Posted on 21st January 2021 by Jon Terry

Handling Rejection

Handling Rejection

Unless you are very lucky, or a genuinely amazing interviewee, the chances are that at some stage during a job hunt you may get the “Thanks but no thanks” message.

It might come early when all you’ve done is send your CV or it might come right at the end when you’ve been through 2-3 stage interviews. Given current market conditions you might find that you are unlucky enough to get it a lot and without a doubt that constant rejection can get on top of you as a job seeker and start to affect you.

So what advice do we have for the job seeker about handling rejection?

Add a sense of perspective.

It is most likely that you weren’t the only person who didn’t get the job so remember first and foremost that this was not a personal slight on you and you alone. Other people got a similar message and the reality is that only 1 person got something other than that. So don’t take it personally.

Take a breath and think.

Go back to the advert and have a look at what it was they were looking for. It is easy to believe that we are always the best possible candidate but recap on the advert and have a 2nd look. Is it possible that actually you weren’t as perfect as you thought? You might even have thought “this is a bit of a long shot” when you hit the apply button so should you be that concerned if you didn’t actually get an interview or the job?

And whilst you are having that breather do reflect on whether the job was actually perfect for you. The interview process can sometimes mislead you.

You probably went in to the process looking for the perfect job but there is a chance that at some stage your competitive psyche kicked in and actually you have been focusing on trying to ‘win’ the process rather than get the job. As we ask for people’s feedback throughout the recruitment process we see how people go from having some niggles and doubts about hours of work, location, or management style to being desperate to be the winning candidate.

So as you recap ask yourself whether NOT being offered the role means that you don’t now have to accept the less than perfect job. Maybe they have done you a favour.

Be realistic.

If you have ever interviewed or recruited can you ever remember a time when you actively set out to recruit anything other than the best candidate available. The recruiter this time out has surely done exactly the same so perhaps rather than this being a slight on your application there may just have been better options for them. You may have been very very good but someone was better.

Play the long game. 

We would urge you to fight the temptation to throw your toys out of the pram and blame recruiter/interviewer.

As a recruiters of many years’ experience we can tell you that jobs are not always a “done deal” when an offer is made or even when a starter starts. Counter offers, 2nd thoughts, lack of references, failed DBS checks, problems with RTW and even failed probationary periods can all mean that the job need not necessarily be gone. So taking to Social Media and LinkedIn to rant about how shocking the interview process was and how disappointed you were by the incompetence of the interviewers can feel cathartic but perhaps not the best approach when you never know if they are going to call you in a week or month or year because they really liked you and can now offer you the job.

Much better instead to send an email thanking them for their time, commenting positively about your experience (if appropriate) and asking them if they will keep you in mind for other opportunities. Maybe even a LinkedIn invitation would be appropriate if this is someone you have met 2 or 3 times and have established a good relationship with. The interviewer may have thought you were brilliant just not for the role in question…. They may be moving on to a new role and company in a few months and remember you as the perfect individual for a job in their new role.

Ask for feedback.

The further you have progressed through the recruitment process the more feedback you should expect to get.

If you’ve just had a “thanks but no thanks” email in response to your CV or application can you really expect much more? Perhaps a quick understanding of what was missing would be useful and if done appropriately and promptly recruiters objections can sometimes be overcome.

We can think of a number of occasions where an individual has had that email from us, rung or emailed us to ask why we have rejected them, responded politely and professionally to any “concerns” and highlighted why we were wrong to do so. There have been times where that individual has become the highly recommended candidate or has agreed that we might be right but is actually a fabulous option for a different role. The key is to be reasonable and professional here though. Ringing/writing to tell the recruiter what an idiot they have been whilst sighing and rolling your eyes is not always the best way to approach this.

If the feedback is coming later in the process then bear in mind that whilst it is reasonable to expect more detailed and useful feedback you might be less able to persuade them they were wrong. So the approach here should be less about trying to get them to change their mind but rather leaving a positive impression about you and looking to establish yourself as the first person to come back to if things don’t go right or if another opportunity becomes available. Consider that to be your aim rather than the satisfaction of lambasting the individual for their poor choice, incompetent interviewing skills and leaving them relieved that they didn’t actually offer you the job.

Do something with the feedback.

Is there much point in asking for the feedback if all you are going to do is disagree with it?

If it is something to do with experience that you haven’t got (e.g. “You haven’t worked in the Legal Sector”) there is probably not much you can but if it is something like “You only referred to your most recent role when giving examples” or “we weren’t sure you actually wanted the job” or “you kept talking about we and we wanted to know what you did” then take it and think about how you might have done better and remember it for the next interview.

Share it with someone you know and trust and ask them if they think it might be true? How useful might it be to know that even a trusted friend or colleague thinks you have a tendency to look bored when mulling over an answer? Or that you can sometimes be a bit aloof with people you don’t know that well?

And the more you know about yourself, the more you know about your interview weaknesses the better able you will be to shine next time out. 

Don’t let it get under your skin, take it with a pinch of salt and trust yourself. 

Remember that almost everyone hates giving feedback. Normal people are nervous about causing offence and in an increasingly litigious world people are wary of giving away anything that might be construed as prejudiced. As a result feedback is often deliberately bland and safe. 

Added to which in a market place awash with good quality applicants the feedback is sometimes pure nitpicking.  

Yes they are telling you that you could have answered a specific competency based question a little better or that you didn’t score quite as highly as others or your experience didn’t quite match up but might it be that you were really good? Might it be that you were practically as good as the Individual who did get the job and only really missed out because you didn’t quite gel quite as well? Might it be that if you had interviewed at 8.30am rather than 4.30pm you might have been luckier and got the interviewer before they had a disappointing work related email that put them off their game slightly? Might it be that all you lacked was a touch of luck? 

With all that in mind don’t go changing a practically perfect interview technique over a tiny issue that might only have been passed on to you because the interviewer didn’t feel confident saying “there was practically no difference between you and the other individual but they live 20 minutes closer to the office and we’re worried that the commute might be a bit much for you”. 

Better to listen to the feedback, see if it rings true, reflect on whether it needs addressing before the next interview and if it doesn’t… don’t let it worry you! Keep the faith. 

And how can we help?

Wright solutions is a "proper" recruitment consultancy!  

Diana and I have been working in our field for 20+ years. We honestly know our stuff and are keen to share our experience and networks to make sure we are helping both employer and candidate to find the right role.  

There isn't much we haven't seen or experienced and if you want to talk to us about current circumstance or particular feedback that you are struggling to understand do get in touch with us. 

Jon Terry

By Jon Terry

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