Job search is largely a numbers game. The US Department of Labor has made it official. Statistics show that you may face tough competition and rejection during the job search. But your goal is to beat the numbers and find a new or better job.
You probably aren’t going to get every job you want, according to the economists. Most coaches would say it’s how you handle rejection that will determine your eventual success.
Rejection is possible at multiple times during the job search. First, most jobseekers encounter rejection in the application process. Whether you get a formal rejection letter or email — or don’t receive any response at all — this is the most common stage of the job search to experience rejection. Fortunately, however, you likely haven’t invested much time, money, or effort in a specific job opportunity at this point.
It’s also common to be rejected after a job interview. If you interview for a job opportunity and are not selected, feelings of being rejected are common.
With the average job search taking up to five months, experiencing rejection along the way is not uncommon. So, here are some tips to overcome job search rejection:
- Don’t take rejection personally,
- Learn from the experience,
- Don’t set yourself up for rejection, and
- Prepare for your next interview.
Of course, your results will vary. A few of us have highly prized skills so we receive multiple offers right away. The rest of us will have to work at it to get results.
Don’t take rejection personally.
Hundreds of jobseekers may have applied alongside you for the same job. Back in 1994, according to one source, about 50 people responded to each “help wanted” advertisement. Research reported in an April 2013 Forbes magazine article estimated there were 118 applicants for each opening. And in 2020, nearly 300 applicants commonly applied online for some jobs according to some sources.
Even if you’re selected to interview, you’re likely facing other well-qualified candidates. Maybe someone had more experience than you did. Perhaps there was a favored internal candidate, and the application and interview process were a formality. None of that has to do with you or your skills, education, or experience.
The sooner you realize that you’re not going to be a fit for every role, the sooner you can move on from rejection and move forward with your job search.
Learn from the experience.
Conduct a review (sometimes called a “post-mortem”) on your job interview. Specifically, ask yourself whether there was anything you could have done better to prepare. Were there any questions you were asked that you weren’t prepared to answer?
Also, did your qualifications match up with the job opportunity? If you interviewed, there was a fit, at least on paper. But how close of a fit was it? Or, did the interview raise any opportunities for you to improve? Are there specific skills, courses, certifications, or other training that you can complete to be better prepared for your next role?
If you’re not offered the job, it’s fine to reach out to the interviewer and ask for feedback about why they selected another candidate. You might not get a response — but if you do, it can be very helpful to receive reassurance that you were a strong candidate, but there was another candidate who was just a better fit for that specific role. Or maybe you were missing a critical skill — but now you know what that is.
Also take a moment to reflect on your previous successes. How have you been successful in getting previous job opportunities? If you got your most recent job because one of your networking contacts put in a good word for you, think about how you can incorporate that into your current job search. Also, consider that applicants who are referred to the position by a current employee receive an interview approximately half the time, with 20% of employee referrals resulting in a job offer. (Zippia.com puts your chances of landing work through an employee referral even higher based on 2022 data.) In short, do more of what worked for you before.
Don’t set yourself up for rejection.
Your mindset and attitude play a big part in your job search success. Counting yourself out before you even apply for a position is common, especially if you’ve experienced rejection previously. You may convince yourself that you will not be considered before you apply.
This kind of “negative self-talk” may mean that you don’t end up applying at all if you talk yourself out of it. Looking at a job posting and thinking to yourself “I’m overqualified” or “I’m underqualified” is an example of this type of anticipatory rejection. If you don’t apply, they’ll never reject you, right? But you might also miss out on a great opportunity — or even the opportunity to get to practice your job interview skills.
Prepare for your next interview.
One of the best things you can do to overcome the sting of rejection is to keep moving forward in your job search. Don’t dwell on the job or jobs you don’t get — instead, see every “no” as getting you closer to your next “yes.” This isn’t always easy, but spending time “doing” instead of “thinking” is not only going to help get you closer to your job search goal, but it will help you develop a more positive attitude. After all, dwelling on the rejection isn’t going to change anything. Getting interviews for other opportunities can.
Although it seems counterintuitive, one of the best ways to overcome rejection is to apply for more positions. While it seems like you’re inviting even more rejection to come your way, the job search is a numbers game in many respects. Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that — on average — half of job candidates will receive at least one interview request after submitting at least 10 applications. So, while you are increasing the potential for rejection in the short term, you are increasing the chances of getting a job interview — and possible job offer — in the long term.
To increase your chances of being hired, apply to 10-15 positions per week while also following up on previous applications. Remind yourself that most job applicants receive more rejections than job offers. Rejection is part of the job search, but your ability to overcome it is critical to your eventual success in the job search. In other words, this is one way to beat the numbers and land a new job!