Jilted exes are notorious for a few post-breakup reactions: sobbing for hours on end, shredding pictures, spitefully spilling secrets and rumors about their ex, and swearing off the dating game entirely.
Many people respond to job-search rejection in much the same way. Whether they’re ripping rejection letters into teeny tiny pieces, vowing never to aim higher again, or insulting a company that didn’t want them, jobseekers can share a lot of similarities with heartbroken singles.
According to Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career (JIST, 2008), many of the ways people should – and shouldn’t – behave in the dating game can be applied in the conduct of a savvy job search. Rebounding from rejection is no different.
"During your job search, rejection is practically inevitable," warns Graham. "In this situation, the last thing you want to do is beg for another chance, lash out and tell the recruiter he or she is making a big mistake, or promise that you can change. This strategy doesn’t work when you get dumped by someone you’re dating, and it definitely won’t work when you’re rejected by an employer."
Don’t Take It Personally
A rejection can immediately spark feelings of self-blame. Questions such as, What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they think I’m good enough for the job? or Was it something I said? may be just a few of the things going through jobseekers’ minds as they try to make sense of the situation.
It’s worth remembering that, just like the dating game, sometimes not landing a job offer really has nothing at all to do with the candidate.
For example, a jobseeker may have been stellar throughout each round of interviews and made a lasting impression on hiring managers. Because the organization pressured the manager to promote an internal employee, however, the stellar jobseeker was not offered a position.
"Any number of factors, including some that were in your control and some that weren’t, could have played into the company’s decision to pass you over in favor of somebody else," Graham reminds us.
Sometimes, however, you know there must be something you’re doing wrong – like if you had a dozen first-round interviews and not a single call back. To find out what the problem is, jobseekers should gather feedback from the organizations that rejected them. It will take some courage to ask and you don’t want to sound too pushy, but it’s the best shot you have at understanding how to make yourself more successful.
"The best way to ask for feedback is to distance yourself from the position for which you were turned down," advises Graham. "Focus on the fact that you would like general feedback about how you can improve your candidacy for future opportunities.
"When gathering feedback, sending an email is often more effective than calling first because it allows the person you’re contacting to gather his or her thoughts before speaking with you over the phone."
It should come as no surprise that many employers will be reluctant to disclose information about the interview performance. Everything from privacy policies and possible lawsuits, to time constraints and fear of a confrontation could keep jobseekers in the dark about where they went wrong.
"But it doesn’t hurt to try," Graham insists.
Being rejected is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be a heart-wrenching experience either. To cope with distressing times in the job search, it’s helpful to have a built-in support system made up of friends, family members, and a mentor or career coach. These people can provide the timely advice, encouragement and additional perspective jobseekers need to fuel their job search with positive energy.
"Remember, just as in the world of dating, there are always other fish in the sea," counsels Graham. "If things don’t work out with one job, there are definitely going to be other opportunities. The more you’re able to stay positive and gather feedback from those who didn’t make you an offer, the greater your chances of landing a job."