The job seemed perfect. The interviews went well. The people were nice. Even the commute was OK. But, they hired someone else. AARGH! For most job seekers, rejection happens far too often. Since we aren’t accustomed to frequent rejections, it can be very discouraging.
In a recent exchange of comments on 15 Things I Look for When I Interview People for a Job, one job seeker made this comment:
I have gotten compliments on my CV, provided a portfolio of my work, smiled, and was naturally myself. The interviewer responses were always quick when emailed questions. I thought I did well but I was shot down. It is funny that you think you do most of the right things, but they may be all wrong.
Certainly, we can all probably find ways to improve, but don’t assume – because you didn’t land a job you really wanted – that you are also a failure and will never find a new job.
PLEASE do NOT see rejections as proof that you are “all wrong”
Don’t let any job rejection destroy your confidence. You may not be perfect – but who is?
In fact, this job seeker may have done very well, but was aced out because someone else had a friend inside the company who referred them (the candidate almost always preferred by an employer) or someone else had a fabulous reference or excellent “chemistry” with the boss. Or any of thousands of other things – ALL having NOTHING to do with him!
After my second layoff, one of the outplacement counselors handed out a sheet of paper with “No.” printed on it 100 times, like this:
No. No. No. No. No.
No. No. No. No. No.
No. No. No. No. No.
The instructions at the top of the page said -
There are 100 Nos on this page. Every time you get rejected or ignored,
cross off a No. Before you reach 100, you will have gotten the YES that
means you have a job offer.
Each “No” brings you closer to that YES – the job you’ve been waiting for.
A friend, also laid off at the same time (and a recruiter, no less), kept that page posted on her refrigerator, and she did cross off one No for every rejection she received. She filled several lines before she landed her job.
Sometimes a “No” isn’t really the end.
I remember when I was trying so hard to get into the company that laid me off 13 years later. I was interviewing for every job there I could find, often referred by a classmate’s kind and patient husband who already worked at this company (highly recommended method of connecting with a job!).
In literally the same mail delivery that contained the offer letter that started my career at that company, there was a rejection letter from the recruiter for a different part of that company. So I was accepted and rejected in the same mail by the same company! And, that rejection letter wasn’t the first one I received from the company, either!
Naturally, I accepted the acceptance and happily went on to work there for 13 mostly fun years.
In “Why NO Isn’t Always the End of a Job Search Story,” Ronnie Ann tells the stories of two people who succeeded spectacularly at employers which originally rejected them. Read it, and be inspired or, at least, encouraged!
What to do when you get that “No.”
As I advised the job seeker who wrote the very discouraged comment at the top of this post:
Yes, you didn’t get the job. However, try not to think of it as being “shot down.” And, if you like this employer, don’t give up yet!
There are SO incredibly many variables involved in the process that it’s better to think of it as bad luck or a bad match.
Look at it this way – someone with a better connection inside the company or a better response to a key interview question or exactly the right timing in the process (first interviewed or last interviewed or interviewed by the person who ended up as the key decision makers) or who-knows-what got the job. A better job is waiting for you.
NOW, do these 2 things:
1.) Send them a thank you note.
For NOT hiring you? Yes! IF you still might want to work for them some day.
Thank them for the opportunity to learn more about them and the organization. Ask them to keep you in mind for the “next time” they have a job open and to stay in touch.
2.) Ask them for feedback.
Do they see anything you do to improve and become a more viable candidate? If they respond, you could learn a lot from the process.
Meanwhile, look back over the process yourself, and see what you might learn from it. What do you think you could improve? Avoid this kind of employer? Add more achievements to your CV? Develop better answers to the why-should-we-hire-you question? Follow up more quickly or differently? Or do more pre-interview research? Consider questions would you ask next time that you didn’t ask this time?
It may sound crazy, but the thank-you-for-not-hiring-me works! IF the person who accepted the offer ends up going instead to another employer or they don’t work out, the next person on the “almost-but-not-quite” list may get an offer. You may be at the top of that list if you sent a good follow-up to the rejection letter.
And, while it is not often that someone will share feedback with a rejected applicant, if you feel you have “connected” with one of the employees, see if you can get an idea of what you did well and what you might have done better. Truly, do seek feedback – don’t try to convince them that they should hire you instead. If you can get feedback, it is golden for you! None of us really sees ourselves as others see us, and this is a chance to see how the “other side” viewed you, your resume, LinkedIn Profile, interview answers, etc.
There are probably things you could have done better, since no one is perfect and we all improve with practice (hopefully!). But try to think of every rejection as bringing you one step closer to that better job that is waiting for you, just around the corner.
Good luck with your job search!
More on Recovering from Job Search Rejection
© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.