The F.E.A.R. of rejection (the often misused term in job hunting)

by Chris Tang in Blog

DatePosted on July 24, 2017 at 09:45 PM
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There aren’t many things in daily life that cause genuine angst or dread in people. Receiving news that your job application has not been successful probably scores highly on that list -  of course, below medical operations and taxes, but probably up there with taking your driving test and asking someone out on a date!

Moreover, working in the recruitment field, you quickly discover that a hiring manager saying ‘no’ can affect both the candidate and the recruiter. That might sound surprising, but recruiters are working on multiple search and selection assignments daily, and routinely receive news that a client doesn’t wish to proceed with a certain candidate. To a rookie recruiter, it can be a daunting experience in their first month of starting out in this industry.  Often, their ability to adapt to such situations can determine whether or not they thrive in the recruitment industry.  

You might have noticed that, other than its reference in the subject header to this post, I haven’t used the word ‘rejection’ so far. Rejection is a term that is frequently used casually, lazy even, during a conversation.

To me, the use of the term rejection is a misnomer. I dislike its use in this context because it gives a false, one-sided impression, and often a negative one. Frankly, its usage in the recruitment process doesn’t do any favours to either the employer or the applicant. It’s a term that I discourage my team from using.

The interview process and outcomes can be stressful (photo credit: Blake Lisk)You see, a hiring manager has a specific list of requirements in their mind as to what they need. That list can include specific qualifications, grades, language capabilities, or the nature of the experience gained. It can also include ‘soft skills’ such as their interpersonal skills and outlook (is your glass half full or half empty?), their ability to think quickly or come up with innovative ideas to help the hiring manager’s business challenges or to simply show they have that little extra to quickly adapt with minimal fuss, their ability to demonstrate their team playing qualities, or their business connections that can help to enhance the hiring manager’s business. 

The hiring manager may not meet someone who ‘ticks all the boxes’. Such person may not exist at that given time. In reality, they will probably put out an offer to the person who fulfills most of their requirements and have that little something that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. That is a fact of business life. But the mark of a true leader and great manager is hiring someone who is the best fit for their team and who can get the most out of their new recruit and other team members working well together. It’s not a situation of the hiring manager saying, “I am rejecting you as a person”. Rather, they see a much bigger picture, one in which they will evaluate the person can not only do the job, but also enhance the dynamic of his or her team. So job applicants should (as recruiters do) see this as feedback, rather than be fearful of the outcome.

Viewed another way, fear is a by-product of the interview process. To me, I see 'fear' as an acronym, F.E.A.R.: False Evidence Appearing Real. By setting aside the fear, and looking at this outcome as ‘feedback’, you can then dig deeper into your own evaluation in a more constructive manner as to why the role may not have been a good fit. Perhaps you didn’t answer a question as effectively as you could have done, or what you communicated didn't resonate with the hiring manager. Perhaps your body language conveyed a feeling of disinterest, or your personality didn’t shine through because you appeared too nervous. By identifying these areas, you can then analyse how you can improve in your next job interview and positively influence the outcome at your next attempt.  

I’m a firm believer in ‘stoicism’, a philosophy that was espoused by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, such as Seneca. And similarly, the old saying, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’!  That’s quite an extreme expression for the job search process, but the sentiment is not too far off. In its plainest of terms, it's developing a 'thick skin' and driving through the anguish, improving incrementally and adapting to the circumstances.   

In summary, no matter who you are, there are plenty of organisations that will be a good fit for you, as a prospective employee. Don’t be disheartened when you receive news of ‘rejection’, it’s only feedback. Use it to improve your own interview technique or approach, identify and draw upon your strengths to influence the outcome. 

About the Author

Chris Tang

Chris is a co-Managing Director of Star Anise and a former practising corporate lawyer.  

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