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How To Deal With Job Rejection

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Sad FaceWhen I first graduated, the job market was bleak. It was so bleak, I opted to start attending graduate school before ever being accepted (I graduated early in December and wanted to take classes immediately, so I attended while applying). In the few months I did look for a job, I received a whole batch of GFY (go f- yourself) letters from all types of companies. The worst ones were from the companies I didn’t even want to work for, but would accept just to have a job. It wasn’t a pleasant time for me, or my graduating friends, but it taught me a lot about dealing with rejection.

It Really Isn’t Just About You

Much like love, getting a job is about making a good match. You, the candidate, must match the job better than anyone else the company considered. Precision matters here. If you’re not a strong enough candidate, they won’t hire you because you won’t be able to do the job. If you’re too strong a candidate, they won’t try to hire you because you might want too much money or you’ll leave at the first opportunity.

I took the first few rejections personally, especially for those jobs I thought I could land. I knew I was up against the best of the best though, these were the same classmates I competed with for the last four years. I got over it when I went on a site interview with Ford, to their “Leadership Conferece” (that’s just the name they give their on-site interviews). I was peppered with IT related questions I stood no chance of answering. “How do you set up a local area network?” “What’s your experience building server racks?” Computer science is wholly different than IT. I stood no chance of getting a job because they misunderstood what my degree was about! It was obvious then, but on a lot of interviews, it’s not quite so obvious. At least I got a few meals and a nice leather messenger bag of out it (I still use it today!).

Rejection Beats Being Ignored

While being rejected sucks, it beats being ignored by a long shot. There’s a certain monotony to submitting resumes into an online digital drop-box and for nothing to ever come of it. You feel helpless, like throwing stones into the ocean. When you get a letter back telling you that you won’t be a good fit or that the position has been filled, you should learn from it. If you weren’t a good fit, why? Did you not satisfy one of the requirements? Can you take a class or do something to improve your resume and your skillset for next time? If the position has been filled, perhaps there’s a name you can contact to talk about other opportunities you might be a good fit for. An answer, even a negative one, can be the beginning of a dialog that ends well. If nothing else, it’s feedback you can use.

It’s A Numbers Game

Finding a job is a numbers game and in a recession, the percentage of success gets smaller and smaller. You’re trying to hit the bulls-eye on the dart board, the more darts you throw, the better your chances. What that also means is that you’ll be ignored or rejected on every dart, except the last one. The best advice I can give on dealing with this are these three morale-boosting job hunting tips. They served my wife well and I hope they help you, if you’re searching. They help give you progress when it feels like you’ve made none.

Learn From Being Rejected

A common vein throughout all those points is that you should try to learn from the process of rejection. If you are interviewed and told you aren’t the person for the job, elicit feedback. Ask why you aren’t the strongest candidate and use those answers to make yourself a better candidate for next time. The key to winning the job search marathon is to learn from your mistakes, make yourself stronger, and keep working.

Do you have any tips on dealing with being rejected for a job?

(Photo: sarah_azavezza)

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19 Responses to “How To Deal With Job Rejection”

  1. philip says:

    I was lucky and graduated just in time to be in with a great time for hiring so it was fairly easy and just had to choose amongst some offers. However one of the jobs that I wanted most never heard back after an initial on campus interview, it was one position that I was really wanting. A rejection letter or description would have been nice to explain why, I still look at their site and think about reapplying for the positions but dont know why I didn’t get it to begin with.

  2. Aya @ Thrive says:

    I took a class for 2 credits in the last semester of my senior year in college that prep-ed us for job interviewing and such. I remember our professor (who was a part-time consultant) had told us that we should ask employers that rejected us for their feedback.

    Surely some places won’t respond, but many people are willing to give you advice or some points on why they didn’t see you fit for the position. Often times, they’ll respond because they did genuinely consider you, but they might have rejected you for reasons beyond their control.

    So it’s a good way to prepare for the next one by hearing from the other employers you wanted to work for. But don’t press to hard or try to resell yourself entirely, that will just turn them away completely from talking to you.

  3. Miss M says:

    I’m pretty lucky, I’ve only had one rejection letter. It left me feeling really low, but in hindsight it was a blessing. A friend later worked for the company and told nightmarish tales of backstabbing co-workers and incompetent managers. Mr M is experiencing the other phenomenon you mention, complete silence. He sends out resumes and never hears anything back, he is definitely feeling frustrated. I don’t know how to help him, he works in a very different industry (Hollywood movies) and the traditional resume tips don’t apply.

  4. carla says:

    I had 20 rejection letters when I was unemployed for about six months last year. Many of them were from second interviews. I live in a pretty competitive area (San Francisco) so that’s uncommon.

  5. carla says:

    I meant to say “thats NOT uncommon”.

  6. Jess says:

    Great and timely article. I find younger people do not spend enough time networking. They rely too much on the faceless internet. The other interesting part of your article to me is that you really are taking about sales management. And when you think about it, finding a new job is really just a matter of selling something: your skills.
    Good luck.

  7. graphire says:

    Great post. Best line is take rejections as lessons learned.

  8. thomas says:

    It’s only going to get tougher as this economy shakes out. Find a way to excel and rise above the competition.

  9. over the hill says:

    I don’t think there’s much I can do at this point.

    Self-employment appears to be my only option, but without money, even that is doubtful.

  10. Eric N. says:

    I can seriously think of at least 20 people I know who are going through all of this right now. It’s saddening especially since it’s hard to stay positive in an economic disaster like now. Recruiters like saying how new graduates are always in demand but the reality doesn’t seem to match that. Then of course many opt to go to graduate school (for all the WRONG reasons might I add) and end up feeling worse over their situation. I honestly admit that not finding a job ranks as one of my greatest worries lately.

    • jim says:

      Yeah it’s very difficult to keep your head up when you’re looking for a job, especially if you were recently let go.

  11. 3v3n says:

    Good post. I work abroad so I end up interviewing a lot of people (for language review) although I’m not very senior. I’ve learned a huge amount about what happens ‘behind the scenes’ after the candidate leaves the room and your point 1 is totally right — the smartest, most highly qualified applicant isn’t always the person we pick. It depends on personality factors (who would blend well with the other staff), experience on specific tasks (who already knows how to deal with the weird software we use) and it depends on whether we think they are actually interested and excited about working at our foundation(or whether they just want a cool position on their resume so they can job-jump for better pay). It’s also influenced by the personality quirks and needs of the immediate manager (maybe they want a passive workhorse with no creativity — maybe they want someone to replace them at meetings they hate — etc)

    • Jim says:

      That’s great insight, thank you for sharing it. I think that after a certain level of competence and skill fit, the qualitative factors of a candidate come into play. If you want a passive workhorse, then the go-getter isn’t going to get the job even though it appears that the go-getter is a stronger candidate. Sometimes you just have to fit.

  12. marie says:

    Great post! it really made me feel better. thanks!

  13. Neutron says:

    The only chance for employment for a U.S. engineering graduate lies in emigration to some country where engineers are still needed.

  14. Wewon'tbeprocessingyourapplicationanyfurthurthankyouforyourtime says:

    This made me feel better to know that it’s painful for others being rejected and I’m not just being over-sensitive. It’s really tough out there and you have no choice but to grow a thick skin and keep at it, but I’m starting to feel like I need a bloody support group the way I’m feeling lately!

  15. ash says:

    Very informative, I really needed this. Although I don’t feel any better, I did get some insight into what employers think.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ridulous, sometimes it is the way you look or your age, they won’t give that feedback.

  17. dave yang says:

    I was laid off due to bad economy and financial mismanagement at my organization. I am conflicted as to whether I should allow this information to be known, since there is no upside- you either suffer rejection due to prejudice, or you get a “low ball” offer. No matter how open minded an employer might say they are to the “laid off”, I sense prejudice. Do I hire potential employee A, who has a job so is applying for the “right reason”, or employee B who is applying because they are desperate for a job. I say “stretch the truth”. How many employers stretch the truth when presenting their positions or when they are going after contracts ? No, life isn’t fair.


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