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My experience dealing with job rejections

Patrick looks at the psychology behind job rejections, and why self-care is so important when applying for jobs


Written by Patrick Matthew Hever and posted in voices


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2020 will long be remembered as the year the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, for recent graduates and young professionals it may be remembered as the toughest job market in quite some time. Those who were lucky enough to get a job before March may breathe a sigh of relief. Unemployment statistics since then are rather bleak. According to the CSO, the unemployment rate could be as high as 20.2% if everyone on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was categorised as unemployed. Less opportunities means more competition, and unfortunately this leads to the inevitable, rejection after rejection.

My experiences applying for jobs

In early 2020, I thought finding a job would be a walk in the park. How incredibly naïve. Aimlessly applying for jobs without any set strategy did not help with the situation. The long-winded recruitment processes can be dull at the best of times. Just when you think progress has been made and that you might get to the next round of interviews, you're immediately brought back to reality when you’re told you’ve not received an offer. So close but so, so far away. To combat this, I’ve been altering my CV and changing my job search techniques to ambitiously applying to jobs halfway across the world because why not? Nothing has seemed to work. However, I learned something valuable. Patience and resilience are key components to any individual seeking employment.

The psychology behind rejections

Getting an explanation

Rejection emails coming your way day in day out will take their toll on anyone. Interestingly enough there is a lot of research into job rejection and the psychological impacts it can have on a person. One thing that can help someone have a positive reaction to a job rejection is when an organisation explains why they were not picked. A research article in 2001 showed that providing explanations can positively influence whether the applicant thinks the recruitment process, and the organisation, are fair. What this really tells us is that it takes very little time to provide applicants with feedback in a rejection email, and it is mutually beneficial for both parties. Unfortunately, in my experience not enough organisations are doing this.

Informal or formal greetings

If you have been lucky enough to be even acknowledged, the way in which a rejection email is delivered to an applicant is important. Another research study carried out in 1984 is still particularly relevant in today’s world. They looked at whether direct or indirect communication is best when rejecting job applicants. Surprisingly enough they found that the type of greeting used in a rejection message matters. They found that people prefer formal rejection messages, as this helps applicants distance themselves from the organisation rejecting them. Applicants tend to downplay the importance of a job following a rejection, and informal rejections made it harder to downplay the importance of the job.

Being aware of the research

What I hope is that organisations big or small are aware of this research, and use it to make the process of rejecting applicants a smooth one. In my experience larger organisations tend to have a better approach to rejecting potential candidates than smaller organisations, however, this is just my experience.

Looking after yourself when applying for jobs

Being able to deal with job rejection by moving on swiftly is important. Personally, I don’t think there is any issue in wallowing for a while if you are rejected from a job you were very interested in, but make sure it’s only for a day or two. Taking onboard feedback from rejections is really important. At first when you hear feedback, in certain circumstances, you may not agree with it if you are feeling somewhat bitter. This is perfectly natural. I think it’s important to give it a day or two then jot down the feedback and make an effort to critically analyse how you performed during the job recruitment process.

One of the essential methods I use to deal with rejection is to rewire my mindset, by accepting my fate and reiterating to myself, that perhaps this job opportunity was not made for you. It sounds simple but it takes time and patience to get used to this style of thinking, however, I think it’s worth doing. Most importantly, try to find some ways to unwind and enjoy yourself while looking for a job. It can be a tough process, so finding self-care strategies that work for you could be really helpful.

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Published Decem­ber 18th2020
Last updated Jan­u­ary 24th2021
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