How to Handle Knockbacks like a Pro

How to Handle Knockbacks like a Pro

I know how it works.

You’re busting your bum making your CV the best it can be, applying for jobs, preparing for interviews and trying to convince yourself that:

1.       You ARE worthy of being hired.

2.       You CAN do more than you think.

3.       And to be fair, you’re pretty talented.

And then, just when you think you’re hitting the jackpot, what happens?

All the knockbacks come at once to tell you that you “haven’t been successful” and actually, you’re never going to get a job you want ever.

Or at least that’s how knockbacks feel, right?

These experiences can affect us really negatively. And worse, it can turn us into a negative person.

Believe me, I’ve been there. But I’ve got a better way to deal with it.

Because there’s only ONE thing worse for yourself and your career than stupid, harsh, unexpected knockbacks, and that’s letting them define you.

This is how to handle knockbacks like a pro. Ready to rock? Let’s do this.

#1 Don't Make It Easy for Them

Instead of launching into a state of utter desperation and thinking you’ll never get a job, take a moment to get control – not give up. Always ask for feedback. You want to find out why you didn't make the cut. Start out with something like, “Could you please give me some feedback on my interview so I know what to improve upon in the future?”

This doesn’t mean you’re losing out on an opportunity or giving into the fact you didn't get it, but it will make you more admirable.

When the company you interviewed for receives your request for feedback, they’ll hopefully care enough to reply and admire that you reached out to them. They might even say, “We’ll keep your details for any vacancies that come up in the future” – and I know people who have got jobs this way.

#2 Reflect on Your Experience

A communication error that happens all the time online is directing your hatred towards a person, rather than the situation you’re in. This is a sure-fire way to become bitter about what happened and have even stronger negative emotions.

But when you focus on building yourself up from this, you turn the situation into one that is focused around learning lessons and improvement – instead of one that focuses in on the fact the knockback happened.

For instance, instead of thinking, “I bet that other girl got it because she dressed a lot better than me”, think something like this:

“Yes, I'm gutted I didn't get it. But it was a good experience and ultimately, it wasn't meant to be. There’s something better for me out there.”

#3 Be Genuine

When you’re angry you don’t want to come across as defensive or angry in your response, whether it’s via email or even worse – a phone call. At least with email you have time to think of a what to say. A phone call doesn’t give you any time to prepare. Whenever I’ve been told I’ve not got the job, you know what I’ve done?

Ask the question.

“In order to help me with my future career could you tell me some things you think I did well in the interview and some things you think I need to work on?”

A person will be able to tell with this one question whether you’re being genuine or not. It will help calm the situation down, let you see the bigger picture, and it has the added benefit of:

A | revealing whether there’s a consistent problem with your interview technique that you can – or should –fix, and

B | to be admired not only by the people that you know for handling the situation in this way, but also the person that delivered the knockback to you – because you’ve proved that you can take a negative situation and turn it into something that can help you in the future.

#4 Be Kind

The biggest problem with delivering knockbacks is that it isn't face to face. It’ll either be done over the phone or via email.

That means that facial expressions, body language and eye contact are all lost. Unfortunately for us, that also means that a lot of other things get lost too.

Your attempt to be kind to your interviewer by saying, “Wow, your loss” may seem innocent to you, but cold and arrogant to them and everyone else.

This means you need to go out of your way to convey the fact you’re a positive person who is responding with understanding rather than bitterness.

“Thank you” becomes >>> “Thank you for this opportunity.”

“I get it” becomes >>> “I completely understand.”

That extra dose of understanding and personality will do wonders in how your response is perceived, resulting in a better feeling for yourself.

#5 Evaluate

You might want to top up your brew for this next one.

Knockbacks are sometimes – maybe even a big chunk of the time – the best thing for us.

Obviously, I'm not suggesting that you give ANY weight whatsoever to the potential personal reasons behind why you didn't get the job.

(That would be silly!)

But what I AM suggesting is that, of the knockbacks that are most likely to come your way, there’s going to be some sort of truth in there that will help you to become better at the whole process.

This happened to me when I went to my first BIG job interview and I didn't get it – the main reason being because I used the same example in all my answers (and it seemed like I didn't have enough to talk about. )

Was that hard to hear? Definitely. Did I want to make excuses for the feedback by believing that company was expecting too much? Oh yeah.

But after a few tears + pep talks and a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, I realised:

Bloody hell, they were right.

While I went into the interview confidently, I hadn't developed my skills or experience enough to get the job.

In fact, when I was willing to look at the situation with a clear mind, I had to admit that the job wasn't right for me.

If I’d have got that job, I wouldn't have done my Masters degree. I wouldn't have met Tom. And I wouldn't have started this blog.

But what they told me was holding me back.

I got this knockback over the phone and I made damn sure that I asked them for feedback to help me improve. That’s when they gave me the blow, and I said “Thank you very much, I really appreciate you taking the time to give me that feedback and inviting me in for an interview.”

Even if you’ve had all the knockbacks in the world, a new one will still come as a shock to you.

Don’t let the negativity consume you and hold you back from hearing what you need to hear in order to improve.


So how do you handle knockbacks? How do you let them develop you for the future? Do you have any tips for how you’d respond? (And if you have a story about a knockback that changed your life for the better, share that, too!)

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