Job seekers are often unprepared for rejection during the job search. For example, many job hunters get very upset when organizations don’t respond to their resumes and phone calls. Job seekers become dejected when potential employers suddenly stop communicating with them. They are surprised when employers who seemed interested during job interviews don't extend job offers.
Well, rejection is part of the job search process. So rather than get disappointed, distraught,
Is that your resume in the employer's shredder?
Here's how to cope with job search rejection.
Two Types of Job Search Rejection
During the job search, you face two main types of rejection. The first kind is direct rejection, when a potential employer says, “We’ve hired someone else,” “You didn’t match our needs,” or something similarly deflating. In the past, employers would send letters to this effect to rejected applicants. Today, employers rarely send letters or emails notifying you of your status. Outright rejection from employers is less common today than it was in the past. I recall applying for jobs and receiving letters in response that said, “Thank you for your resume. Unfortunately your qualifications do not meet our current needs. We will keep your information on file for possible future consideration.” Of course I never heard from the companies again.
The second rejection type is what I call passive rejection, and it’s the kind of rejection most job seekers encounter in today’s job hunt. Passive rejection is when you apply for jobs and hear nothing back. You may have completed a lengthy and even intrusive online job application, uploaded your resume, taken time-consuming online hiring tests, submitted references and other information, and then heard nothing. Passive rejection also occurs when you actually interact with a potential employer somehow—perhaps by email, by phone, by Skype, or in a job interview--and then never hear from the employer again. This behavior by employers seems rude to most job hunters.
With passive rejection, employers either don’t have the resources or don’t feel it’s worth the resources to tell a candidate where he or she stands. I’ve sat in the employer’s chair, and I know many applicants aren’t qualified for the jobs they are seeking or submit weak cover letters and resumes. So, do employers take the time to respond to such applicants? Perhaps some employers fear the potential liability of giving specific feedback. Other employers may want to avoid job seekers’ pleas or ire. So you may be waiting and waiting and waiting for a follow-up call on a job when in fact the employer has already decided you’re not the one to hire. Perhaps you have left a voicemail with the employer to check on the hiring decision status, and the employer never calls back. Regardless, you’ve been rejected passively by the employer, often long before you realize it.
Rejection, of course, is part of life. You know this if you’ve been involved in selling a house, asking someone for a date, proposing a seemingly great idea, making a business sale, applying for college, or trying out for a team. Rejection can sting, and job search rejection can really hurt. If you are introverted or shy, rejection can make you crawl deeper into your shell. But there are ways to cope.
Coping with Job Search Rejection in 5 Steps
Here are five steps for coping with job search rejection.
- Expect it. Rejection catches job seekers off guard. Just as you prepare for your job search by doing your resume, you must also prepare for and expect rejection during the job hunt process.
- Accept it and don’t take rejection personally. When I’ve been turned down for a job, I shrug it off. Perhaps the employer found someone with the stronger skills, experience, education, or training. Maybe the company hired someone it knew or decided to make an internal promotion. Maybe the organization felt I was overqualified. I probably will never know why I didn’t get the job, but I conclude that it wasn’t the right opportunity for me after all. But I also know the right opportunity will come. So I have refused to internalize the rejection or take it personally. The more I shrug it off, the less future rejection affects me in the job search and the more quickly and easily I can move on.
- Keep going. You must always keep going despite rejection in your job hunt. Otherwise this formidable foe will deplete your energy and enthusiasm. Vow to always stay positive and persistent in your job hunt. The next opportunity may be the right one.
- Conduct an active job search. Two proven ways to get hired more quickly are to reach out to employers before they advertise jobs and to network with people who can help you get hired. In the first instance, be on the lookout for employers who are growing and who may be hiring people with your skills. If you can contact them before they need to advertise, which they don’t like to do, you are the sole person in the hiring line and will face less rejection than if you are part of an applicant tsunami. In the second case, employers like to hire people who are referred to them and people they know. If you can get a reference or an inside contact at a hiring company, your chances of getting a job improve. So just don’t sit at the computer and apply for jobs. Get active, and your job search rejection will lessen.
- Examine your approach. When you get rejected for a job, whether directly or passively, take a few minutes to honestly assess your approach. Did you apply for the job because it was advertised, without truly examining whether you had the right skills for it? Did you use the same resume you use for every job, without trying to tailor it to the opening? Did you answer online application questions without much thought? How did you come across in phone calls or job interviews? If you find any areas for improvement, be sure to address them.