Job applicants stand in line for interview

Taking No For An Answer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Receiving a rejection email, or not hearing at all, when applying for work can trigger a downward spiral. It feels less and less like there’s any point. But success lies in a few simple tricks to build on the negative experience

A good job application takes work. It often takes time and, if we’ve done it well, we’ve targeted the employer with what they seem to want. And we’ve presented the best of ourselves. So a rejection or, worse, not hearing back at all feels like a slap in the face.

Success, however, lies in being able to do three things. One: Accept the feeling is natural. Two: Focus and build on what makes us strong. Three: Get some swagger.

Don’t Be Crushed

It’s human nature to feel hurt by rejection. According to experts like Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts, it’s a throwback to the Stone Age. Oprah Magazine reports how he describes rejection as “a legacy of our hunter-gatherer past, when we lived in nomadic tribes”. He says it is “an early warning system that alerted us we were in danger of being ‘voted off the island’.”

It’s not personal. Don’t beat yourself up. Psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps was quoted in Good Housekeeping as calling on people suffering rejection to practice ‘self-care’. “Activities like exercising and going for a run, doing yoga or meditating are great ways to get in a balanced place. And if those activities aren’t really your thing, try engaging in anything that makes you feel good and helps you calm down — whether it’s baking, taking a bath, or listening to music.”

 Focus On Our Positives

Once the pain has subsided, think about whether we’d change our approach next time. Guy Winch says we don’t need to blame ourselves entirely. But, he adds, try to “learn what we might need to be mindful of that we hadn’t paid sufficient attention to previously”. Could we have checked our CV matched the role better? Did we check our spelling? Was it really the right job for us?

Take strength from knowing we’ll do better next time. We can’t change the past but the future is within our grasp.

At our ‘7 Signs Training’ for jobseekers, Quids in! asks people to acts like hedgehogs. The idea is most people seek work like foxes hunt food: They’ll go for anything, maybe one time they’ll be lucky. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, know one thing: How to curl up in a ball and avoid capture. Now list everything we’re good at and everything we love doing. Now list all the jobs where we can do both – that’s where success lies.

The hardest part is listing our skills and qualities. We get jobseekers to describe their greatest success and everyone else to list how much that says about them. There’s usually a list of around 20 skills. People leave feeling ten feet tall. Confident and ready to succeed.

Find Some Swagger

It’s hard to let rejection roll over us like water off a duck’s back but these recruiters don’t know us. Why should we care? We’ve looked at whether there are any positives to be gained from dwelling on the push back. Now it’s time to move on. Either the job wasn’t right for us or it’s their loss. Either way, move on. 

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