Dealing with job rejection & no feedback

Meg Timbrell
Content & Social Media Manager
6 min read

Tips for dealing with rejection, insights from our users, and how to protect your mental health while job searching.

The way in which we apply for jobs has radically changed since the Millennium, with the application process becoming increasingly impersonal, time-consuming and draining for many. Unemployed young people are often told that applying for a job should be a full-time job and that for applications to be successful they must sacrifice leisure time at weekends. Automated rejection emails leave us feeling unrecognised, and sometimes we don't receive any form of rejection at all, just being left to wait and wonder.

We spoke to a number of our users (all kept anonymous at their request) about their experience with the recruitment process and, overwhelmingly, their responses were frustrated with the lack of feedback...

Anonymous user #1:

"The recruitment process can be very long anyway, but making you wait in the dark for months on end can be cruel especially when nothing comes from it."

Tell us about your experiences and how they made you feel.

“After graduating with my BA degree I applied for a graduate scheme at [company name], I had an email a week later stating I wont be going further...fair enough. After graduating with my MA degree I applied for the same scheme with a revised portfolio to give myself the best chance and to show the most up to date representation of my skills. 4/5 months later I got the same automated email as I did when I got rejected after a week, with no feedback or explanation of what I could have done better. As a young designer this leaves you in limbo, you're not sure if the portfolio is up to scratch, you're not sure if you're good enough, you're not sure what you should do better next time with a different recruiter/company. Was the opposition very strong? Were there a small amount of spaces for grads? Or are the recruiters just lazy?"

What improvements could be made?

"Try to open up a dialogue and be supportive. Give feedback where appropriate. Young people are quite simply un-experienced so any little help/inspiration can go a long way in the early stages of their careers."

Anonymous user #2:

“...a simple email back would suffice.”

Tell us about your experiences and how they made you feel.

“Most of the times when I applied for something law related, in case of a unsuccessful application, the email announcing this would never contain any actual feedback in order to improve. It is important to acknowledge the side of recruiters/ firms and that they get hundreds or thousands of applications. However, from an applicant’s side, it is extremely difficult to correct certain aspects and overall improve without this feedback.”

What improvements could be made?

"Communicate better during the process, so applicants know where they stand and also have an understanding of the timeframe of the recruitment process and its various stages."

Anonymous user #3:

"This makes me wonder what stage I was in? Was I almost there? Why has it taken so long?"

Tell us about your experiences and how they made you feel.

"Never having feedback or knowing why I wasn't accepted doesn't allow me to improve my application as I don't know what I need to improve on. It's a vicious circle that sucks all hope out of you as you feel like you are always going to have the same response, so what's the point in applying again if you don't know how to increase your chances of success."

What improvements could be made?

"Just treat people like people rather than numbers and statistics, the recruitment process can be really impersonal and cold."

Asking for feedback:

  • If the job rejection takes the form of a phone call, try to muster up the courage to ask them right there and then for the reasons why you were unsuccessful in this instance.
  • If the rejection was sent by email, respond as quickly as you can, preferably within a couple of days.
  • State that you are eager to learn from mistakes and improve in your career wherever possible.

What if replying to rejection emails with constructive feedback was the new normal for unsuccessful applicants?

Instead of having to ask for feedback after a job rejection (which oftentimes can be ignored by companies and also adds to the ever-growing list of tasks for job hunters to do), companies could be required to provide candidates with feedback. This could be incredibly time-saving for many candidates applying to multiple jobs every week, who usually might not know what their CV is lacking.

Understandably, this creates more work for companies, however how much time carrying out the recruitment process has been saved already by advances in recruitment technology?

Lydia Barber, a final year Law student at the University of Leeds, recently took to LinkedIn to voice her frustrations with the system.

"...after spending days on certain applications, just to be referred to as 'System' in a rejection email, I am starting to feel disillusioned with the whole process."

The flaws in the system according to Lydia:

  • "Applying for graduate jobs should not be a full-time occupation."
  • "I should not have had to spend my weekends applying to jobs instead of taking some time off."
  • "I should not be deciding between completing my university work or completing an application."
  • "Most importantly, I should not be reapplying to these schemes next year without understanding where I could improve."

I think her final point is the most poignant: how much better could candidates' applications be with constructive feedback that accompanies job rejections? So much time could be saved slaving away over applications, avoiding the repetition of the same mistakes over and over again.

Lydia also points out issues with LinkedIn, allowing unhealthy comparisons to be made. While LinkedIn is an incredible tool for searching for opportunities, networking from the comfort of your bedroom, and keeping tabs on old classmates, it can be discouraging for many job hunters out there, especially during a pandemic, when this is one of the few modes of communication we have had during the pandemic.

How to protect your mental health while looking for a job:

  • Find time for yourself every day: this could be going for a walk/run, having a bath, ordering food, or engaging with a hobby (drawing/music etc)
  • Don't be afraid to unfollow (on LinkedIn or Instagram) anyone who brings your self-esteem down or makes you doubt your worth. It's easy enough for people to tell you to try not to compare, but it's harder when it's staring you in the face on your phone before you go to bed every night.
  • Set up your own personal rewards system for applications. For every CV sent off, allow yourself a Netflix episode, a piece of chocolate, or whatever it is that makes you feel good (I used to do this to motivate my revision during exam season and it worked wonders).
  • Keep lines of communication open with friends and family, even if it's just a good old rant!

And lastly, remember that you are by no means alone in your frustrations with the broken recruitment system, and the lack of feedback and communication. We at Sort are calling on employers to offer constructive feedback to all applicants who would benefit from it.

Want your voice heard? Send an email to megan.timbrell@sortyourfuture.com - we'd love to hear from you!

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