February 8

Depressed after job interview rejection?


I looked at the email, wondering if I was reading it wrongly.

I was so confident when I walked out. I had shared about how I learnt about surviving with little money, and I thought they would have compassion on me.

It was not to be.

278 rejections later

It’s been 28 months since I left my first full-time job in October 2021. It wasn’t supposed to be a long break.

I thought it would be fairly quick.

But I should have had a sense, after beginning the job-hunt process in March 2021.

It was a 6 month runway, but it still didn’t yield a job.

Confused at what to do next after constant rejections?

This article aims to tackle:

  1. How do you deal with a job rejection?
  2. More importantly, how do you keep going?
  3. And how do you turn that rejection into an eventual acceptance?

Remember the inherent value in yourself

That evening, as I walked through the park, I found myself close to tears.

How could it be that I, who had won so many accolades in university, was now finding myself being rejected, time after time?

Trying to preserve some sense of sanity has meant that I’ve had to write many love letters to myself.

Hold on.

Before you throw that tissue box at me, thinking that I’m just full of BS.

You might be thinking,

I’m finding it hard to feed myself, and you’re asking me to write a love letter to myself?

You must be kidding me.

A love letter to self is a therapeutic exercise that aims to help you write out the inherent qualities you see in yourself, and how you’ve shown that in yourself.

Done repeatedly as an emotional first-aid tool whenever you get rejected, you will find yourself feeling strangely comforted, and not being stuck in wallowing in your self pity.

Recognise the problem

Having been through so many applications, and seen the underbelly of how organisations hire (both from being an applicant, and being an employer myself), I’ve come to see a few problems that you should be aware of.

There are two sides of the problem.

One from you, the applicant, and the other, from the hiring manager (or panel), and the last part being from the organisation.

It’s vital to recognise which pillar your problem is falling under, especially if you’ve been trying for quite some time.

The problem with you

Forgive me for being so curt. I’m trying to be gentle.

FNS singapore SPOT training teaches you how to make better meetings
It might be time to consider whether there are some problems with you.

But as much as employers are (insert whatever expletive you want) for not hiring you, you also need to realise that there are some things you struggle with too, that makes it hard to hire you.

Broadly speaking,

  1. You don’t really want to do the job
  2. You cannot do the job

You don’t really want the job

You know, there are the times when you accept an interview and internally think,

I don’t really want this job.

But you go because you ‘want interview practice’.

The interviewer will be able to tell. Unless you’re a very experienced actor, it’s hard to fake passion. It’s harder to tell people how excited you are to join them when internally, you doubt that you want to do the things listed on the job description.

Find some way to convince yourself of the merits of the job

As much as there are certain things we want to do, and we think we can do, unfortunately we also need to understand the needs of the market.

There are times when you need to do a job, because it is a job, and it pays your bills.

You don’t have to love it. You just need to convince yourself that you like it enough.

Look at the list below, adapted from Bruce Tulgan’s great book – Not Everyone Gets a Trophy.

Ask yourself what kind of reason fits you best, in your current search.

What’s the right answer? Relax. I know that here in Singapore, we love our model answers.

The model answer is the last, where you see your job as a self-building job. You want to grow your employer’s work, with your employer, whilst doing the work that fits you.

But there are times when you just need a safe harbour job, where you’re just there to collect a paycheck. Nothing against that. You just need to be aware of that internally.

You can’t do the job

But there are the other times when you’re not really able to do the job. These are the times when you might be wanting a career change. You’re going into a new career, with next to nothing experience.

It might make employers hesitant about whether they should really hire you.

There are the days though when the problem may not lie with you, but your employer.

Figure out some way to show experience and expertise

When I first transited out of the social services, I landed in writing. I had no real experience, beyond writing a few blog articles in university.

But I had also started actively creating my website.

This led to me eventually being given chances to create websites for others.

Web development became another expertise I grew.

If you’re thinking of changing careers, try doing it as a side project first. Use that as evidence that you know what you’re talking about.

The precocious talent problem

One Harvard Business Review article has spoken about how at the lower levels, strategic thinking skills can often be seen as deviant, rather than helpful.

Here in Singapore, I’ve experienced that many times.

Growing your career might not be so neat and tidy.

In my first job, I had an idea for a new programme. When I shared it with a colleague, he ended up sharing it with the team leader.

What followed was a crash course in how not to manage people. He sent an email to all members of the team, telling me that I had to ‘inform him if I had new ideas,’ and ending the email with ‘there is no ‘I’ in team’.

From that day, I learnt that sometimes, being smart, wasn’t that good.

Especially when you outshined your managers.

You may have experienced that before. As much as we say that Singapore is a meritocratic society, its meritocratic if you have the right type of leaders, who are secure in not being outshone by their juniors.

You would be surprised by how many leaders actually fear their juniors taking over their positions.

Humble yourself to take a learning position

Whilst it’s tempting to go into interviews thinking that you’ve something to teach others, it’s not ideal.

Don’t laugh.

I’ve had this thought many times, thinking that I had to impress my interviewers.

Rather than thinking of how to impress your interviewers, why not take time to think,

What can I learn from these people?

The ‘I don’t know where to fit you’ problem

Over the years, you might find yourself growing a range of skills. You were interested in something, took a short course, and did some work.

Then something else caught your attention, and you started doing that too.

Whilst it was fun for you, if you leave that on your CV, your employer might be confused. Think in the point of view of your hiring manager.

They want to form a coherent, tidy narrative of you and your career path.

Take a look at the skills I picked up over the years.

If you look at the list of skills I share above, you would also struggle to fit me anywhere near you team.

That might be the same for the employer trying to hire you.

The ‘There are easier candidates to accept’ problem

Soon, you will realise that there are more straightforward candidates to hire.

Every hire is a risk. It costs an average of a 6 month salary to hire, train, and onboard you.

When there are candidates that walk through the door that check the boxes, and don’t show any explicitly special traits, that might make them far easier to hire.

I also call this the ‘Simple Jane’ problem.

Not all employers like to handle difference. And its much easier to pick someone who’s conventional, who looks like he has all the boxes, rather than the one that is special and unique.

Why take the risk of picking you, when there are easier options?

What can you do?

Job rejections are never easy. And having gone through 28 months without a role, I’ve come to see certain things that help.

Take control of your own destiny by earning your own money

This is by far the most important part of anything you try to do.

Earn your money.

He who can last the distance will have the choice of picking the job that fits, rather than the job that lands on his lap.

This can happen by doing things like

  1. Tuition
  2. Facilitating focus group discussions (this can earn you a tidy $100 per hour with places like Sequoia or Facilitators Network Singapore)

If there was anything that the time out of a formal job taught me, it’s that what you need to learn is like what was taught in primary school.

No one owes you a living.

You make your own.



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