One of the most difficult parts of the job or internship search is being rejected by a company because, honestly, who enjoys being told no? Whether your resume is thrown aside, you don’t get the call for the second interview, or you don’t get hired for your dream job, rejection at any stage is a challenge. There’s an old job search saying that goes this…you apply for 100 jobs to get 10 interviews for 1 offer. So, 99 rejections for one offer over the course of your search. The good news is you only need one "yes."
Unfortunately, rejection is a substantial part of the job search process. From each “no” you receive, you learn more about what you are looking for in a position, the type of company for which you want to work, and how to better market your skills and experiences. When faced with rejection, it is important to reflect, react, regain, and redirect in order to find your perfect match.
- Reflect on your experience: What was it that made you feel so excited about that particular company or position? Was it name recognition? Was it a specific aspect of the role? Or was it simply the first position for which you had applied? The first step after hearing that “no” is to reflect on your entire experience. Reflecting on your experience will help you better prepare for the next application or interview. Some of the most common reasons for rejection at any stage in the process include:
a. Tailoring application materials: Did you tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific position and company for which you were applying? The employer should be able to see why you are interested in that position and company, not just “a position” at “any company.” Not tailoring your materials is a quick way to be excluded from the applicant pool.
b. Interview responses: You got the interview, but the employer couldn’t get a good sense of who you are through your responses or it was clear you didn’t do your research. Remember to be specific in your responses and use the STAR method for those behavioral based questions. See our Career Guide for more advice on interviewing.
c. Fit: Maybe you nailed the application, said all of the right things in the interview, and still didn’t get the position. Fit has become increasingly important in job searches for both employers and job seekers. You may be technically prepared for the job, but if you don’t fit the company culture, it is unlikely that you will stick around for long or be content in your role.
d. Strong candidate pool: It might not be you at all. The employer may have seen an exceptionally strong applicant pool, and while they would love to hire multiple people, they may only have positions available for a select few. Keep in mind that a no now does not mean a no forever.
- React: It is easy to fall into a cycle of self-pity when dealing with rejection. It is ok to be disappointed, but don’t let those feelings consume you and inhibit your search. The first thing to do after hearing “no” is to send a thank you e-mail to the employer. You may be thinking, send a thank you to the person that just rejected me? That sounds crazy! Remember, a no now does not mean a no forever. Sending a thank you allows you to show that you are still interested in the company and you appreciate the time they took to review your application or interview you. This may open other doors for you in the company in the future, or they may be able to refer you for another position at a different company. Showing professionalism and gratitude after rejection is great for networking. This follow-up e-mail also allows you to ask for feedback from the employer. What could have helped your application stand apart from the crowd? What led them to choose another candidate over you? This valuable insight from an employer can help you successfully land that next position.
- Regain: The job search can often feel like you’re running a marathon. It is ok to take a break to regain your energy and drive. Treat job searching like a full-time job. Set aside specific times to work on your applications, and use the rest of your time for yourself. Remember to do the things you love that give you energy and help you regain focus.
- Redirect: After reflecting on your experience, reacting positively, and regaining focus, it is time to redirect your focus to the next application or interview. Focus on your strengths and what makes you uniquely qualified for each position. Use the feedback you gained and what you have learned about yourself through the process to find the position that is the perfect fit for you.
It is difficult not to compare yourself to others during the job search, but remember that everyone’s search is different. The number of no’s you get from companies does not determine your value or worth. And remember, you only need one perfect match to get started in a career that you love.