You find a job you’re interested in and so you apply. The degree of effort you put into your application is likely related to how much you really want it; minimal effort for a job you’d do but doesn’t fire you with enthusiasm, putting in the maximum effort for a job that feeds your passion. Time goes by, and you realize no interview is coming; you’ve been passed over.
Now, depending on how much you wanted that job, you’ll feel anything from mild disappointment to heartbreak. When you’ve failed to get an interview for a job you didn’t really want very much in the first place, it’s easy to rationalize things and put it down to your minimal effort. “I didn’t really want it bad anyhow, so it’s a good thing actually that I didn’t get an interview.” By the way, I’ve seen people actually land interviews for jobs they only half-heartedly applied for and then they’ve dithered over whether they should actually go or not; not wanting to waste both their time and the time of those interviewing.
Today though, I want to focus on the job interviews you really wanted but didn’t get. Why does that sting so much? And make no mistake, it does hit hard.
So, there’s a few reasons we need to acknowledge and understand. First of all, you likely put a lot of effort into your application. Researching the job itself, the organization, the people themselves who work there and how they contribute to the overall culture. There’s the job itself of course, and the more you know about the position and the organization, the more you can visualize yourself working there. The interview denial comes as a blow because what it represented was validation. Validation of your credentials; skills, education, competency, experience and ability to do the job.
Like any rejection, the more you wanted it, the harder is it to take. Some will see this rejection as a brick wall standing between themselves and a position they really wanted. These folks will turn away from the desired position with the organization and head off in another direction. However, there are other applicants that will regroup and launch themselves back at the organization in the future with a subsequent application. These folks are either blind to rejection or persistent and tenacious; believing that this one rejection was nothing more than a setback, a hiccup in their pursuit of what they’ll eventually succeed at obtaining.
Of course, rejection is hard to take and extremely frustrating. Many of the people I partner with are so frustrated with the effort they put in and the negligible results they obtain that this becomes their biggest factor in contacting me for support and guidance. “What am I doing wrong?”, is the most common question they start with in our first meeting.
One thing to consider I would like to point out is that there are times when being rejected and not getting an interview could be the best thing that happens to you. When you don’t get an interview, get past the disappointment and look at things as objectively as you can. Ask yourself if perhaps you didn’t just dodge a bullet. Had you got the interview and landed the job, would it have been a job which fulfilled 3 core factors; 1) You’d do well, 2) It would pay well and most importantly 3) you’d love?
I’ve had times in my own life where I applied to a job I believed at the time I could do and enjoy only to fail at getting an interview. At the time, I can remember feeling disappointed as I’d read a letter stating how unfortunate it was but they’d decided to move ahead with more qualified applicants. If memory serves, they’d wish me well and that was that. While this particular memory was years ago, it turned out to be a tremendous blessing. Had I got an interview and won the competition, my career would have taken a different path and my career as an Employment Counsellor been inevitably delayed or never have happened at all.
Job interview rejection stings precisely because we take it as a personal rejection of ourselves. Being interested in a job and applying for it, we’re offering ourselves up for some assessment of our ability to fit with both the job and a company. When we get denied, we can’t but help see it as a personal rejection for who we are as a person. This is not actually the case of course. From the employer’s perspective, the pool of applicants is bigger than at any time in history. Among the applicants there will be a greater number who meet their desired needs and therefore choosing whom to interview gives them a greater number as well. This means there are others who are equally qualified for whom an interview is not forthcoming, there just isn’t time to interview everyone.
You might be tired and frustrated at hearing little more from an employer other than there were many qualified applicants and you weren’t chosen. I mean, how can you improve on your future applications without some further direction? The truth could simply a numbers game. They want to interview 3 or 4 people as this is all their time and needs allow, and once they have these qualified applicants, they reject the rest. Interviewing the 22 others who really wanted it bad, from the 175 that applied isn’t in the best interests of the organization. No fault on your part.