application should be well-presented, professional and free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Ensure your cover letter adds to your application and the tone is appropriate.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the organisation and/or industry.
  • Address the selection criteria, with reference to relevant experience, skills and knowledge.
  • Highlight all skills and job-related qualities.
  • Match your terminology and language to the job advertisement to ensure your application is identified by keyword software that some employers use.

If you think you’re doing all the right things, it might simply be a case of persevering. Few people land their dream job after one attempt. However, if you are unsure about your application style, consult an expert for feedback. This could include a university or private careers consultant, or a recruiter.

If you are being invited to interviews, take that as confirmation that your written application is hitting the mark!



If you do reach the interview stage but don’t advance further in the selection process, try to obtain feedback on your performance. Note that some companies have a policy of not providing feedback.

If the organisation will provide feedback, remember:

  • Enter the conversation in a positive frame of mind: feedback is being offered to help you, not criticise you.
  • Don’t be defensive or try to make excuses.
  • Listen to what the employer has to say, take notes, and reflect on it later.
  • Thank the employer for their time. You never know when your paths may cross again!

The graduate job market can be a tough, competitive battleground. You need to know how to make your value stand out to an employer among other applicants, and make that message clear at each stage of the process.


Review every rejection, work out what you can do differently next time, and move on. A ‘job journal’ documenting key details of each application can be a helpful tool in this process. Remember, there is a wealth of information and resources to help you ace the job search process, including online, via your university careers service or professional association, and this book – just to name a few. Follow these steps and though you’ll still lose some battles, you should win the war!


This article contains edited extracts from a piece by Careers & Employment, University of Melbourne, that first appeared in Graduate Opportunities 2009.


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