How to Turn No into Knowledge

Do you often face rejection in your job hunt? You are far from alone. To a lot of people, job hunting is an activity with a lot of rejection. In this post, I want to share how you can turn rejection into knowledge and success.

Job hunters face a lot of rejection

In a survey we made, 80 % of all job hunters said that they only get invited to interviews on 0-5 % of their job applications. So in the job hunt, we face a lot of rejection and it is a painful process for us. Because, studies in neuroscience have shown that whenever we are rejected, the same part of the brain lights up as if we are being hit physically. For your brain, being rejected by a recruiter is the same as being hit with a stick. Do you also feel that way?

person holding up her hand in front of her

I am telling you this because I want you to know that if you are feeling bad being rejected, you are in great company. It is horrible for all of us. I feel you. I want to help you turn the rejection into something good.

Everyone experience rejection

First of all, we need to acknowledge that everyone will be rejected. Even people that are on the very top of their fields. I want to start giving you some examples of people that we considered outstanding, who faced intense rejection and failure along the way. I want to tell you these stories because there are lessons in all of them.

Walt Disney Had No Imagination or Good Ideas

the disney castle

Walt Disney was fired from a job he had in 1919 at Kansas City Star for the sole reason that he had no imagination or good ideas. Walt Disney went on to create Disney in 1923. A company that has become synonymous with imagination and turning ideas into reality. Not only that, they have continued to do so over the past century. Consistently.

Steve Jobs Got Fired From His Own Company

hand holding up Apple iPhone so the back is turned towards the camera

Another person that faced a tough rejection was the CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs. In this commencement speech, Jobs tell us the story about how he was fired from the company he once started. He went on to start Pixar, the company that created the first animated movie Toy Story. Later he was also hired by the very company that fired him and he was essential in the process of making the iPhone and Apple’s success to this day.

Finding 10 000 ways that don’t work

Lastllight bulb on a stack of yellow books in front of a brick wally, another inspiring story is how many times Thomas Alva Edison worked on making a working light bulb. He said that:

“If I find 10 000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not  because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward” – Thomas Alva Edison

I think there are tons of things to learn from these stories. So feel free to dig deeper into them on your own. But, I want to take away some things before we move ahead:

Failure is temporary

First of all, failure often feels permanent but it is often temporary. Steve Jobs got fired and then came back to Apple. Think about that in the job hunt. The recruiter who says no to you today might be the one hiring you tomorrow. Personally, I sent an email helping a candidate while back ago. I sent an email to a company asking if they were hiring/taking in interns. They said:

At the moment, we can’t onboard any more people. We just hired some new people on our team”

I said: “so when will be the next time you are hiring?”

They told me a month and I followed up that month to continue the discussion. At that part in time, they were interested in meetings candidates again. Because the timing was right. When I first talked to them the timing was not right.Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."

So the initial no was just temporary but it sounded like permanent one, it usually does. They just said no and I had to ask why and when will you hire again? 

Second, failure is progress. For Edison, knowing that one of his light bulb designs didn’t work meant crossing of that solution from his list of possible solutions. This is also applicable to your job hunt. Let’s say you have a list if you have of companies that you want to work for. Getting a no means that you learn that it wasn’t a good fit at the moment. You can now learn why you didn’t get the interview or simply just crossing that employer out of the list of potential employers.

Getting a no may seem like a failure, but make sure you learn something from it.

Turning no into knowledge

a library with books to the right and people studying to the leftSo, when we get a no from an employer we should really think about how we can turn it into a valuable lesson. Because that is the only way we can turn the no into something great, knowledge.

One way to do this is to simply send an email after the process is over saying something like:

“Thanks for letting me know. Of course, I was hoping to be among the candidates for this position. In order to improve my chances to next time, I would like to ask you something. If I could work on something in my profile to improve my chances to next time, what would that be? I always try to improve as a professional and would really like hearing your experienced opinion.”

person writing on a macbook computer

Try to figure out why they didn’t pick you for an interview. Try to understand what professional they picked and why. For example, let’s say that you get a response in the terms of: ”we found someone that speaks Swedish and moved on with that candidate”.

This is actually a really good response. It tells us two things:

1. We know what to work on, Swedish

2. We have a reason to follow up later. Save the employer in a list called “employers looking for Swedish speakers”. When you have additional proof that your Swedish has improved, you can reach the employer again. For instance, you can say: “I have now worked on my Swedish and leveled up to SFI D and aced my exam. SFI D is generally where people have their breakthroughs with the language and I feel way more confident now. Would you be open to meet for fifteen minutes and talk more next week? I would like to hear more about your company”

You get the point. Follow up with them when you have bridged the gap between your profile and their need. 

One last thing…

neon question mark in a corridorI see people all the time just focusing on the rejection. It is natural to focus on the things that can be improved. But at the same time, make sure you also think about the good things that have worked for you. Think about the people responding, the interview you have had or the positive responses you have received. Think about all the amazing strengths you already have.

Okay, one more thing…

Go out there and learn from the rejection. Ask why it was a no. See what they say. Play around with it, learn.

Good luck!

Return to “8 Rules to Win The Job”


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6 Responses to “How to Turn No into Knowledge

  • Really good article, psychology is a key factor in the job hunting. Being ready emotionally for the process is something that makes it easy, and learning during it will make you stronger.

    By the way, any suggestions of what to write in a “3-day later email” if you haven’t received a rejection yet?

    • andreaswennberg
      7 years ago

      Thank you so much! Makes me happy to hear your positive feedback!

      Regarding the 3-day later email, if you haven’t received any response you can follow up with something like:

      “Hey! I sent you an email for 3-days ago and just wanted to confirm that you received it. I just want to make sure that my email reached you since I am really interested in working for you.”

      Because your email might actually have ended up in their Junk mail or something. You never know. You can also ask about the process going forward if that is not clear. Something like “What are your general process for spontaneous applications” or “What is your timeline for this recruitment?”.

      Sometimes it might be junk mail, other times it might just be that they forgot to respond or something else. You can use or boomerang to make automatic emails like this.

      • Wow that helps!
        Really cool tools, I’ll use them.

      • Emmanuelle
        7 years ago

        This is great help, all of it! Thank you by hundreds 🙂

        • andreaswennberg
          7 years ago

          Happy to help, Emmanuelle! Glad I could be helpful to you!

    7 years ago

    Thank you a million times. I always feel devastated each time I get rejected but with knowledge I got from this article, I will start to do things differently from now.

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