The Graduates Guide to getting a job in consulting – part 6: Handling rejection

The Graduates Guide to getting a job in consulting – part 6: Handling rejection

  16 Jul 2018

Being able to handle interview rejection and bounce back from it is an important skill. In a perfect world companies would interview one candidate. They would be the perfect fit, get on like a house on fire with the hiring manager and start the next day. Unfortunately the reality is somewhat tougher. 

Rejection is a part of life, a concept many graduates fail to realise once leaving university. It can be a tough pill to swallow when things don’t go to plan.

Take rejection personally

This sounds counter intuitive to almost all common advice on this subject. You are going to have horrible feelings, especially if you really wanted the role.

Rejection sucks. It can be easy to feel humiliated. The cold hard fact is that it is very rare in life to have another human fully evaluate you and give an audit of your entire personality and ability. Most individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid this very situation.

There are many factors throughout a recruitment cycle that may affect your prospects. The most difficult one to accept is often the human element. The thought that the reason you didn’t accomplish your goals just because someone in a position of power didn’t click with you can be devastating.

If this is your situation, it can be beneficial to embrace the human element. You will not and can not get along with everyone in life, and sometimes the only thing that stands between you and a job is someone else’s opinion. Post rejection, accept that you have no control over thoughts another individual has had about you. But you can change their opinion in the future. Focus on the elements of the process you can control from this point onward.

Humans can be hugely inefficient creatures and we have an evolutionary response to make snap judgements about others for our own self preservation. These are not always the most logical decisions in our modern and rapidly changing world.

To summarise, accept the human element, accept it can be unpredictable and accept that someone’s snap analysis of you is very rarely an exact reflection of who you are.

Bitterness and resentment will do you no favours. Realise judgement is in our DNA and moving forward can help put you in the right mindset in the future.

Understand the recruitment cycle

Many firms are happy to re-interview prospects who didn’t quite make the cut. However frustrating it may be, bear in mind that unless specified over the phone or by email it is rarely beneficial to re-apply immediately.

Do your research on a firm’s reapplication process or contact them directly to ask their policy. Many companies have a fixed reapplication period of 6 to 12 month and will simply dismiss your CV is submitted in this allotted time period.

If you are applying for the same role again use the feedback from your interview and use this period to act on it! Almost no employer would argue that pragmatist is a bad skill to have. Spend this time developing the skills you lacked, getting that additional qualification, or developing your expertise in a complementary role (or side venture). You cannot be born a go-getter or self started, you have to do it and have a worked example to show off.

Having gone through the recruitment process once already it’s like retaking a maths test. Make sure you learn all the answers to the questions you got caught out on before.

There is no shame in expressing your disappointment in a professional manner

Being told over the phone you didn’t get your dream job sucks. Screaming, shouting, swearing and crying are not advised. However showing your disappointment in a dignified manner and asking detailed question about the nature of the decision is perfectly acceptable. Almost everyone they contact will be disappointed, but not everyone will take it well! If you intend to reapply for a job you can leave a lasting good impression in your rejection interview. A professional acceptance and discussion can leave you in good stead for the future.

Prepare yourself for the worst regardless of how you feel the interview went. Write out a list of questions to ask in case of rejection and use them when the recruiter calls. Make enquiries as to when reapplication is a possibility and ask what you can do to improve yourself in preparation.

Always say thank you for the call if you receive one. A lot of companies these days don’t bother or simply send an email. Unless they are a stone cold psychopath the individual calling probably hates making these calls almost as much as the people receiving them, stand out by being reasonable and rational.

CV Fail

Always ask multiple forms of feedback

Feedback is your primary weapon for improving your interview technique. Make sure to ask for written feedback and also a feedback interview if possible. Employers will often highlight key points when writing they wouldn’t over the phone and vice versa.

Every time you receive interview feedback, good or bad, compile it into a master word document and review it before your next appointment. Divide this document up into soft skills, business skills and technical skills (include any other role specific categories). Having a clear picture of areas you need to work on can be a real confidence boost off the back of a recent rejection.

Keep in touch

Don’t be afraid to add your interviewers on Linkedin. You may not have struck the chord on your first run, but you now have your own online platform to remind potential employers you exist. Create industry relevant content and show your face in group discussions. By doing so you can gain real traction in your chosen niche, and may even pull in recognition and job offers from other firms.

Develop your self marketing strategy

When hiring a new employee a company takes on a large element of risk. Think of yourself as an expensive product and the company as the discerning customer. The purchase of the wrong product can be hugely costly for the consultancy. Not only do they have to worry about the cost of rehiring and recruitment if the fit is wrong, but also the risk for errors and potential disruption to client relationships and projects.

It’s important to realise that even if you are the brightest, most qualified individual ever to be interviewed, it doesn’t mean jack if you don’t market your skills correctly.

Understand that pushing yourself as a product doesn’t devalue your personality and you’re not a “sell out”. There is a difference between arrogance and quiet confidence. You have to sell yourself to compete.

Identify your core skills and match them up with the needs of your potential employer. Use feedback to identify areas of high risk and areas you excel in, then tailor these elements into your next interview.


If you are anxious that you won’t impress at an important upcoming interview, get some practise in! Get in touch with a graduate recruiter. If your CV is half descent they will likely ask you in for a mass interview with a large number of other graduates. This in itself is a great, no obligation way to get interview experience. If you make it through the initial process these firms can block book you up quickly for multiple interviews a week. They may not be exactly what you’re looking for but who cares! It’s a great way to hone your interview technique and learn how to manage difficult questions and characters.

If you found this article useful have a look at the other blogs in this graduates consulting careers guide series starting here.

Thanks for Reading, C.

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