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Making The Most Out Of Job Rejection

When a potential employer says they have either filled a position or are no longer hiring, the natural response is "Okay, thank you" because our ego is triggered and we interpret it as rejection.
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Dear Christine,
I've been in the job application process for several months now without success. Most of the time, I don't hear back from potential employers unless I initiate a call. Usually if I get them on the phone, they say something like they have filled the position or are no longer hiring. What is the appropriate response to that? Also, is there any follow-up necessary after I receive a voicemail stating that I was not extended a job offer?
- Trying to make the most out of rejection, 25

Dear Trying to make the most out of rejection,

First, I want to acknowledge you for the approach you are taking to not being hired. In this challenging job market, I've noticed the reactive habit many individuals indulge in is to just complain about not being hired which squelches motivation. I commend you for being proactive by looking at how you can make the most out of the opportunity of not getting a job rather than taking a defeatist attitude. That alone demonstrates your motivation and determination and will support you in getting a "yes" a lot sooner.

When a potential employer says they have either filled a position or are no longer hiring, the natural human response is just to say, "Okay, thank you" because our ego is triggered and we tend to interpret it as rejection. Be aware of (and prepared for that) and set the intention to stay out of your ego. Reframe the "no" as a "yes" to receive feedback or create an opportunity for future communication. If you are being told the position has been filled by someone else, consider saying something like, "Congratulations on finding a great fit and I appreciate the time you spent considering me. As I continue to job search, it would be extremely valuable if you could share any feedback about what made you hire the person you did." Any information you can receive about why someone else was more qualified or more of a fit will be helpful to you in terms of what types of jobs to apply for and what skills or experiences to highlight in future applications and interviews. Depersonalizing not getting hired for a job and being able to ask for feedback in a neutral, non-defensive way creates a great opportunity that keeps you moving in a direction of expansion (by learning) rather than contraction (by getting upset).

If the response you get is that they are not hiring at this time, consider saying, "I understand and thank you for getting back to me. I'd love to follow-up with you in a few weeks to see if anything has changed. Would that be all right with you?" If the person agrees, mention a specific date you will contact them.

When you receive a voicemail message about not getting a job, yes, I encourage you to follow-up by calling back until you can get the person on the phone. If someone else answers their phone or you get voicemail, request setting a five minute phone call to thank them for their time and consideration. The same advice then applies for how to respond to the reason they give for not hiring you.

I understand that the job search seems particularly daunting right now and I encourage you to keep focusing on what you CAN do to keep the momentum going. You are asking great questions already. Every day take another step forward and trust that eventually you will receive the call where you hear, "You're hired."

Send your questions to