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What To Do When You're Not The "Ideal Candidate"

Young professional shoes frustration after being rejected from a job.
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You've probably heard the term bestfit or ideal candidate quite a bit if you've been applying for new jobs, submitting college applications, or simply sifting through your long-term career goals.

Employers know who they want, and usually what they want, in the hiring process. However, sometimes that's not always clear on the other end and candidates can find themselves with many mixed messages.


Aspiring to be the perfect fit for a new position is a job in itself. After all, no one's perfect, and everyone is unique. But what do you do when you've received the infamous rejection email for the umpteenth time? How will you possibly bounce back from not being the best fit after nailing the first or second interview, time and time again?

Here are a few ways to grow as a candidate, and own not being the ideal fit:

Avoid Displacing Anger

It's normal to feel a little anger after a job rejection, but it's important to not to displace that anger.

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If you can't express appreciation or thanks to the hiring manager after receiving the job rejection, then you need to take a step back and go for a walk.

Never communicate with a recruiter, hiring manager, or anyone else in the hiring process while under the influence of anger. You may say something that could damage your reputation and cripple your career. It's okay to feel hurt after putting in time for a job or opportunity you really wanted, but save those really emotional feelings for close friends or family.

Learn About The "Ideal Candidate"

Businesswoman reads a letter of feedback from a hiring manager.

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Following the job rejection, it's okay to ask the hiring manager for some feedback about what you were lacking as a candidate, and how you can improve for future job opportunities.

When asking a hiring manager for feedback, it's important to be professional, and not too pushy about it. If they don't respond, or decline to respond, just let it go. Not everyone is comfortable with or has time to give feedback.

However, if they do provide feedback, the information could be invaluable.

Not only is it good to know who you're competing against, but it's also good to assess what other candidates have in common, and what traits your dream company looks for in candidates. Why? Because you'll be able to better understand if you really fit in.

For example, if you have a hard time taking charge of tasks on your own but find yourself applying for jobs that offer little structure or support, you might not be the ideal candidate for the job.

Don't Let Rejection Stunt Your Growth

Let's say you didn't get the design job of your dreams despite having a portfolio with years of obvious hard work. So what? Use rejection as a way to perfect your skills and toughen your skin. Maybe you were just one year shy of necessary job requirements or maybe your skill set needs some fine-tuning.

This is all perfectly okay. Sometimes we don't get the things we want because we just might not be ready. Remember, the company isn't saying "No, not ever." They're actually saying "No, not today." You could re-apply to the same company later on and end up getting the job. It's important to keep the lines of communication open.

Don't let your job search get in the way of your personal growth. There are always opportunities available for professional development and upskilling, you just have to always be open to those opportunities.

Just because you weren't the ideal candidate initially, doesn't mean you won't be in the future.


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This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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