Handling Job rejection: How to act and accept

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„Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack.” – Unknown

I just recently finished the process of hiring a candidate for quite an advanced position with very specific skillset. Many candidates had applied and the hiring manager was very strict and narrow when it came to overall competency and character fit required for the said position. After completing the process, I received a reply from two candidates who received job rejection, one who wasn’t qualified for an interview invite and another who was in the final stage, competing for a job offer. The unqualified candidate wrote in an e-mail something like this:

“I can’t believe I wasn’t invited for an interview. I have 5 years of experience in the field and am very much qualified for the position I applied for. I seriously question the HR’s competency in your company and will never consider applying for another role again.”

The candidate from the final stage asked me if I could give them a constructive feedback on why they weren’t selected. They were convinced that their skill and experience are very much more than enough to get the position so confusion from their side was apparent, to say the least. It’s quite common for candidates to focus only on their experience but what they don’t know is that the experience and skill are only one side of the coin; couple of coins actually. Let’s dive into on why they didn’t qualify in the end and received job rejection.

job rejection
Rejection is tough.

The candidates’ point of view

The two candidates focused solely on their experience. The irony with the first candidate is that the position required more than five years of experience and the same had to be in a specific niche. The Job Ad explained that well enough and combining that with the fact that you have many more qualified candidates from the CV alone, a common recruiter will reach the same conclusion. Obviously, a candidate doesn’t know these or isn’t aware of the detailed recruitment mechanics so a confusion like this isn’t that hard of a stretch. However, a reply to a rejection in the above fashion tells me more about the candidate alone than anything else, but let’s reserve that for a different article.

The second candidate’s experience was admirable and more than enough to cover the job responsibility but their character, demeanor and overall presentation wasn’t good enough for a team of ten people who were all experts with more than seven years of experience with a need of strong leadership abilities. They needed a person would come in and put them and the business all in place, so to speak. The rejected candidate simply wasn’t up to that challenge in that regard. The selected candidate had the experience on the same level with the character we were looking for and this was what decided who would get a job rejection.

So what didn’t these candidates know? Needed experience isn’t a guarantee that you would be selected in the end. Recruitment and hiring the right candidate had many more variables which have to fall in line in order to choose the right one. They usually don’t pay attention to being a cultural fit, to having the right character, to having the right motivation, to being the right candidate in the eyes of the hiring manager with a slight bias, etc. A recruiter will have to take all these into account and if one of those isn’t there, the chances for selecting that candidate immediately decrease. What does all this mean for the candidates who receive job rejection?

Don’t look back.

It’s not you, it’s them

It simply means that the rejected candidates weren’t the right fit for the applied company. It doesn’t diminish their experience or their character in general but reveals that there wasn’t a match between two parties. Candidates often get discouraged and think something is wrong with them when in reality they just have to find the right company which will need their complete profile. This is exactly why candidates should apply to more than one vacancy, if applicable. It gives you more options, not just a higher chance to be accepted somewhere, but also to choose the company on their own terms, if possible. A job rejection can also give an insight of the possibility of not being up to par with the required skillset and that can be taken as a sign for more growth so next time, with more experience, a rejected candidate can be ready.


If a candidate receives a job rejection but has a sough upon experience, then it means something else influenced that outcome. A wrong cultural fit, a lack of interpersonal characteristic or something along those lines might be the trigger. By no means should that be taken as a generalization. It’s an indicator that the candidate isn’t a match for that specific company but probably is for someplace else. Candidates shouldn’t take that to heart and should continue forward, looking for a company who will appreciate what they have to offer as a complete package.

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