What 10 months of rejection can do for you

The mind and the body are in pain. You need to remind them is temporary.

I started looking for jobs over a year now, once my consultancy with an international organisation was finished without a remote possibility of renewal. I was counting days and months of stability because I knew the money would eventually run out, and things like rent or food do not wait for you: you need the money for them. You need to eat and you need a place to live. There is basically no way around it.

The process began smoothly: I updated my CV, added my latest work experience and started to massively apply for jobs. It is a simple math problem. We all know that the percentage of people getting a job these days is statistically low; hence, I needed to increase the rate until I make it to one. Let us say, for example, that if only 0.01% percent of people get a job by applying (1 out of 10000) I had to reach those 10K applications, and I needed to move fast.

Desperation kicks in.

You know it will not happen overnight. You know it. You keep doing it -applying- without hesitating. You need to continue. Day after day, week after week, without any sign of approval. And at some point, you say “I wish I knew even if they said no”. Well, be careful what you wish for.

They all “regret” it

I missed the “Dear candidate” part. That in itself was a clear indication of what was coming next. A basic careless reply template as a response for me, who spent at least 42 minutes, answering their questioning on my life and, yes, my ethnicity because of positive discrimination. When this organisation didn’t even ask their IT staff to set up a customised mailing response to each recipient, they do not care. Period. However, that was not even close to being the end of it.

You are discarded without any chance for feedback

Very appreciative indeed.

At this point, I was receiving rejection e-mails on a daily basis. The way to know if it was a negative response, before opening it, was to look at the sender’s name. An email from a “no-reply” address is a ‘thank you, but no, thank you’ message, without having to actually say it. The -real- downside is that these companies/organisations do not allow you to get any feedback of any kind. Putting the effort in applying (which is not an effort, more like a necessity) should at least count for that, right? Think again.

The ones who say “maybe” are very demanding

Put on the work for a chance.

It was not all bad news. There were a few responses from actual people, saying that they were interested in my profile. I started jumping all over my place, telling everyone. My stomach stopped asking for food. It was an amazing feeling to get shortlisted. But in order to move things forward, I needed to prove my worth: an exercise.

Questions in 90 minutes, 1-page strategies in 2 days, processes reengineering in one quick look, techniques in how to approach nearly-impossible goals, and other similar trials were handed to me without hesitation. You are supposed to be a problem solver, and they need a confirmation of this. You can only play by their rules, so I delivered a morceau of my knowledge for free. (You thought only graphic designers were asked for a ‘preview’? No ma’am!). -At least I will get a feedback this time, I thought. -Why? Because I was shortlisted. Wrong again.

I posted some previous exercises here -should you be interested- but it is incredible how these HR departments are utterly carefree about giving you at least a thumbs up or down, given your current situation. If you are not the one ultimately chosen, they will send you the same letter from the beginning process. The awful part was that, when I was not chosen, my stomach reminded me of all the stress, plus the food deprivation and sometimes I got physically ill. My mind only went to places filled with misery and disappointment, and it started to show on my body. Subtle things, here and there, but I knew I had started changing who I was.

You realise you became a pessimistic

No escape from it.

I stopped celebrating getting shortlisted, because it meant absolutely nothing. Yes, it meant I was good, but not good enough for the job in question. I began living in a certain -quite constant- alert. I started carrying my passport when I was on the streets of Genève, I made calculations about how many more days I could live without any source of income. And I thought it was only a survival mode, triggered by all these uncertainties regarding my professional life. It was not.

After moving back to Panama, trying to readjust my life in a more familiar environment, my roommate and other acquaintances kept referring to one singular emotion I was showcasing: negativity. Apparently, I had become a thunderstorm of pessimism and bad omens I once was so firmly against. For me, I was simply waiting for a positive result to make me think otherwise. I stopped expecting good things. I was not expecting anything, at all. And I was not like this before, ever. It took me a while, and I do not know if it will be permanent, but I am not as joyful and celebratory as I once was, and it took me only 10 months.

Moving forward

The only way is up.

I do not have a clue about why the HR recruitment processes (at least in the Western Hemisphere) are that careless about the very own people they are evaluating to hire. I am sure there is a reason for that, and since it is easier to copy a strategy than start one from scratch (I build digital marketing strategies from scratch, I know what I’m speaking of), organisations and companies all over the planet are doing the exact same thing, giving the same worthless responses and moving from one recruitment process to the next one, without even caring the impact they have (mostly unintentional) on their candidates. You are trying to hire people, you should be able to treat them with respect.

Situations like this one, where you find yourself without a job, are temporary. The pain and the exhaustion will pass. However, I was left with the feeling of having to go through it, and that was it. When my situation improved, I could physically feel the invisible weight leaving my body. I was starting to feel like myself again. Not so cheerful, but at peace, which is something we all yearn for. It is possible to endure, but it would be a lot better if these recruitment processes were a bit more understanding of what a person has to go through when it is out, looking for jobs.

My very personal suggestions?

  1. You were not selected. We need more proficiency on ‘a’, ‘b’ and/or ‘c’. Thanks. Nobody needs that ridiculous condescending ‘regret’ you have. Keep it simple, and deadly. People who are looking for jobs do not have time to read all those lines you don’t even mean. And forget about asking us to fill out your survey. You don’t want a troll for your Social Media.
  2. Customise your no-reply email address. HR stands for “Human resources”. Let us not forget that. We know you have millions of applicants. You also have millions of ways to mask your robots. Make an effort. And no, we will not send you emails. You said no, so we move on to the next one. Very simple.
  3. If you request an exercise, whether they are for shortlisted candidates or not, give feedback. Oh, you do not have the time? Make time! It will represent you much better as a trustworthy company/organisation and will ease the burden on the candidates in the sense that it will help each one of them to improve. We all know it is a highly competitive world, and we have to keep learning and growing. But if you’re benefitting from them, have at least the decency of telling them what did you or did you not find suitable. This simple action brings closure and relief.
  4. Giveth and thou shalt receive. The best candidates will always want to be paired with the best companies. And those companies are the ones that care for their members from the very first time. Not after they signed a contract. Perhaps if you are having trouble with your recruitment process, you should try to humanise it a bit more. You may be surprised (in a good way) about the type of candidates who may start knocking at your LinkedIn profile.

A very special thank you note to Ferran Climent, from Médecins Sans Frontières who was the first and only recruiter -so far- who was kind enough to provide me with some feedback, which helped me a lot along the way. I strongly encouraged him to keep on doing it.

If you like this article, I would really like it if you click the green heart. If you did not, please let me know on the comments below. But more importantly: thank you for reading. :)

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