How turn a job rejection to your advantage!
By Daryl Keeley
Follow me in Twitter as HRCoach
Have you ever been left with a job rejection and not known why? I think it was Snoopy who once said that there are no bad experiences, only learning experiences – and so it is for handling a rejection from a possible employer.
From the initial application
To minimize rejection, you first need to ensure that you are targeting the right level and type of role. Sure, in this market place there is a chronic shortage of skilled staff – but that does not necessarily mean that employers will drop their expectations – it usually means that they will wait longer for the right person to show up. Targeting the right level from the start will ensure that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment.
Many job adverts are left vague to encourage as many candidates as possible to apply. To ensure that you have the best chance of success with these we suggest you contact the employer or agency and ask for their key criteria so that you can ensure that the data that you submit answers them.
The average hiring person takes only 10 seconds to decide if
they would like to progress your application or reject you!
Take the point of view in your application that the first person looking at your resume most likely is not a technical person – usually they are a HR person handed a job description from a line manager or employer – of which they have very little understanding. This means that you need to spell out very clearly how you meet the selection criteria – by using the EXACT keywords in the essential and advantageous required skills listed in the advert.
Being rejected after the application letter has been sent…
The most common rejections of people at this round are:
Bad grammar and spelling in their resume.
Gaps in their resume
Not answering the selection criteria clearly
They are not located locally and have given no indication of when they would arrive.
Their “Ideal job description” listed in their resumes is not the job they are targeting.
Wrong visa status
Over or under-qualified for the role.
The client has filled the role or cancelled it.
Contacting employers at this stage will usually end in a vague reference to "technically not strong enough but please apply again in the future”. What you need to do is to ask for specifics. To do this ask “what skills were you specifically looking for?” and allow them to be very candid with you by asking “Could you see any specific areas that I could improve on?”
Sometimes employers will contact you by phone, in doing so may get your answering message and judge your communication skills on that call – or if you take the call - your first 5 seconds. Many employers don’t even leave a message or say who they are if they are unhappy with your communication skills. So ensure that your answering message is professional. Play it safe and answer your phone professionally during your job hunting phase - And don’t have unprofessional email addresses!
Being rejected after the interview
Unfortunately a well structured interview is not the norm. This leads to a lot of useful data not being found out in an interview. Your own stress at the time can lead to answering a question incorrectly by not thinking the question through – and decisions are made on these impressions.
“Not a good cultural match” is a common answer to the interviewer not getting a “good feel” or gelling with the candidate. This does not mean that you're no good for the role – it means that they feel that you will not fit in with their team. This may be a very good thing to find out then and there! Bad cultural match comes largely from your lack confidence in the interview. To help here research heavily beforehand and know clearly what the role you are interviewing for involves and the company’s background. Interview coaching from your recruiter can also help here – so drill your recruiter before the interview and find what the hiring managers are looking for.
Some hiring managers, instead of being honest, hide behind the rejection line “sorry not enough experience compared to others” so you ask to be specific on the skills lacking and if their response is vague, ask them how they think you would fit in with their team. This puts them on the spot – if they choke here now you know the real answer!
Sending a follow up email promptly after the interview outlining proof of the experience you have in any areas that you felt you fell down in the interview may help. This can handle any considerations before a final decision is made.
Recruiters can only pass on the data they get from the employer as they were not usually in the interview. Some clients give ridiculous reasons for rejection as well. A classic I have heard is “his wife’s parents live in a different state and we’ve had bad experiences with that before”. An employer is more likely to be candid to a recruiter than to you unfortunately – this is for their own brand management. So ask your recruiter why – and don’t settle for vague answers!
Some employers state this rejection to us “he did not seem interested in working for us”. This may not actually be the case! It may be interview nerves! The best way to counteract this result is to show that you are keen by coming to the interview armed with questions about the employer and the role. You are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you! This sends a clear message to the employer that you are serious about the role.
Some employers are rude and illogical in an interview – so if not successful with these types don’t take it personally – take it as a relief that you don’t have to work with them!
Being rejected after the reference checking
Reference checking is standard in recruitment. It is usually done after the first interview – although in some cases if the employer has contacts in your previous employer’s site you may find an informal reference check occurs. This informal reference check is not done to your current employer and may not come from your supplied list of referees.
Today’s employer is tomorrows referee!
Savvy employers look for your supervisor and expect to have at least two of those listed as your referees. Mobile phones, referees with very bad English skills, overseas numbers and only email addresses lead to a lack of confidence in you and your referee’s validity.
When an employer says “we have several candidates under consideration and we would like to do reference checks now” this means that you are being judged solely on your referees now – it does not necessarily mean that they have other candidates.
Employers say this even when they have no other candidates so as to protect the referee from being sued as they are liable for their words. Legally under the current privacy laws you can request a copy of the reference check notes taken - whether or not notes were taken is another question!
Choose recent referees that have the ability to back up your production history, that said they would be happy to be a referee for you and are CONTACTABLE!
Remember – you cant keep all the people happy all the time so choose referees that have a nice demeanor that don’t complain all day long about how bad things are – because these types will be the ones that will complain about you – even if there is not much of a reason!
Personal friends as referees – although nice to have – are rarely valued by employers.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight as to what a rejection response really means and ways you can ensure it never occurs again!
B Eng, Dip. Journ
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From Charie at Tue 16/06/09 21:37
I learned so much from your articles. I will definitely be keeping these in mind on my job hunting. Just a question regarding contactable referees. What if the referees you have in your field are from overseas? Their contact details are obviously just overseas numbers and email addresses. Is this automatic rejection then? Should you just put instead as referee an Australian employer even if it's from another field?
Thank you and keep up the good work.
From Daryl Keeley 17/06/09 09:37
Thank you for your kind words Charlie.
Regarding your query, yes some employers are concerned about international referees. Their concerns usually centre on them not being sure if your referee is a real employer contact or that the referee's English is not sufficiently strong enough to provide relevant data.
You can allay some of these fears by providing the business's reception phone number and an email address for your referee that contains the company's URL.
Yes, an Australian employer is best. Most employers are concerned about how well you adapted to the Australian work culture.