Getting Past “No” in Job Search
Application in – check. Interview – check. Offer – ‘No.’ Not getting the nod stuns and hurts, and when repeated, can be depressing. All the build-up of how right you were for the job and the company, and how financially relieving that paycheck will be … comes crashing down with that abrupt two-letter word.
The longer your job search has gone on, the more discouraged and desperate you feel with each post-interview ‘No.’ It takes a toll on your emotions and identity (see “Recovering Self-Identity Amidst Long-Term Unemployment”).
I am writing on this topic because how you handle rejection is possibly the most defining aspect of whether your job search ultimately succeeds. Not only does this counselor offer daily pep talks and post-mortem analysis to clients, but also I have lived application and interview rejection hell many times over. Once when vying for an Executive Director position I persevered through seven (7!) rounds of interviews with different combinations of recruiter, board members and staff members (including two meals) over two months. I was sure I had the job on lock, only to be the runner-up (or as the saying goes, first loser).
In the gradations of ‘No,’ the No after a phone screen or in-person selection interview is often the hardest to move past. Then there are the lesser ‘No’s’— not even getting acknowledged by email for having submitted an application or resume.
All job seekers want to get to that ‘Yes’ of a job offer, but how do we keep going when employers keep saying ‘No?’ First, if you can understand possible reasons for ‘No’ then it is often easier to process those emotionally; at that point you can progress to what you might do differently to improve.
Possible Meanings of ‘No’ and Tips to Move On. Here’s a short checklist of a half dozen reasons for ‘No’ in a job search. See if these explanations help you cope with the rejection and strategize a more effective approach next time:
- ‘No’ means “not yet;” true, you did not receive the offer at hand, but job search is a process of indeterminate length with all too many ‘No’s;’ every rejection gets you one step closer to that ‘Yes.’
- ‘No’ triggers “not again…” you take the rejection personally, feel even more down because it reminds you of past losses… while it’s okay to be truthful with yourself about how you feel, be wary of the tendency to take it personally or catastrophize about your life.
- ‘No’ is a given of a flooded job market – there often are many more technically-qualified candidates, or at least one with a better inside connection to the company than you.
- ‘No’ is a reality check – are you trying to morph your experience into somehow qualifying you for jobs that really aren’t a good fit for your background?
- ‘No’ is sparing you a lot of pain – you could have applied for a job that would be a disaster for your personality, or does not meet your needs for a supportive employer culture, or is the wrong career for you. It may take one, or a series of rejections, to realize you’re not in the career you want to be. Or…
- ‘No’ is a wake-up call – you may not be projecting the professional approach and competence they expect in order for you to stand out as a candidate. Use that rejection as a motivating lesson on what not to do; and, through trial-and-error and feedback, develop a strategy that proves more effective.
Using Job Rejection to Make Yourself Stronger. Whatever the reason for ‘No’ it is possible to transform those negative feelings that follow ‘No’ into positive life lessons you can use to boost your job search success beyond what you ever thought was possible.
And, it’s a good idea to not wander in this rejection maze alone for too long. Search out a career counselor to help you regroup, shift up your strategy, and hopefully shorten your path to get to ‘Yes’ — the job you have been waiting for.