Rejection is Part of Job Hunting - Deal With It

By Martin Ellis

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Rejection is part of job hunting.

Think about it: If I involve 60 candidates in a headhunt, eventually 59 are going to be rejected. It's a mathematical likelihood you will be in a position to be disappointed more times than not - DON'T BE!!!

Common Reasons for Candidate Rejection

There are many reasons you may not be selected - some of them are awful:

  • The employing manager is a twonk and wouldn't recognise a good thing if it poked them in the eye.
  • They wanted to make an internal appointment and needed to show they had looked outside to keep HR off their back.
  • They changed their mind about making any appointment. This week's strategy is different to last week's strategy - and it will be different again next week. This company will not last much longer.
  • Back at the employing company, they're arguing amongst themselves about the best candidate. The easiest decision is to make no decision (despite the fact it's the worst decision)

None of these are the candidate's fault. If you think I'm being ridiculous with these examples, I have seen each of these happen.

Some reasons for rejection are more sensible, but still not the candidate's fault:

  • Another candidate simply has skills and experience more suited to this specific role.
  • Your face doesn't fit: Part of the employment-making decision is that a candidate will be a fit the organisation's culture. The employer has to make a judgement about this. In another organisation, the decision could be quite different.
  • The decision is tight and they can't choose between the last two or three candidates (this one is quite common). The candidates are not the same. Each brings different benefits. At the end of the day, somebody has to make a choice. They'll never know if it was the right one.

Sometimes candidate rejection is appallingly handled - or worse - not handled at all.

Many jobs these days get hundreds of applications, and just getting to interview is a considerable success. On these occasions I'm afraid it's more common than not that the recruiter or HR simply don't get back to the applicants at all. Having sent off their CV, the applicant hears nothing. This is wrong and not the candidate's fault. Even if they're totally unsuited to the role, they should get the courtesy of an acknowledgement. Modern technology enables this to happen automatically. In this example, the recruiter (or HR) should confess and be shot at dawn.

Candidates Are Often Also At Fault

However, there are occasions when the candidate is at fault and they could do some simple things to improve their chances, rather than moan that they're being hard done by. If a candidate is making no progress at all, they're likely to be doing something wrong. Here are the most common mistakes in my experience:

  • A long and rambling CV that bores the reader to death. Anything longer than 3 pages is unnecessary and tells me that the candidate can't separate important fact from dull detail.
  • A CV that's not been checked for punctuation and spelling. This is very common and unnecessary - and check you're using the spell-check in the right language.
  • An application for which the candidate has totally unsuitable/inadequate skills or experience. On the few occasions I advertise roles, more than half the applicants are not even close - they are simply desperate, and I'm afraid they're letting it show (but they will still get a brief email from me in every case)
  • A lazy telephone manner. Anybody who answers my call with "Yeah?" is unlikely to go any further. An enthusiastic, "Hello, this is Fred Smith" will GUARANTEE the conversation will last a little longer.
  • Turning up for an interview having not made a conscious effort about their appearance. It's just plain lazy, but I'm afraid more common than it should be. Polish your shoes. Don't drag scraps of paper out of a 'Sainsbury's' plastic bag.

So there are many simple and sensible actions that candidates can take to improve their chances, but overall, the odds are not stacked in their favour where there are 60 candidates for every vacancy. Many recruiters and HR have a whole heap of things to be sorry for in the way they handle the recruitment process, and those poor souls at the mucky end shouldn't see it as their fault.

Life's tough enough without having to feel responsible for HR's shortcoming - and there lies a very miserable existence...


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