10 Dec 2018

Handling Rejection...

I do feel genuinely lucky when I sit down at my desk each day.  I am one of the ones who loves what I do - believe me, not everyone loves their job!  Whilst I do enjoy pretty much all aspects of recruitment, it's the ongoing study of people that makes it as interesting as it is.  I'm not claiming to be some sort of cultural anthropologist, but I do see lots of different aspects of an individual's psyche and behaviour and one of the most interesting observations is how people handle rejection differently.  Whilst rejection is clearly a fact of recruitment, there are definitely ways and means to improve your odds and dodge the rejection bullet.

There are, essentially, three different levels of rejection (when it comes to recruitment).  Post application, post first interview and post secondary interview (I'll make the assumption that most positions are decided after 2 interviews).

Post application rejection.
If you're finding that you have a high rate of rejection post application - i.e. after submitting your CV, it's likely that you're not applying for the right roles.  The world of online applications has made it easy to apply for multiple roles with a simple click but I do find that this means individuals have a philosophy of 'the more the merrier' when it comes to the number of roles that they are applying for.  Perhaps in some sectors, the volume approach works, however, I tend to think that a little more time spent researching the right roles to apply for will result in a higher number of responses.     If you identify a particular recruiter who has a high proportion of opportunities advertised that you feel match your skill-set, it's worth contacting them directly and organising a meeting so that they can review you for multiple roles - and a good recruiter will do this.  It's a sign of a poor recruiter if they only look at you in isolation for one opportunity.  I generally recommend to candidates that they identify around 3 recruiters to work with - we'll all have different levels of relationship with different clients.   A good recruiter will highlight any obstacles that you may face (i.e. if you are very specialist or if your sector experience is not so applicable etc.) and identify ways in which you can address this. They'll also identify any issues on the CV that might be improved.   In most cases, the number of rejected applications can be reduced by targeting the right roles on offer.

Rejection post first interview.
First interviews are pretty much always about chemistry and fit.  It works both ways - for the candidate and the employer.  Often, I'll have a brilliant CV and a not so brilliant CV and it is surprising how frequently the not so brilliant CV will come out on top after the first interview.    So I suppose what I'm saying is that you potentially have to kiss a few frogs before you find your Prince. Not too many (or we're back at applying for the wrong roles).  But if you've secured a first interview, it's likely that you have passed the tick box exercise of 'can you do the job'.  At that point, it's then about the cultural fit, the fit with the prospective clients, the teams internally and whether your skills will transfer seamlessly into this new work environment.    Assuming you do, you'll be asked back for a second stage.  If not though, don't take it personally.   Just because someone else had the 'edge' doesn't (necessarily) mean that you were wrong or in some way lacking or inadequate, just that the employer had choice and they made a selection of the 'best' in their opinion for that particular role.  I will add though that you should always ask for feedback as this can be significant in ensuring that you succeed in future interviews.   Yes, I occasionally have feedback that individuals were late, were not enthusiastic (really), did not have good communication skills, looked a mess (I know), could not look people in the eye  - the list is endless!  But with all that feedback, it's possible to do something about it and get it right next time.  I recently had a candidate who was flabbergasted not to be invited back for another interview - the CV was a no brainer, a great fit for the role.  However, the interviewer thought the individual didn't show any enthusiasm for wanting to be there and came across like they were doing them a favour.  That's never going to come across well.  Equally, I have been working with a great Account Manager who consistently never got past first interview.  It turned out they came across too laid back in interview - we addressed it, did a bit of role play and bingo, an offer materialised from the very next interview.  That's why feedback is so important!

Rejection post second interview.
What I will say here is that employers do not waste their time with interviewing. Time is money and all that.  So an employer will not invite you for second interview just for the joy of it.  They are genuinely interested at this point in making a hire.  Unless they have made clear that they are interviewing speculatively in which case you are aware it may not proceed.  Sadly, sometimes post second interview, a role can be dissolved or budget withdrawn and that makes up around 20% of second interview rejections.  Nothing you can do about that so not to worry about it.  Typically at this stage, an employer will ask the candidate to respond to a brief.....This can often be challenging.  All I can say on this subject is that you need to put 100% into the brief.  Anecdotally, often, the 'best' candidates come unstuck when they don't respond well to a brief. Largely they fail to put the work in to get it right and unfortunately at this stage, winging it seldom works.  Someone else (because there usually is someone else) will respond better, have done more research, will have the 'edge' (yep, that word again).  So you need to come up with something that is compelling and therefore a compelling reason to hire you (and not anyone else).  Individuals can often be very unhappy with rejection post second interview.   Usually because they feel they've put a lot of time and effort into something and have then been turned down.  However, it's worth remembering that clients have choices and only one person (usually) can get the job.   Often, I'll have individuals get a bit irritated that they think clients were only interviewing them to get their 'ideas'.  Well, I've not come across a client who has used an individual's ideas from interview (after not hiring them....).  And ultimately that's a gamble that you've got to take. That 'idea' could get you the job. That's your 'edge'.   If there is something in the brief that isn't clear, seek clarification.  Whilst clients are usually keen to see your methods of working and evaluation, they also want the right answer!  As with the other forms of rejection, seeking feedback is key.  If you find you are permanently 'not the one', there could be a reason for that.  It's at this point too where salary considerations come into play so clients will also factor in your 'worth' relative to your cost.  Make sure you understand the salary parameters at the outset of application.  It's very disappointing to have an offer post second interview which is way off the salary mark.

Often, candidates will want to contact a client directly after a second stage rejection.  Usually this is just a note to express disappointment but to hopefully keep the lines of communication open for the future.  That's great.  What isn't so great is contacting the client with a disgruntled missive  - it might make you temporarily feel better but it will usually only serve to convince the client that they made the right decision.  It's OK (professional) to express disappointment and seek clarification and feedback It's not OK to get mad.  

Top Tips:

Apply for appropriate roles
Form relationships with good recruiters - these should be lifetime relationships
Seek feedback at every stage of the process.  Even if you secure a second interview, ask if there are any weaknesses you need to address
Do your prep for each stage.  Going the extra mile can earn those extra brownie points and define your 'edge'.
Don't let something ridiculous let you down. Be on time, be smart, be prepared, be enthusiastic, demonstrate that you really want the job.

Good luck!