Career Advice

Dealing With Job-Search Rejection

Dear Liz,

I’ve applied for 20 jobs and I’ve had one phone interview that went nowhere. Seven of the companies sent me form letters saying “no thanks” and I heard nothing from the others. The rejection is the worst part of the job search, on top of the boredom and the isolation. Any suggestions?




Dear Karl,

You are right on target — the one-two punch of tedious, isolating job-search activity plus a continuous stream of “no’s” in various flavors (including the no-thank-you letter flavor, the “if we don’t call you, that’s a no” auto-responder flavor and my favorite, the Utter Silence flavor) is tough for even the hardiest job-seekers to endure.

Let’s talk about some practical how-to’s and circle back around to the rejection topic. If you had one phone interview and got 7 ‘No Thanks’ letters from your 20 overtures that leaves thirteen employers you haven’t heard from. I wouldn’t consider those dead by any stretch. I’d use LinkedIn, Google and ZoomInfo to hunt for “your” hiring manager, and reach out to the person directly with a Pain Call:


SHE: Sarah Jones.

YOU: Hi Sarah, this is Karl Smith. I’m curious, have you filled the Marketing Coordinator position yet?

SHE: No, we haven’t – we kind of got stalled — did you send us a resume?

YOU: I did. I wonder, is that job mostly about getting sales leads to your sales reps more quickly? That’s the impression I had from the ad.

SHE: A lot of that, but we also need someone to put out our monthly newsletter. Have you done newsletter publishing?

YOU: I wrote and edited our newsletter at Acme Dynamite, and handled trade-show leads also — are you interviewing for that job?

SHE: Give me your name again….

We call this a Pain Call because we’re asking about the pain behind the job ad. We’re reminding Sarah of what’s bugging her now – namely, the fact that trade show sales leads are sitting around gathering dust. You can also follow up on a resume via a LinkedIn note (either via  a direct connection or by using an InMail). You can even send an email follow-up if you like. Don’t send a resume and then sit back and wait. Follow-up is very often the difference between an interview and no interview. Try it!

Back to the rejection issue: yes, rejection is tough. It’s helpful if you remember that there are only certain companies and jobs that are going to be a good fit for you. When you get a terse, unfriendly auto-response message essentially saying, “Drop dead for all we care,” your first thought doesn’t have to be “Oh, shoot, another job I didn’t get.” Your first thought can be “Man! Thank goodness I didn’t waste time interviewing with these people.”

You know from Glassdoor that there are companies you’d love working for and others you’d positively hate. You don’t have to wait to see a job ad posted – as you spot companies you’d be interested in, you can find “your” hiring manager via LinkedIn and reach out to that person directly.

Volume is still a huge factor in a job search. A great goal is to get 10 resumes out the door, every week. I’m not talking about pitching resumes blindly into Black Holes – that’s a huge waste of time. I’m talking about researching employers to spot the pain and to find your hiring manager, and reaching out to that person directly with a pithy Pain Letter that speaks about what’s keeping him or her up at night.