Imagine that you can get solid job search advice directly from someone with experience in hiring and human resources. Wouldn’t that be helpful? Now you can do just that thanks to our new series of interviews Recruiter Reveals! Every month I interview our resident human resources expert, Christy Morgan, on various job search topics, be it resumes, cover letters, job interviews, or any career-related topic.
“We appreciate your interest but …”
I know, it sucks. But it happened to all of us.
First, it is not always your fault. And you definitely shouldn’t freak out after your first rejections.
Second, even if it was your fault, there are several ways to improve and turn the tide in your favor.
Whether it is a rejection of the job application or a rejection after your first or even third round of interviews, we are going to explain what the reasons could be behind this and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
In this interview, you will discover:
- What could be the reasons behind your rejections;
- Why is it sometimes not your fault at all;
- How many rejections does it take to know that you are doing something wrong;
- When to request comments;
- What can you improve on your side;
- What to do after you get cheated on;
- How to make the most of your rejection;
- Why should you send a thank you email even if you didn’t get the job.
Let’s start with the job applications that were not successful. What if I have already applied for a job? How long should I wait to receive a reply?
I would say normally one week. Then send a quick message if you haven’t heard back.
Are hiring managers contacting only potential candidates and not responding to others or how does it usually work?
It depends on the company. In theory, they should contact all the unsuccessful people, either by email or automated message through their ATS, and let them know. But in reality, many only reach out to candidates they are interested in due to the large number of applications.
Is that why you should always follow up?
Yes. I don’t see any harm in that. They can always say “We are still reviewing the applications” or “Sorry, you have not been successful”. I think in general, if they don’t contact you in more than a week or two, you probably haven’t been successful because no company will let a good candidate go. But it is a courtesy to let you know. So there is nothing wrong with following up and asking them.
Is it better to follow up by email or call them?
Generally, it’s best to send an email because you have written evidence that you tried to contact them, or the email can be forwarded to the person handling the selection process. But for a small business, sometimes picking up the phone is the best way to go.
Also have any suggestions on how to better formulate the follow-up email without seeming too pushy?
Something like “Dear X, I am quickly checking if there is any progress on the XYZ work. I am still very interested in being considered. Thank you very much for your time.”
How many of these job application rejections are normal? And how do I know if I am doing something wrong?
This is a good question. I think you will feel it after a while. Definitely don’t freak out after your first rejection. I have a client who was rejected with his first job application and was like “Oh, it’s a mess. It must be the resume!” No. I would say that at least five or six rejections is when you should start to see where things can go wrong. But of course this number also depends on the number of jobs you apply for.
What could be the reasons behind these job application rejections?
I must say that the vast majority of rejected applications are mainly due to two things. One is under the control of the candidate, the other is not. The first is that a large percentage of people apply for jobs that they are not suitable for. They’re like “I don’t really meet the requirements, but I’ll try. You never know.” But this is not how it works. Then you send out 20 requests, most of which don’t fit in well, and then you get depressed because you’re being rejected.
The second is something that everyone should know about, and that is that many jobs these days receive a large number of applications. It could be several hundred applications, while the largest companies can get thousands for a job. So sometimes that may be the reason you don’t get any response, because they are just dealing with so many people.
While you can’t control how many people apply for the same job, you can control the types of jobs you apply for and make sure they are suitable. That should reduce rejections.
Can you think of other reasons?
When I have clients who come to me to tell me that it doesn’t work, it is almost always that they apply for jobs that they are not suitable for. Or they have not adapted their resume to show that they are a good fit. Recruiters will naturally reject you if you don’t show them that you have the experience and skills they need. Or just the sheer number of apps means that while it might fit in well, there may be other people who are a better fit, so they have to draw the first round line somewhere.
Can I also be rejected for the bad design of my CV? Or only if the content is weak?
You shouldn’t do it unless you are a graphic designer because then your resume shows your skills. But, in general, no. If you have an unsightly design it may leave a slightly negative impression, but if a business is using an ATS system they may never see the original anyway. ATS-compliant content and relevance are more important. The same applies to your cover letter.
But if I had multiple job rejections, I should probably make some changes to my resume and cover letter, right?
If you are applying for jobs that are relevant and are still rejected, then you need to make some changes to your resume and cover letter and make sure they fit the job. Try to think about what doesn’t work. Are they the types of jobs you are applying for? Is it something it doesn’t show, like keywords or experience? Or is it too short or too long? Does it support ATS? Are you applying for jobs that are unrealistic? Are you in India and you in New Zealand? You know, looking at all these things and trying to figure out if there is a pattern there.
For example, I had a client who was not receiving an interview, so I took a look at his resume and could see that he was pulling out a lot of relevant details. He said he didn’t want to bore recruiters with detailed information on his resume, and that he can just tell them everything during the interview. But first you have to tell him. They have to understand why you are a great candidate to interview in the first place.
Maybe he didn’t want to sound too qualified. Can you be rejected for that too?
Yes, it can happen and this one is interesting. There are recruiters who fear people who are “Overqualified”. They can get the job done and bring a lot of value to the company, but there is a fear that the person will get bored and leave. It’s a bit of an odd mindset in a sense, because many factors contribute to retention, such as being offered internal opportunities for professional growth and development.
But on the other hand, people sometimes apply for jobs that they are really overqualified for, which can be a step backwards. For example, when you apply for an administrator job but are an operations manager. Sometimes many of us want a change of scenery or focus on family life rather than career progression. That is totally fine. But, unless you explain it in your cover letter, you risk being rejected immediately.
Again, it all comes down to the fact that we should apply for the jobs we are suitable for.
In general, yes.
Does it also happen that job applicants do not follow the application instructions and are rejected for that?
Yes, that can happen too, especially when specific instructions are given (eg. “Attach only a resume, not a cover letter” or “Only candidates who specify their salary expectations will be considered”.) It shows that you have read the job description and can pay attention to details. But in theory, if you are well rated, it shouldn’t disqualify you. But this again depends on the individual recruiter. There are some who will say “They did not follow the instructions, therefore they are not suitable”, but I hope it’s weird. However, if you get constant rejections from all apps, it probably has nothing to do with the instructions.
Simply put, what would you suggest job seekers do when they get a lot of rejected or ignored job applications?
Look at your resume and the jobs you are applying for to see if there is a discrepancy there. If you don’t do it often and you’re not very sure, there are resources like Jobscan where you can include your resume and job description and it will tell you how well optimized your resume is. It’s not perfect and the percentage they give you is a bit questionable, but it gives you very good guidance on what could be wrong and what to improve.
Also, always look at the essential requirements section, not just the fluff, because this tells you exactly what they are looking for. This is how your resume will compare to the job description and other applicants. Maybe you can get away with missing one or two essentials if you are otherwise a good fit, but if it’s a higher percentage, think again if you want to apply.
So in a nutshell, apply for relevant jobs, make sure your resume is tailored, that you are using important keywords, and check other details such as visa requirements.
Do companies also post some positions that have already been filled internally?
They may sometimes post a job that they want to cover internally, but they have to post it for various reasons. There are always things like diversity and equality, especially in public sector roles. Or if they want to hire someone who needs a visa. When I lived in Ireland, this happened to me: they had to advertise my job every year, even though I already had it.
Poor job seekers going to apply for these jobs!
Regrettably yes. Many times you do not know what happens behind the curtains. Many times you have to go through the ATS, you do not know who is applying, then you do not know if the position is already covered. Sometimes looking for work is like playing Russian roulette.
So in case my job application is rejected, should I ask for feedback?
At this stage, I would say no. Unless it is a small company. First, they just don’t have the time, and second, it’s best to ask at the interview stage. But even then they may not give you any feedback. Many recruiters these days, particularly in the United States, are very concerned about being sued for discrimination. This is why they tend not to give feedback at all. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but I understand both sides.
I find it courteous to at least inform job seekers.
Yes, it should work that way. But with all the culture of lawsuits these days, companies are sued by people for many reasons. So they just want to protect themselves and I totally understand that.
Okay, now let’s move on to job interview rejections as such. After a job interview, how long should I wait for a company to contact me?
I’d say the same time frame: one week. But generally, recruiters will tell you at the end of your interview what the next steps are, and if they don’t, there is nothing wrong with asking them. If they don’t contact you within that time frame, add a day to the top and then follow up. In case you haven’t discussed the next steps, you can email them after a week.
Should one also follow up by email in this case?
I’d send an email first and if they don’t respond in 2 days, give them a call. But email is good as a written test, and in particular because it allows you to copy other people, which can often get you a quicker response. Therefore, in your interview, try to remember the names so that you can copy others if necessary.
How many job rejections after the interview is it normal to receive on average?
It really depends on how many people are being interviewed. I mean, the probability that you will get a job is not one hundred percent, even if you are interviewed. But the chances of success are higher compared to the first time you submitted your application.
But when should I, as a job seeker, realize that I am doing something wrong?
I think after 5 or 6 rejections. Unless you are in a really competitive field where it is very difficult. Even if they don’t give you any feedback, you can probably get the feeling that something is wrong on your side.
What can be the reasons why I cannot get a job?
Especially since there is someone who is a better fit than you. Cultural adjustment plays an important role. It may be that none of the candidates is suitable, so all are rejected. But generally, your experience is not as strong as someone else’s. And that is not bad. The fact that you have been interviewed means that you are going in the right direction.
Perhaps also due to poor interview skills?
Yes, definitely. If you don’t express yourself very well, you feel uncomfortable, or you seem like a person who would be difficult to work with, etc. Being nervous is one thing. Recruiters are waiting for you, so don’t worry (recruiters are nervous sometimes too!). But if you just can’t express yourself or don’t seem to fit the culture, you have a few things to work on.
I think it is related to preparing for the job interview we talked about earlier. When prepared well, you shouldn’t have this problem.
Exactly. Of course, you may still be nervous, but recruiters can see that you came prepared and that you are trying.
What about other reasons? Perhaps if your salary requirements were too high?
It is definitely something. If you are asking too much compared to what they can offer and you are not going to negotiate (of course, you don’t have to). Another reason may be if you need a visa. Or if you need to work from home a few days a week and it wasn’t in the job description. That kind of things. But most of all, it’s about the experience and the culture fitting together.
What to do if I am cheated after a job interview?
Unfortunately, it happens. Sometimes recruiters are busy, forgetful, or don’t want to deliver bad news. So they hope you get the message. However, there is absolutely no excuse for that kind of behavior. Fortunately, most recruiters are professionals and will contact you.
If you think they are cheating on you, follow up after a week. And if you still don’t get an answer, at that point I’d start to think if that’s the type of company I’d like to work for. Because the way they treat you at this stage is probably the way they will treat you as an employee.
I think job seekers often don’t even want to get close to them once they are left behind.
Yes, it is really unfortunate. The point is that the Internet allows an increasing number of people to apply for jobs, which increases the workload of the recruiter. But I think at the interview stage, when you’ve had that personal connection, you need to let that person know. Whether positive or negative. Because even after a rejection, that person will have a positive impression of your company if they treat them with courtesy. And they will say positive things even if they are disappointed. If the ghosts, not only not wants to work for your company in the future, but it will also damage your reputation. Because they could tell 10 other people about their negative experience.
When you let me know that you have chosen another candidate, can I request comments at this stage?
Yes, you can ask them for an explanation that you would like to improve for your next job interviews. But keep in mind that they may not give you any for fear of a lawsuit. Or maybe they loved you but someone else on the panel didn’t, so they don’t want to tell you that. It is good to ask, but you may not get an answer.
What can job applicants do better at the job interview stage?
If they don’t give you feedback, it’s probably not your fault. If they give you feedback on what was wrong, then you can work on that. Or if there were multiple rejections, you can often see a pattern there for yourself. Maybe it’s just practicing your interview skills and being better prepared.
And how can they build bridges instead of burning them?
Rejection is not pleasant, but you can deal with it in a positive way. So even if they reject you, just say thank you for letting you know. Something like “Thank you for your time, I really appreciated this opportunity to learn more about your company and work. I would still be very interested in any features that may become available in the future, so keep me in mind. Thank you very much once again. “
Should I send a follow-up email after every failed job application? Or only when you get rejected after a job interview?
At the beginning of the application process, where you usually only get a generic denial, it is not necessary. Once it gets to the personal connection stage, I feel like it should get a lot more personal. That’s when you can send a rejection follow-up.
How can job applicants make the most of rejection?
Turn it into something positive as we just said. Not burning any bridges is very important. If they give you any comments, keep them in mind. And then if you’re doing other interviews and you see a similar pattern, it’s something to work on. And at the very least, it’s also good for interview practice, which is always positive.
It is also great for networking. If you’ve interviewed them, connect on LinkedIn. I generally advise waiting until after the interview and they have made up their mind, so that you don’t come across as pushy. Then you can connect, thank them, and ask them to consider you for future opportunities.
Isn’t it a little weird to connect with a recruiter on LinkedIn after I’ve been rejected?
Not really. Because you are a potential candidate in the future anyway. If you do it after your job interview and when you have already received feedback, when in theory you have nothing to gain, then it looks positive.
So can you apply for a job at the same company even though it was unsuccessful some time ago?
Sure you can. There is nothing wrong in it. Many companies even have your resume on file for a set amount of time. And especially if you were interviewed there, I would try to contact the HR person directly with something like “Hi X, I interviewed for Y’s job last year. I saw another fantastic opening and would be really interested. Do I have to apply online or would they accept my updated resume directly? “ And look what they say. That’s where having a positive relationship with that person by ending the previous interview in a positive way comes in handy.
Key takeaways: why you can’t get a job and what to do about it
Job application rejections:
- How many rejections is too much: 5 or 6 rejections.
- Reasons: Two main The reasons are to apply for jobs that you are not suitable for or too many people are applying for the same job. Other reasons may be that your resume is weak, not suited to the job, or that you did not follow the application instructions carefully. Or maybe the position has already been (or will be) filled internally.
- What to improve: Apply for relevant jobs, make sure your resume is tailored to each position, that you are using important keywords, and don’t forget to check specifics like visa requirements.
Job interview rejections:
- How many rejections is too many: 5 or 6 rejections, unless you are in a really competitive field.
- Reasons: Especially since there is someone who is a better fit than you. Sometimes it can also be due to poor interviewing skills or if your salary expectations were too high and you didn’t show any flexibility about it.
- What to improve: If they don’t give you feedback, it’s probably not your fault. If they give you feedback on what was wrong, then you can work on that. Or if there were multiple rejections, you can search for a pattern yourself. Maybe it’s just practicing your interview skills and being better prepared.