You’ve just been notified you’re unsuccessful for a role. Whether you thought it was your “dream job”, or just a role that may have been worth further consideration, it isn’t usually the message you hope to receive. We invest a lot of ourselves in a job search and it can feel like we’re putting ourselves ‘out there’. That’s why it can be hard not to take an unsuccessful message as a personal rejection.
The number one question we get asked here at Trak Search following ‘unsuccessful’ news is a form of “where to from here”?
If you have just been notified you were unsuccessful for a role, particularly when you were invested in a process, here are the suggestions we generally discuss with people:
1. Try not to take it too personally
Easier said than done? It might feel that way. But at Trak Search we’re big believers in finding the right role for YOU (see our recent blogs on CV writing and preparing for interview to get your right next role).
Employers obviously have knowledge about the opportunity and the organisation that you don’t. They have also had the chance to meet the other candidates and discuss their experience in comparison to the job requirements. It’s for this reason that we say it’s important to be your best, authentic self throughout a recruitment process. Then trust in the process to progress those who have the closest alignment to the needs of the employer.
That means that if you are unsuccessful, it was not the right role for you. We see great candidates who don’t progress to offer stage. Why? Because THIS specific role at THIS time wasn’t the best fit. But it doesn’t mean they weren’t a great candidate, or that they wouldn’t be a great candidate for another role.
2. Be open to receiving feedback that will support you
It’s common for people who have been unsuccessful for a role to ask for feedback. And constructive feedback can be really useful in supporting you in your job search. But the feedback will only be useful if you’re mentally in the right place to receive it.
This is another reason why it’s important to try not to take an unsuccessful message personally. To do so can put you in a defensive frame of mind where you are more likely to reject the feedback than to learn from it.
Our advice is to only ask for feedback if/when you’re ready to listen and take it in without challenging the feedback. This can be difficult to do, so if you don’t feel you can receive any feedback in the same conversation that you’ve been notified you’re unsuccessful, it’s perfectly fine to ask to speak at another time regarding feedback. That way you have time to process the outcome ahead of any further discussion.
Remember that any feedback that you are given is based on the information that was presented to the recruiter or organisation through the process. Also remember that they are looking at your experience compared to a set of selection criteria relevant to the role, rather than every facet of your life. So there might be a disconnect between how you see your suitability for a role and how they do. But at this point, they have made a decision based on the information they received. Any challenge by you to their feedback after the process is unlikely to change that decision.
Ask open ended questions that will provide you with insights, including into how you presented your relevant experience. Often it just comes down to others with a closer alignment, but if there are any development areas for you to be aware of it’s useful to know about them.
3. Seek advice from a trusted and respected confidante
In the wake of an unsuccessful conversation, we often get asked for career advice. It is completely natural to question whether you’re applying for the right kind of roles, or whether you have the experience to take the next step. While we love to help and support people as much as we can, our standard response to that is that “your career is too important to take advice from someone who has relatively limited experience with you”.
We recommend that you find a trusted confidante, or mentor, someone who has history with you. Ideally this will be someone who has managed you or been at a more senior level, or who has been in the role you are aspiring to. Because someone who has seen what you can deliver and what you are capable of firsthand is in a much better position to help you process and interpret the feedback you have received and give you advice on where to from here.
Talking to them about “this is what I have learned” and asking “what advice do you have for me” can give you more information to support your search for your right next step.
By this point, if you’ve engaged with steps two and three, you will have a lot of information from others. Now it’s time to do some personal reflection. Think about what you have learned. Are there things you can do to better enable you to take that step in the future? Is this still a step you see as right for you? And is now still the right time? Where do you want to go from here?
Taking the time to reflect will help you to develop a plan, even if it’s simple, to support your next steps.
5. Take action
Once you have a plan that you feel is right for you, go for it!
Maybe that means proactively driving your own development plan, seeking learning or growth opportunities to better prepare you for the step you’re looking to make. If you have identified that you need to make some form of change to be successful for the kinds of roles you’re aspiring to, it’s likely that you will need to do something more meaningful than superficial ‘quick wins’. We often see people invest significant time and energy in updating CVs or cover letters, which is rarely necessary. If you’ve identified your experience is the key area of focus for you, a meaningful development plan is likely to be more worthy of your time and energy.
Maybe you have identified that the roles you’re really after are not the ones you’ve been applying for. Sometimes reflection can help you gain clarity on where your skills, experience and interests would be best suited. With this insight, you can approach your job search as a fresh start on a new path.
Or maybe you’ve identified that you’re already on the right path for you and your dream job may only be one more job application away. Particularly when you’ve been in a process with other strong candidates, it can be very likely that there is no need to make any changes. Going through the process of reflecting on your ideal next role and how well positioned you are to be successful in that role will still always be useful. You can now reengage with your job search with renewed confidence and conviction.
The most important thing we always hope people will walk away with is the knowledge that being unsuccessful for a role is in no way a reflection of your skills, experience or potential. It just means that role wasn’t the right one for you.
Being unsuccessful for a job is a blip in your search for your ideal next role. And if you approach it in the right way it can provide useful learning and an opportunity to reflect on your career plans.
If you’re interested in reading more recruitment-related insights, you can find more Trak Search blog articles here.