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  • Writer's pictureNicola Crocco

Get Ready to Be Rejected

We all know that rejection is part and parcel of any recruitment process and few people enjoy the sinking feeling that accompanies the, “thanks but no thanks” call. After having multiple conversations with candidates distraught over the frequency and manner with which they have been rejected in the current job market, I have been thinking a lot about rejection. I have noticed that a lot of the anger and frustration that accompanies rejection in recruitment comes from candidates not understanding it properly and feeling disrespected by a lack of honesty and transparency in its delivery.

How liberating would it be if we could flip rejection on its head so that it makes sense to us?

As a recruiter with more than 15 years of experience, I still find that calling someone to tell them that they have been unsuccessful is the most difficult and dreaded part of my job. My mind goes to the potential impact on the lives, families, financial security, careers and well-being of those who do not get the job. However, over the years, I have realised that the more context and information I can provide a candidate when telling them, “no,” the better they should be able to process the rejection and apply the feedback in the future.

Everyone reacts differently to being told they have been unsuccessful. My experience is that there are some who want to get off the phone as quickly as possible to lick their wounds. There are others who want to argue the decision; I understand both of these reactions. We are all human. Some of the most successful people in the world were rejected many times before they achieved a breakthrough. I therefore believe that in this job market and in life, rejection needs to be normalised.

Like anything, the more prepared we are for it, the more we can flip the situation into an opportunity for growth.

In this vein, I would encourage you to do some preparation for a potential rejection call, just as you would prepare for an interview. Consider it part of your overall job search readiness.


There will be nuances to each recruitment process you go through, and I acknowledge that rejection comes at different stages of each process. I also acknowledge that there seems to be a disgusting trend in the market of applicants being ghosted by organisations after they submit their resume to an active job. Never hearing a word from the organisation again, it is as though the candidate’s application never existed. This is a topic worthy of its own blog. My advice here, is targeted at those who go through one or more rounds of interviews and (hopefully) receive a phone call to deliver the outcome. It assumes that there will be an opportunity for some two-way communication between the candidate and the organisational recruitment line.

Importantly, have a few questions prepared so that you are not taken off guard - IF and WHEN the phone call comes through.

Keep in mind:

  • That the person delivering the news to you can legally only talk about your skills and your experience

  • There is a high chance that the person delivering the news to you will try and be broad, vanilla and ambiguous.

  • They may want to tell you that there was another candidate whose skills, experience and fit was a closer match to their brief than yours or some such standard rejection mumbo jumbo.

This is where you dive in:

  1. REPEAT their line back to them. “So, am I understanding correctly that there was another candidate whose skills, experience and fit was a closer match to your brief than mine?”

  2. Then, you ask permission to probe. “Do you have a few minutes for me to ask you a couple of questions about this so that I can use the time I have invested into this process as a growth opportunity?” Who could say no to that question?

  3. “Is there anything more specific you can tell me about why my skills, experience and fit were a lesser match than the other candidate’s (OR INSERT THEIR REJECTION LINE HERE)?” What this question does is signal to the caller that you need more context and you are not going to let them off the hook with their ambiguous response.

  4. “Could you tell me ONE THING I could improve on or change in my next interview?”

  5. If they cannot answer this question, be ready with this: “I did some reflection after my last interview and I felt that my response to the question about (INSERT RESPONSE e.g. managing change) was not specific enough/OR INSERT THE PROBLEM HERE.” Do you think I could have improved here? If so, how?” This will hopefully lead the conversation down a path of you receiving some tangible feedback that you can apply and use in the future.

  6. Finally, “Can you suggest the best way to keep an eye on opportunities within your organisation in the future?”

  7. If the conversation is flowing well, “Would you mind if I stayed in contact with you from a networking perspective?” Ask them if you could connect with them on LinkedIn and then do this immediately following the phone call, accompanied by a polite note reiterating why you are connecting with them.

If this conversation goes to plan, you will end the phone call with some practical feedback you can apply for next time. You might also have a new member of your network who would hopefully have left the phone call thinking about what great questions you asked them and how you demonstrated some good resilience in the conversation. Last impressions count for a lot. Trust me, they will remember that phone call with you. In fact, that recruiter might even prepare better for the next rejection call they make,

So, you could be paying it forward for the next candidate in the rejection queue.

If the call derails and you get shut down at point number two; nothing ventured, nothing gained. I would suggest that the organisation is not one you would want to be a part of if their care for someone who has invested hours of their time into a recruitment process for them cannot spare a few minutes. Walk on.


Being rejected is a part of life. The pragmatist and the optimist in me say that being prepared for rejection is a skill we need to master, particularly in the current recruitment climate. Even if it is not the news you want to hear, a rejection call is a call from someone who should know something about how you have performed during an interview. Use the call wisely. Rather than flipping out under rejection, flip the rejection on its head and try and make some more sense of it.

Please contact us if we can assist you with your job search or for further market feedback on this topic or other recruitment-related topics. We have our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on out there.

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