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How to Overcome Job Rejection During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Increase Your Odds of Landing a Job

January 15, 2021

Omaralexis Ochoa

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Many of you out there are on a job-hunt right now,  especially following the effects of COVID-19 on our global economy. With any kind of job search whether it’s a part-time job or a full-time career, there is going to be a LOT of rejection. But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how you can dust yourself off, learn from it, and keep moving forward until you find the job that’s right for you. These are really the only three things you can do when you get that inevitable rejection letter, so, let’s jump in to how you can overcome job rejection.

When you get rejected -- be it by a company (or even a school, or a person) -- there’s really just three things you can do: get over it, learn from it, and move on -- all while making some tweaks along the way. This sounds harsh, but no good ever comes from ruminating on a rejection. It’s in the past, and nothing you do now can change the other party’s decision.

Getting Over a Job Rejection

To start, getting over a job rejection begins before you even apply. It’s easy to get invested in a job that you’re excited for -- maybe it’s your dream job, it’s in the perfect location, or they have great benefits. Whatever the case, it’s key to keep your expectations low and not invest too much time or effort into one job application. After all, you are likely one of hundreds of applicants depending on the job, and that’s fine!

Optimize Your Job Search to Send More Applications

It’s important to continually optimize not only your resume, but also your process for finding and applying to jobs in the first place. While traditional advice says to give each and every application a personal touch, with things like cover letters, you have to consider that we no longer operate in a traditional job market -- and companies are taking advantage of this. 

Through paid promotions, a company can very easily garner hundreds and even thousands of applicants. Meanwhile, we as individuals are left in the dust with few options to send nearly as many applications. This means we have to get smart about our job search by leveraging what’s immediately available to us.

Set Aside the More Complex Job Applications

A job application that requires you to manually enter your resume, instead of just attach it, should be set aside for later. More so, you should definitely set aside applications that have lengthy screening questionnaires, or require cover letters. I won’t say you should completely ignore these, but they require more time and effort to provide that aforementioned personal touch, and so should get time allocated specifically for that purpose so as to not let other opportunities slip away.

Use your job search website’s built-in application tools

Websites like Indeed have tools like “One-Click Apply” that makes it easier to apply to jobs that accept it. Make sure that your resume is relevant for the job and fire it off. One note of caution I will advise, however, is that you shouldn’t just fire your resume over to any and every job application -- this isn’t the intention of the “One-Click” feature. It’s better to have a customized resume targeting specific keywords in a niche you’re trying to work in. You can leverage the speed of the “One-Click” feature by customizing your resume to suit a specific industry, and fire it off to roles only matching that industry. This way you ensure your resume is customized, without having to give each one individual attention.

Bring the Jobs to YOU by Using a Staffing Agency

In a traditional job market, the company has most of the power -- they decide when to post, when to interview, and when to hire. However, you can now take some of that power back by making the jobs come to you by using a staffing agency. Websites like Adecco, Creative Circle, and RobertHalf, specialize in getting applicants connected to relevant jobs so they can help you automate part of your job search. You provide them with your most updated resume, jobs you’re interested in, and they use this information to start sending you potential matches so that you don’t have to spend the time searching for them.

Put the Numbers on Your Side by Sending as Many Applications as Possible

To some degree, a modern job search is really a game of statistics. The same way large companies put out and promote job postings to garner hundreds of applicants to ultimately find the one most-qualified candidate, you can put numbers on your side by using the aforementioned tools and sending out as many applications as you can to find the one job you’re most-qualified for.

Consider Investing in Your Job Search

Although I’ve not found this to be necessary, it may be beneficial for you to leverage some paid tools to assist with your search. LinkedIn, for example, provides job search insights as part of their Premium members plan. This helps you see more easily which jobs LinkedIn thinks you would be a top applicant for, and also allows you to directly message recruiters and job posters to possibly get your name to the top of the stack.

Learning About Why You Were Rejected is Key

Next, it’s key to learn from your rejection -- specifically, learning about why you were rejected in the first place. There are many reasons you can be rejected -- perhaps you didn’t interview well, you don’t have enough experience, or you didn’t score well on a pre-screen test. All of this is useful information that will help you on your next application.

This is perhaps the most common type of rejection: if you were rejected before even getting an interview, and received an automated email message that says “We’ve decided to go with other candidates” then this is a clear indication that your resume likely never got into the hands of an actual person. Rather, it was screened out by an automated system. That’s useful! If you continually get automated rejections, this is a sign that you should tweak your resume. Continually getting automatic rejections is symptomatic of an irrelevant resume. Make sure you customize your resume to suit the job description -- leverage the language from the application itself within your resume so that you can hit on all of the terms the applicant tracking system is looking for.

Additionally, if you were in fact able to sit down for an interview and got rejected, reach out to your interviewer to not only thank them for their time, but also to find out why. An interviewer can be a goldmine of information to learn from if they are responsive. If you interviewer says something about your availability, or a lack of experience, or your education level, then these are all great pieces of information to use for next time. On your next application you can be sure to emphasize a flexible schedule, or apply to a job requiring less experience, or even obtain a couple of certifications and licenses to make up for an education gap.

Further, and perhaps more commonly since the pandemic, if you continue to get rejection letters citing that the role has been temporarily paused and they will “keep your information on file,” then this can be an indication that the jobs you’re applying for have been impacted by either layoffs or budget cuts stemming from the pandemic. While these employers may have the intention of resuming their search once restrictions are lifted such as in the hospitality and food industries, these might not be the best use of your time as of now.

Moving On from a Rejection is Critical; Don’t Dwell on It!

Lastly, and most importantly, the best way to overcome job rejection is to move on from it. If you keep light on your feet during your job search and do not get too invested in a particular role, continue to iterate upon your resume and search process, and learn from your mistakes in previous applications, then the only thing you have left to do is keep moving forward.

It’s easy to fall into a funk of insecurity and even hopelessness when it seems that the only answer you’re getting is “No.” More so, with a market now saturated with hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed people who are also looking for work due to the pandemic, it’s tougher than ever. In an environment such as this, your key differentiator will be simply persevering. For every hardheaded applicant refusing to give up, there are dozens of others burning out and calling it quits. Keep moving forward and eventually the numbers will be on your side.

Omaralexis Ochoa

Data analyst, podcaster, pasta-lover... I'm many things, but above all, I'm a creator. I created The Gay Pro because I love sharing stories of queer success, with the intention of empowering and inspiring other queer leaders.