A lesson we all have to learn is to cope with the disappointment of not getting a job we had wanted.

I can still remember how I felt in December 1993 when the permanent secretary rang me at home to tell me that I had not been appointed as the chief executive of the NHS in England.

I was honoured to be shortlisted and realised there was a strong field but even so I was very disappointed. It was a job I had wanted to do ever since it was created in 1983 following the Griffiths report. It took me a long time to come to terms with it.

From this and other experiences I have learned to recover faster and more fully from disappointments. I follow a three point plan.

First I remind myself the decision about who to appoint is the panel’s not mine. It is my responsibility to decide whether to apply. It is theirs to decide who to appoint and no agonising on my part will alter that.

Second I make sure I have as few regrets as possible about preparation and performance. As a panel member I have been amazed by the lack of effective preparation of even some very experienced candidates.

Interview preparation is hard work but very straightforward. I have learned to think of the interview as a one person show, to realise I will be the sole attraction on the stage for 45 minutes to an hour and not even the greatest actors would face such an ordeal without a script.

It is possible to work out most of the questions you will be asked and to prepare answers in bullet point form. It is good to rehearse the three reasons for applying for the job, the four reasons you can do the job, the relevance of your previous experience, the main issues you think you will be tackling and your priorities in the first six months.

If you do not get the job it is a great comfort to have as few regrets as possible and to know that you did your best.

The third part of the plan may not be available to you. However, it is important to use it if it is. Think about the successful candidate and be as objective as you can. Can you see why they were appointed instead of you? In 1993 this was a great help to me. I came to understand why Alan Langlands was appointed and to agree he was the stronger candidate. His distinguished record as chief executive also helped me in the years that followed.

If the person appointed does not seem the better candidate that will be hard. I am glad I did not have to deal with that burden.

I also learned another lesson. If you are not successful do not go for the job closest to the one you wanted. Step back and think again. It may be better to do something different. In 1993 I applied for, and was appointed, as director of human resources with the additional responsibility of deputising for Mr Langlands. Although I did this job to the best of my ability in my three years at national level and learned much, it was not the right job for me.

My three point plan has always worked for me.