Even in the best of job markets, job seekers hear “no” more often than they hear “yes”. The preceding questions to these responses will vary of course. The job seeker might ask, “Do you have 15 minutes to chat?” or “Will you please take a look at my resume?” Each “no” can be chalk on a blackboard. Job seekers, who are struggling with transitional grieving, a hit to self-esteem, fear, or other issues, often perceive any “no” as more rejection. If you are trying to make a great impression in your job search, there’s a mantra to remember and internalize that will serve you well.
Don’t take “no” personally
I’ve worked with many clients who are in sales – newbie to c-level. And they agree that the sales profession entails hearing “no” or variations like “not yet” more than once (probably many times) before you hear a “yes”. Talented sales professionals know that rejection and denial are often stages in a process. What’s really tough for job seekers is that it’s not the widget product being promoted. It’s not the servicing of widgets being sold. It’s about you, the job seeker. What value proposition you offer, and why you are the better choice. When you put yourself out there and hear “I’m too busy to speak with you,” or “No, you don’t meet our criteria,” well, ouch.
Most of my clients work with me on a strategic job-search program that involves introspection, exploration, targeted research, strategy and action. And it’s always interesting how easy it is for these smart, prepared and generally positive people to unravel a carefully developed and orchestrated search, because of a “no”. They will talk about taking a position clearly previously defined by them as not desirable. They will propose overhaul of communications that powerfully convey their focus, brand and success stories. Sometimes this doubt (even melt-down) comes after just one or two rejections. Sometimes there’s a wave of “nos”.
Often the toughest “no” is silence. You do not hear anything. A recruiter did not get back in touch (there’s nothing for you right now in his pipeline). A hiring decision-maker didn’t get back to you (he had fires to put out at work with a major reorganization initiative). Your ace-in-the-hole networking contact at ABC Company hasn’t returned your emails (her kids have the flu, and she’s been trying to work from home).
Think statistics. In a job search, statistically you’re going to hear “no” often. Remember my sales clients’ perspectives? An old sales adage reflects the statistics. Expect 90 “nos” for every single “yes”. Of course, life’s not that clear. You may have a few more; a few less. You may be the one who lands that next and great fit immediately. The point is, it’s not atypical; and it’s not reason to abandon ship or course.
The truth is, that most of the time, it’s not about you at all. If it is, you will get the message, because you’ll hear it from more than one person. If you’re interviewing poorly, lack qualifications for the jobs you’re targeting, are not following through; you’ll see a pattern. If you ask for feedback, take heed and take action, what is personal can be addressed. It’s certainly always good to ask, “What’s working and not working?” That’s a different post.