It's a no – Totum discusses jobseekers and rejection

With typically only one job on offer, it’s a fact that more candidates will be turned down for a role than will be selected. Even so, being told that you haven’t been chosen, particularly once you’ve got through to the interview stage, can be hugely demoralising. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ you cry into your cappuccino. Or for those with rather grander delusions: ‘What’s wrong with them? They’ve got it all wrong!’ Neither response is helpful. The first leads to all kinds of negative thinking and over-analysing. The latter can result in the temptation to bad mouth the firm that had the audacity to turn you down.

On hearing the news, take a breather. Go out into the fresh air, head down to the gym – whatever it takes to make you pause, reflect, and, if necessary, vent your frustration. Next, look objectively at the interview. But do it as a learning exercise and resist the temptation to pick it apart morsel by morsel: was it the tie you wore that day, did you slurp coffee too loudly, sit in the wrong chair? Stop it. It’s possible that some small thing you did knocked you out of the running but more likely it was that you didn’t demonstrate strongly enough how your skills matched the role.

Taking stock

Do look at some of the answers you gave – was it obvious you lack some technical knowledge? Were you unable to come up with some concrete examples of how you demonstrated your competencies in previous roles? More methodical preparation may help next time. 

Then try to get some perspective. There are often many factors outside of your control as to why you might have been turned down such as a change in strategy at the firm.

Do ask for feedback. Recruiters can help here as they can act as an intermediary, allowing for a more candid exchange of information. Some businesses have a policy of not giving feedback, possibly out of concern of giving rise to discrimination claims. Others are simply too busy. Even with the best will in the world, there may not be time to give detailed feedback to every candidate.

Feedback can sometimes be unhelpful – for example, that old chestnut of not being the right ‘cultural fit’. It feels personal and there’s not much that you can learn from it. It may mean that the interviewer’s gut instinct told them that you weren’t right for the role, or, sadly, it’s sometimes just the standard (and rather cop-out) response that interviewers come up with when asked for feedback. All you can do to give yourself the best chance of being the ‘right fit’ is to try and get an impression of the firm’s culture – from the website, from employee review sites like Glassdoor, and by talking to recruiters who should know the recruiting firm well and be able to give you pointers.

During the interview, did you pick up on the vibe? Even if you’re so nervous, or totally focussed on your answers, make sure you pause to pick up on visual cues – is the interviewer engaged in what you are saying, friendly, serious? Match the mood – the ‘mirroring’ approach whereby you copy an interviewer’s mannerisms and speech may work but keep it subtle. If done badly, it can come across as fake, plain weird, or like you’re taking the proverbial.

After the rejection, do send an email to thank the interviewer for their time. If you felt you enjoyed learning more about the firm then say so, but only if that’s your genuine feeling. And if you liked the firm, ask to be considered for any other roles that might come up in the future: a no may not be a no forever.

Leave a good final impression – and the same goes for the recruiting firm, too. Professional courtesy is everything – it’s a small world, after all.

Two-way process 

Firms too need to consider how they deliver the blow. One poor job candidate, and this was not in the legal sector we hasten to add, was recently rejected via a text of a laughing emoji. If a candidate has spent time and effort to apply for a job, then they are owed a personal and timely response. It is unfair to send a standard rejection or keep them hanging on indefinitely.

A phone call or email that acknowledges the candidate’s efforts, shows that you at least remember them, and offers to keep them on file for future opportunities can do wonders to salve the injury the rejection will cause. Some constructive feedback that will help the candidate going forward can also be worth its weight in gold.

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