What Does a Rejection Email Really Mean?

So you have just spent the last day and a half putting together the perfect resume. You found a job posting that seemed like a great fit, you analyzed what the organization was looking for and you modeled your new resume to be an exact fit for the position. As you hit the “send” button to fire it off into the black hole of cyberspace a smile comes across your face. You just know you’re going to get a call on this opportunity…how could they not call you? On paper you are a perfect fit for the position and you used all of the industry jargon and achievement statements that could fit on the page. It’s just a matter of time….

Then the strangest thing happens…Nothing. No response, no call, no email, no job offer… A day goes by, and then a week, then two…still nothing. On the 17th day after you sent your resume you get an email from the company that you just know is the end to this nightmare of unemployment. As you open the email you see that it is a form email saying that they have “moved on to considering other candidates.” The hope drains from your face and you are more depressed about your search than ever. What exactly does that mean? In a word…Nothing.

With no direct feedback from the organization at all we begin to doubt the resume we sent in. An hour later it falsely occurs to you that your ex boss might be best friends with HR person who got your resume and was actively blocking EVERY opportunity that you apply for. Every article that you have ever read about not being able to find a job after 50 leaps to your mind and serves as proof that the deck is stacked against you. You decide that you need to spend the next week reworking your resume as it is clear that the one you have been using doesn’t work. With the word “Rejected” flashing in your mind you go back into your basement to watch another round of Andy Griffith reruns and hope that by some miracle you get a call or email out of the blue that changes your life….Sound familiar?

OK, let’s start with this…a rejection email means absolutely nothing other than for some unknown reason you are no longer being considered for the position. That’s it…end of story. Everything else is a nightmare that you are dreaming up inside your head. While it’s normal and a natural reaction to rejection, the conclusions that you draw from it don’t serve you unless they are based in fact and confirmed with a conversation with the person that rejected you. Anything else is a guess based in negativity and fear.

If you went out to your car one morning, turned the key and it didn’t start, would you instantly conclude the car hated you? Would you leap to the conclusion that your neighbor sabotaged your car during the night? Maybe the article you read in “Paranoid’s Weekly” was true and every car is scientifically designed to fail one month after the warranty wears off. Or worse yet…maybe you suddenly have lost the ability to start a car even after doing it every day for the last 20 years of your life! You may laugh at those examples but does it start to sound familiar to the way you react to a rejection email from an employer?

If the car didn’t start we would: 1)Define the possible problem 2) Narrow down its causes 3) Try something different to start the car and if all else fails we would seek the advice of someone who knows more about cars than we do…a mechanic perhaps. Without the direct feedback from someone who has actually evaluated the situation, all of our assumptions, fears and guesses are just wasted energy and angst. In the end…we just need a new battery.

You won’t really have any idea why you were rejected unless you get direct feedback from the person evaluating your resume for the job…and that rarely happens. To assume that there is something wrong with you or your presentation without direct feedback is a one way trip into the black hole of despair. But you CAN get feedback on your resume and presentation style from other hiring managers in the same industry who have no jobs currently available (through connections). You can go back to the person that hired you two jobs ago and ask for their direct feedback and advice. You can seek out retired HR people who your friends can connect you to in order to run your marketing materials past them. You can go back to the person you worked side by side with two jobs ago and practice your 60 second intro on them.

Without direct, clear and constructive feedback from people WILLING to help you on your search, fear and doubt creep in with each rejection…with no guidance on how to do better next time. You have hundreds of people in your life that can give you constructive advice and help with opportunities to practice your messaging. The most valuable ones are the friends honest enough to point out places for real improvement.

And the person who rejected your candidacy? Forget them…it was their loss…let’s move on…

“Be humble, be sincere, ask for help..”


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