Surviving job rejection as an internal candidate

Ange Connor

Applying for a job and being rejected is hard enough at the best of times but when you are an internal applicant and miss out on the job it’s not just hard, it becomes a whole different ball game. However, there can be light at the end of the tunnel if you handle the experience in the right way.

You’ve applied for a position within your current organisation, maybe it’s a step up in your career or maybe it’s a sideways step to pursue a different career path or to develop new skills. The position has been advertised externally and you’ve jumped through the recruitment process hoops. Now you’ve just been told you are unsuccessful. Someone else has been appointed to the role.

Now what? You are feeling shattered, de-motivated, angry, resentful. The list of emotions goes on. You’ve worked hard for the company for so many years, you’ve put in the work and now your vision for your career has been shut down. How you handle yourself from the second you are advised you’ve been unsuccessful is going to undoubtedly affect your career going forward. How can you handle the situation professionally?

  • Prior to being notified about the outcome of your application consider the possible outcomes. It is well worth spending some time considering how you are going to feel and react if you are unsuccessful. It’s even worth considering this before you actually apply. Once you apply there is no going back unless you withdraw. You are putting yourself out there for possible rejection. Having some awareness of the emotions you are potentially going to experience will help you work through the situation if and when it does happen. Consider, are you going to be able to continue working in the business if you are rejected or will rejection mean you feel your career is dead with this particular organisation? If that’s the case you need a plan.
  • Ask for feedback. If you can pull yourself together enough to be able to interpret and digest the feedback ask for it on the spot when you are advised you are unsuccessful. If your head is not in the right space, ask the manager advising you of the situation if you can take some time to digest the situation and if you can meet with them in a couple of hours / days for some feedback. It’s important to gather the feedback on where you fell down. This will be useful information next time you apply for a job, either internally or externally. Having specific questions to gather valuable feedback will be useful.
  • Take some time to process the feedback and analyse your application and where you also personally felt you may have had weaknesses for the requirements of the role. Once you have clarity around this, arrange to meet with your manager. Discuss with them your career goals and opportunities for professional development, further coaching and mentoring. Let them know what your ambitions are. Start to position yourself for your next career step. If they aren’t going to support you maybe it is time to invest in your own professional development to take your career to the next stage.
  • Act professionally. Sulking, disengaging, reduced work output, bitching to other employees, and being generally negative is not going to do you any favours. If anything, it will prove to management that they made the right decision in not appointing you. From their perspective the interpretation of poor behaviour will be that you can’t handle situations when you don’t get your own way. Your mood has the ability to infect your team, colleagues and management. If these are the emotions you are experiencing, arrange some leave and do it quickly. Get yourself out of the work environment and create some space to be able to work through your feelings and emotions.
  • Don’t act in haste. Let the dust settle. How you feel in the first day and week will be different to how you feel in a month or two. See what happens once the new incumbent starts. Sometimes the appointment may not work out for whatever reason. You don’t want your lack of professionalism in handling the rejection to deter management from re-considering your application. Alternatively you may find that you really enjoy working with the new incumbent and can learn a lot form them to progress your own career.


Being an internal applicant and being unsuccessful for an internal job is hard. Management and your peers will be watching you and how you react to the situation. Your actions and behaviours in this situation can either strengthen your career opportunities or they can unravel your career very quickly. Unfortunately no matter how successful you have been throughout your time with this organisation, it will be your most recent behaviour that will be remembered if you do decide to move on afterwards; make sure you are remembered for all the right reasons. At the end of the day you are in control of managing your career and you have choices; it’s not cool to play the victim card.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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