In today’s tight labor market, applicants may be looking at months of steady rejections before landing a new position. And while discouraging, it’s imperative they learn how to keep it from stunting their job search.
On average, job hunters will receive 6-10 rejections for every 10-15 applications they send out, according to a recent survey of 1,000 job applicants from recruiting platform Joblist. On top of that, more than one in 10 job seekers believed that their resume was never reviewed by a real person, and it’s making it hard for them to remain hopeful.
“Rejection is an inevitable and uncomfortable part of the job search,” says Sarah Doody, CEO of Career Strategy Lab, a career strategy and coaching program. “If you don’t learn how to handle rejection in your job search, you risk losing a lot of time and energy second-guessing yourself as a candidate and trying to understand why you didn’t get hired. Spoiler alert: sometimes you’ll never know.”
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But despite being a relative certainty, getting rejected from a job — regardless of whether an applicant wanted the position or not — could be quite the ego bruise. In fact, Joblist found that the average respondent started losing confidence in themselves after the fifth rejection, and about 64% ended up pivoting on the type of job they were applying for after losing their confidence. As a result, 36% started therapy, 34% stopped job searching altogether and 30% went back to school instead.
When asked why they’d been rejected, 43% of applicants said that there had been too many applicants, 37% because their experience had been in another industry and 36% believed they were under-qualified for the job. However, persistence can pay off: three in four employees report that they are now working at their dream job.
The resilience to push forward comes from knowing how to deal with rejection, according to Doody. She shared how applicants can cope with unfavorable outcomes and her strategies for how they can better position themselves in the future.
What are some of the more common reactions from applicants when they’re rejected?
Most people internalize rejection and let it define and erode their self-worth as a person, in addition to their belief in themselves as a professional. It’s important to not equate your value as a human with a job offer. Of course, we all need a job to earn a salary so we can live our lives. However, it’s imperative that you don’t make generalizations or assumptions based on whether or not you get a job interview or offer. Just because one company isn’t interested in you, doesn’t mean all companies won’t be interested in you.
When faced with rejection, candidates often fixate on trying to get an answer to why they didn’t get an interview or offer and waste energy getting mad at the hiring process. Ultimately, companies aren’t obligated to reveal this. Furthermore, especially in today’s economic climate when we’ve seen talent acquisition and HR teams impacted by layoffs, even if companies could provide candidates with explanations, many simply don’t have the time or personnel to do this.
What should applicants keep in mind when receiving bad news instead?
Candidates should remember that oftentimes hundreds of people apply for a job and only 10 – 15 might be invited to the interview stage, and from those, ultimately only one gets the offer. It’s important to put things in context and look at the realities of how numbers work in the job search. If receiving bad news about their candidacy over the phone, candidates should remain gracious and regulate their emotions so as to not burn bridges with the recruiter or contact at the company because they might be able to leverage those relationships in the not-too-distant future.
For example, a few days after a candidate receives word of rejection, they may want to consider sending a thank you note to their contact at the company and inquiring if there are any other open opportunities they might be a fit for. In some cases, depending on the size of the company, you may want to ask if the recruiter can introduce you to a recruiter in another department depending on the nature of roles you’re looking for.
Is there anything an applicant can do to better their odds when going through the recruitment process?
Candidates need to go beyond telling recruiters and hiring managers about their responsibilities and instead bring the receipts — in other words, provide examples of how they carried out their responsibilities in previous roles. For example, if a teacher was responsible for designing a new curriculum, they should not list “Responsible for curriculum design” on their resume. Instead, they should write a strategic bullet point that provides an example of a time in their career when they designed the actual curriculum and provide context such as what the curriculum was, who it was for and the scope.
How helpful could it be for applicants to interact with recruiters first as opposed to waiting for them to reach out?
First impressions are crucial to help candidates stand out and strategic candidates know that they need to start building their first impression long before the recruiter or hiring manager sees their job application. One way candidates can do this is to post thoughtful content on LinkedIn that demonstrates their expertise, curiosity and experience with their role and industry. In doing so, candidates will increase the chances they’ll become a familiar face to recruiters and hiring managers, so that when they do apply, the recruiter or hiring manager may be more likely to invite them to an interview because the candidate has been demonstrating their skills and experience long before they applied for the job.