I Failed Every Job Application at 20+ Companies, Until I Landed One

“Nobody said it would be easy, so don’t give up when it gets hard.”

Bertrand Wong
Sep 16 · 6 min read

Searching for my first job was my top priority back in August 2017. I was in my final year as an undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University. With multiple internships and valuable work experience under my belt, I was hopeful and confident as I embarked on my job search.

Little did I know, it turned out to be an arduous eight-month journey filled with intensive online aptitude tests, nerve-racking video and face-to-face interviews, and the painful experience of getting rejection after rejection.

Throughout the process, I applied to over 20 companies from very diverse industries, most of which were familiar brand names. I realized the most challenging part of the job search is going through multiple selection rounds at each of these companies, ranging from at least three to six.. or even SEVEN ROUNDS in some cases!

Unfortunately for me, the nearest I got to getting a prized job offer was being shortlisted for a final interview, only to find myself receiving yet another rejection after.

Most of my peers were securing jobs as the months passed, but I was still far from reaching my goal of landing a job I wanted. I started to feel weary, and even considered broadening my search beyond the job scope I desired.

But.. by a stroke of luck, there was one company that changed the course of my job search.

I have to admit, it was my first time hearing of the company (a.k.a. SE) when I saw the job posting. It was not very well known to business students like me. I did my research on the company’s website, was utterly inspired by its bold mission, and took a leap of faith by submitting my application.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I felt better prepared for the interviews with this company and seemed to perform well as I progressed further from one stage to the next.

It wasn’t until three months later, after several rounds of tests and interviews, that I finally picked up the much-anticipated call from the company’s talent acquisition team. This time, the call brought only joy to me, with my eyes wide in disbelief. It was an offer I accepted with pride and gratitude.

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

All this happened just over a year ago, and I still look back in awe on how I managed to succeed that one time that mattered.

After recollecting the experience and choices I made during my journey, I wish to share the key elements that helped me land the job offer I was gunning for.

Learn Through Accumulated Experience

Each company I applied to and interviewed with was a learning opportunity, regardless of whether I proceeded to the next selection round or not. Though it may feel like I was starting from ground zero for every resume submission to a new company, I learnt how to improve my chances of success by not making the same mistakes from my previous applications.

Additionally, I honed my interview skills with each passing round, and improved my ability to convey my thoughts and ideas more coherently. I became more comfortable and confident at the interview table, and was better equipped to handle most of the questions posed to me.

Through failing numerous rounds and receiving feedback from some of the companies, I gained more clarity on what worked and what didn’t work, and applied everything I learnt in my subsequent interviews with SE.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

Finding a job can be an uphill struggle, especially when you’re aiming for highly competitive job opportunities from reputable companies. When it comes to knowing how to stand out amongst thousands of other job applicants, it doesn’t hurt to seek a little help from others.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it” ~ Ziad K. Abdelnour

In my case, given that I was unfamiliar with the company and its industry, I made a conscious decision to seek professional career advice from an experienced career consultant at my university — something I have not tried during my previous job applications.

The practical guidance I received turned out to be remarkably vital and I am truly appreciative of the support and encouragement he gave me every step of the way.

Knowing that someone was there to cheer me on from behind gave me the assurance to do my utmost, and that made a HUGE DIFFERENCE for me.

Pour Your Heart and Soul Into Each Application

One reason why I didn’t send out as many as fifty to a hundred applications was that I paid a great amount of attention and effort into understanding and preparing for each company I applied to.

“Preparation is the key to success” ~ Alexander Graham Bell.

That included attending career fairs, doing a fair amount of research online, and even connecting with current employees via LinkedIn. This allowed me to acquire a realistic preview of the company and the job, which would determine whether I was excited about the prospects of working in that particular company.

Needless to say, I was doing some filtering and self-selection during the process, which left me with only the companies I was genuinely keen to apply for.

I can wholeheartedly say that I had spent the greatest amount of time and effort into preparing for the multiple rounds of interviews I had with SE.

At the end of it, I had this 20-page long customized document containing all my research about the company, as well as possible interview questions and answers related to the job, company and my personal skills.

Have Strong Self-Belief In Your Abilities

I would not have achieved a breakthrough during my job search if I didn’t possess the crucial virtues of self-belief and self-confidence, and this was in spite of facing defeat repeatedly.

Holding on tightly to this belief enabled me to cope with all the setbacks, view them as part of the learning process, and move forward with hope and a strong will.

Photo by Katrina on Unsplash

In fact, trusting in my own abilities became more important than any amount of intelligence, work experience or talent that I brought to the table.

It motivated me to keep on searching and to sustain my job search over a long period of time.

It gave me permission to own who I am and cast away the self-doubts and negative thoughts in my mind.

On hindsight, I felt like I stood stronger as a candidate during my interviews with SE than the previous versions of myself.

“If you believe in yourself and never quit, you will emerge victorious”

Words of Encouragement

To all final year students and job-seekers alike, you will inevitably face rejections and near-wins during your job search. Before you rush into self-blame, put that thought aside and use these “moments of disappointment” as opportunities for self-reflection to improve yourself.

Even if you don’t get the job you were dying to have, know that there will be a better one, waiting just around the corner for you to chance upon.


Thanks for reading this! Feel free to share your thoughts and job-hunting experience in the comments below :)

Check out my recent works:

(p.s. if you are interested to know more about my aspirations then for my first job, I was mostly keen in HR roles and the seemingly attractive Management Associate Programmes, which provided great exposure and accelerated growth. Hence I focused my efforts on applying to companies that offered such job opportunities.)

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Bertrand Wong

Written by

Writing personal development articles | Self • Career • Growth | Empowering others to lead extraordinary and purposeful lives. | sg.linkedin.com/in/bertrandwong

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

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