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Career Corner: It’s Not Personal

If you are rejected by an employer remember to follow the advice of Dory in “Finding Nemo,” just keep swimming. – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

Job searching is one of the most personal impersonal experiences there is. As a job seeker, you pour your heart into your cover letter. You customize your resume. You sit in agony at each step of the process, which can drag out for many months. Along the way, you may encounter many tests of your abilities.

In addition to a phone screen, multiple phone calls, in person one-on-one interviews, and panel interviews, you’re asked to do even more. You may be asked to take a personality test to be sure you’re a cultural fit. You may need to take an IQ test to be sure you’re smart enough for the job. You might be asked to create and deliver a presentation or you may be asked to create a 90-day plan. You may be asked to do a sample assignment. You will probably be asked to do a background check, submit references, and possibly go through a drug test.

And, you’ll be doing all of these things just under the radar of your current boss. You know all along that if the boss notices you’re searching you could be putting your entire career on the line. But, you do it anyway because it’s important and it’s the only way to truly grow your career.

After all of this work, very often the company drops you but you may not even realize you’ve been dropped because sometimes they don’t call. Other times, you find out you’ve been dropped when you receive an automated email rejecting you in favor of a “more qualified” candidate.

But, it’s not personal, right? It shouldn’t be, but it definitely burns. If you keep the right attitude, you’ll dust yourself off and keep going. You may even keep an eye out to see if the company you interviewed with has any additional job postings. You can’t let it get to you.

Similarly, job searching becomes a numbers game. If you really want to score something new, you’ve got to apply in bulk. You’ve got to interview at more than one company at a time.

This is where things get a bit ironic. Imagine that you’re having a positive experience interviewing. You’re finding success, but not at just one company – at two or three. Suddenly, you get more than one job offer and you have to pick one. And, the tables have reversed.

Interestingly, companies can take the rejection just as personally as job seekers do. They seem to feel that they’ve invested all of their time into a candidate who walked away. The friend you’ve made in human resources may not even respond to your email or phone call declining the offer. You’ve let them down.

Just remember, it’s not personal. Both sides are investing their time in the process. Both sides can walk away at any point. And, the job seeker isn’t the only one who shouldn’t take rejection so personally.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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