Coping with rejection after job interviews

By Samar Mahmoud, PhD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published April 19, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • After up to 15 years of training, physicians are eager to find their dream job after residency. 

  • Rejections are disappointing, but physicians can use them as learning opportunities.

  • Physicians can work locum tenens jobs to experiment with patient settings, work schedules, and practice sizes.

Completion of residency and finding a job is the light at the end of the tunnel for physicians.

After spending 7 to 15 years in training and racking up significant student debt, they are more than ready to start a new chapter filled with more freedom and a significantly better income.

But what happens when your post-residency plans go awry?

How can physicians cope with rejection after job interviews?

Coping with rejection after interviews

Job interviews can be daunting, but there are ways to prepare. Revamp your resume, highlighting the many skills you’ve gained during training, and work on your interview skills.[]

Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, you don't get the job. When you find out you were passed over, feelings of disappointment and inadequacy naturally set in. For physicians, who’ve faced staunch competition to get into medical school and then residency programs, this is often their first taste of failure.

It’s imperative to move past this rejection by taking the following actionable steps:

  • Get in touch with your mentor(s) to get advice on improving your future candidacy.

  • Request feedback from the decision-maker (selection committee chair, recruiter) in the job selection process to determine if there were any issues in your application or interview.

  • Reflect on the interview process. Ask yourself if there are any aspects you can improve on. There’s always room for improvement; turn rejection into a learning opportunity.

  • Consider hiring an executive coach to help you work on interpersonal skills and building rapport.

Have a backup plan

If you find yourself stuck after residency, without an appealing job prospect, working locum tenens may be a good option.

Locum tenens jobs can be attractive to new physicians, allowing them to experiment with various patient settings, work schedules, practice sizes, and rural and urban settings.

This can give physicians fresh out of residency the opportunity to hone in on what they desire in a first job before making a lengthy commitment that can result in burnout and depression.

After residency, Colin Zhu, DO, made the decision to start his career by taking on locum tenens positions. He noted in a CompHealth article, “I felt like I was able to figure out what type of healthcare professional I needed to be. You don’t really know what fits for you until you find something that works.”[]

"You don’t know until you go out and try."

Colin Zhu, DO

Ensure post-residency job security

Here is some guidance on how to increase your chances of landing your dream job after residency.[]

Start early

Begin your job search 2 years before completing training. While 2 years may seem excessive, starting early allows you to explore your options without feeling the added pressure of a time crunch.

Use your network

Having a strong network of colleagues, peers, and other healthcare professionals is critical to helping you find your first post-residency job. Start building your network at the beginning of residency or even earlier. Someone in your network may refer you to a job or have a good relationship with a recruiter who can help you land one.

Reflect on the type of work setting you desire

Before applying for jobs, decide on the type of setting and location you desire. Take into consideration your priorities and where you see yourself in the future.

Apply to jobs once you’ve researched your ideal setting, location, and desired salary range.

How has the pandemic affected the job market

While you can do everything “right” when applying for your first job, there are often factors outside your control. For instance, an external factor that can play a role in medical work opportunities is the ebb and flow of the physician job market.

With patients avoiding going to hospitals and doctors’ offices during the COVID-19 pandemic, the physician job market has understandably taken a hit.[] For example, healthcare staffing firm Merritt Hawkins saw physician recruiting requests drop by 30% in the height of the pandemic—the largest drop in the company’s 33-year history.

While the pandemic negatively affected the physician job market, certain specialties, such as emergency medicine, have been hit particularly hard. Many emergency departments have cut staff to minimize expenses, and the majority have reduced physician hours.

In the past, emergency medicine residents had their pick of opportunities upon completing residency. But they struggled to find jobs during the pandemic, instead taking on temporary work opportunities or finding jobs in remote locations away from family and friends.

What this means for you

Rejection after interviews can be disheartening for physicians trying to find a job post-residency. In the wake of a rejection, physicians should consider reaching out to mentors and reflecting on the interview process. To ensure success in finding a job, start looking for opportunities early on in residency, and take advantage of your network. Take the time, too, to reflect on the work setting you desire.

Related: Post-residency job interviews: Plan and dress for success

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