Search Menu

Don’t fear job rejection – use it to your advantage

Exploring the role of feedback in recruitment

Earlier this year, my youngest daughter came home from school in floods of tears. Despite doing the best she could every week trialling out after school to get into the rounders squad, she had been informed that she had been unsuccessful in making the cut. She was distraught. My advice to her was to get some specific feedback as to why she had been unsuccessful, dust herself down, keep turning up to training sessions anyway and focus her attention on where she was falling short. After all, things might change, right? Fast forward six months and she not only got on to the squad but was awarded for her contribution to the team’s successful season.

Now, I have been recruiting to senior management and leadership roles in local government for over a decade. I do it because I love it. However, I bet I am not the only executive recruiter who finds the least enjoyable part to be rejecting candidates from a process; almost always, fantastic people who do great things and are brilliant public servants. No-one likes doing this bit.

However, let’s remember that rejection is good. Rejection is part of learning. Rejection is part of life. But it only becomes a positive force for improvement if it is offered professionally and with honesty and integrity. It should be evidence based, to the point and constructive. I am not a fan of the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast, fail often”. For me, humans need time to reflect, lick their wounds, take stock and then move on to the next challenge.

So, what should you expect in an executive search and selection feedback session and how should you offer it to others when you are the hiring manager or recruiter?

Golden rules of rejection.

1. Everyone has had to face rejection at some point in their career.

Yes, even chief executives – yes, even your chief executive. It is critical in building resilience, learning, self-improvement and landing the next great job. It’s not personal. Take the learning and build on it for the next one.

2. Being unsuccessful does not mean you are not successful.

You have experience and skills of value; that’s why you were in the room. Just because you didn’t get the job does not mean that you are not a great candidate. Use this experience to learn and reflect on how you present that experience. Often a lot of this is about interview technique (which can absolutely be learnt).

3. You were not rejected, you were redirected.

Sometimes the role or organisation wasn’t right for you, not the other way around. Maybe the employer didn’t sell themselves to you. Maybe this one just wasn’t for you. Maybe you’re meant to be doing something completely different and you just don’t know it.

Golden rules of feedback.

1. Be honest

Don’t duck difficult issues. If the fact that the candidate swore in an interview is the reason they didn’t get the job then tell them. They need to know so they don’t make the same mistake again. They might not even realise you are doing it, or any other manner of things that don’t go down well at interview

2. Be specific

Recruiter feedback that “they went with someone they felt fitted with them better than you” is lazy and un-specific. There is enough evidence in the process to give measurable feedback about performance in a particular selection or assessment task, or specific question responses in an interview where you fell short compared to the successful candidate. If so, say so.

3. Bounce back

Once you have reflected on feedback use it as a positive force for focus in the future. Use it to reflect on what you want; both role and organisational culture and how you improve on interview performance.

As I always tell my daughter, nothing learnt is ever wasted. That question you fell down on last time? It’ll come up again in another selection process I promise you.

First published in the MJ

Photo of Nick Cole

Nick Cole

Director for Local Government, Veredus, part of Capita

Nick is director for local government search & selection in the North and Midlands for Veredus, part of Capita. He heads up the team that specialises in recruiting to senior management and leadership roles in local and devolved government across England and Wales. He provides a strong partnership role, advising chief officers, in-house HR and elected members on the whole appointment process from executive search and selection to assessment and psychometric profiling. Nick’s experience and knowledge of the sector have helped him to successfully recruit to many high profile and hard-to-fill roles from head of service to chief executive level over the last 10 years.

Connect with us