It’s Not You, It’s Them: Why You Shouldn’t Take Job Search Rejection Personally

I think we can all agree that rejection isn't a particularly pleasant experience. Most of us will probably go to great lengths to avoid it. Unfortunately, much like death and taxes, rejection is inevitable. Especially when you're searching for a new job.

During the application and interview process, you share a lot of personal information about yourself (your accomplishments, failures, strengths, weaknesses, and career goals to name a few) so if you don't get an offer, it can feel really personal. It can feel like you're being rejected based on the very things that make you you. 

But guess what? There are tons of reasons why awesome candidates get rejected that have absolutely nothing to do with them. This might sound crazy, but if you don't get the job, it might have nothing to do with your resume, qualifications, experience, personality, or interview skills. It might have nothing to do with you at all. 

1 ) The Hiring Manager is Indecisive or Disorganized
Most Hiring Managers don't receive formal training on hiring or interviewing practices. In fact, most Managers never receive training on how to be a Manager at all. So when it comes time to make a hiring decision, they might have some serious challenges. 

The person who gets the final say in a hiring decision may understandably feel a lot of pressure. What if they choose the wrong person? Should they have asked more questions during the interview? Did they meet enough candidates? This can lead to a case of paralysis by analysis. The Hiring Manager may find themselves in a position where they just can't come to a decision. When that happens, the job search might get placed on hold or they may end up hiring the wrong person (i.e. not you). 

Hiring Managers are also incredibly busy. They might ask their Recruiter to post a job opening, but that doesn't mean that they'll always be available to interview candidates - let alone make a hiring decision. Have you ever applied for a job and never heard back or received a generic e-mail informing you that the position you applied for is on hold? This could be the reason why.

2) The Recruiter is Overwhelmed
I can't even tell you how many times I've posted a new job opening and received hundreds of applications within less than 24 hours. If I had dedicated five minutes to reviewing each individual resume that came across my desk, I wouldn't have had time for anything else! And most Recruiters manage several job postings at a time all while juggling interviews, meetings, and you know, a life outside of work.

Because most Recruiters have a lot on their plates, they have to get really good at reviewing applications quickly and efficiently. This means that sometimes great applicants will fall through the cracks. It may be that your resume gets missed or that they forget to call you back after a phone interview. The reality is, Recruiters are human and sometimes they make mistakes.*

*This does not mean that you should start stalking Recruiters to ensure that you stay on their radar. That could backfire. But, a friendly follow-up e-mail is perfectly acceptable. If you don't hear back after that, it's probably time to let it go. 

3) They Can't Get Everyone on the Same Page
Lots of organizations rely on interview panels to make hiring decisions. These panels usually consist of the people who will be working closely with the potential new hire. This means they have a vested interest in making the right decision. In theory, it's a smart way to hire, but it won't always work in your favor. 

Have you ever met a group of people who agree on everything? Me neither. It's very common for members of an interview panel to disagree on which candidate they should offer the position to. One person may only want to hire someone with start-up experience while the another might see start-up experience as a deal breaker. Or maybe one person loves your slightly quirky personality while the other wasn't really feeling it. Regardless of the reason, sometimes these panels reach an impasse and conclude that they simply haven't found the right candidate yet. Which means they reject everyone they were considering and move forward with another round of interviews and a new group of candidates.

Kind of crazy, right? It happens more often than you might think.

4) They're Considering Internal Candidates
In the interest of fairness (and often to comply with federal or state regulations) a company will post new job openings both internally and externally. It is entirely possible that you are more well-qualified for the job, but internal candidates will almost always win out in the end. 

I know that stinks, but it is a testament to how much the company values their existing employees. Organizations that promote from within and encourage their employees to apply for internal postings are usually pretty great to work for. These types of policies are an indication that the company's leadership is invested in keeping their most valuable assets happy and engaged.  

So, if you lose out to an internal candidate, be gracious, say thank you, and ask to be considered for future openings. 

5) There's a Hiring Freeze
This happens more often than you might think - especially towards the end of an organization's fiscal year. Companies tend to pull back on spending as they start to crunch their year-end numbers. These freezes usually thaw out, but it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. My advice? 

Keep looking for new opportunities, but stay in touch. 

What if the freeze is a result of a funding issue? This is something that you will need to take into consideration. Remember, you are interviewing your potential future employer, too. If you don't feel comfortable joining an organization that may have some funding challenges, then you might need to walk away.

6) They're Just Not That into You
OK, I admit that this one sounds personal, but I promise that it really isn't. It just wasn't meant to be. In the wise words of Greg Behrendt, "[They] took a good long look at the awesomeness that is you... and said, 'No thanks. I'll try my luck elsewhere.' ... That alone should make you realize that it wasn't a match made in heaven". 

A company that fails to see your worth simply isn't a company that you should be working for. They just weren't the one for you. It's not personal - you two just aren't a match. 

Unfortunately, you may never know why you didn't get a particular job. But, don't beat yourself up too much. Most of the time it's not you, it's them.