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The pain of silent rejection for graduates

In the first of a new guest blog series featuring students and graduates and their experiences of applications, Xian Pelaez talks about the frustration of application silence. When you never hear from the potential employer.

As a young girl I imagined my life just like many others. I’ll get an education, go to work, be married and have children – all by the age of 25! As a 22-year-old, I can confirm my life is far from how I planned it would go – only ticking off the education part so far. Obviously the timeframe I imagined was unrealistic for all sorts of reasons – but I did not expect the draining feeling of rejection that comes from being an unemployed graduate. Applications are hard work and take time – and what I have discovered is that many employers do not understand or respect that. In fact, I have found they can often handle the process with a disregard for people’s welfare. I am used to being ghosted, but that's men for you! I didn't expect that to happen with companies as well.

I finished my degree sat at my desk in my bedroom…during a global pandemic and national lockdown. Although I was (and still am) extremely proud of my result, the question that instantly came into my head was, “How am I going to get a job now?”. All I was seeing on the news was that pilots were becoming food delivery drivers; actors were claiming Universal Credit; more and more high street shops were closing and many were living off furlough. I knew my job search was going to be tough, but little did I know how tough it was going to be.

During the last year of my job search, I’ve had 125 job rejections. 125. I have a spreadsheet of course. That document keeps track of replies too and the reply column is rarely troubled. Do I believe that each employer took the time to read my application? Absolutely not. There have been three instances where I have spent a fair amount of time writing my cover letter – trying to perfect it – in the evening, and by the morning I have been unsuccessful, even though the application is still open. So how have they compared my application to others in that short space of time? Especially when there is still (in theory) time for others to get their applications in!?

For one job I managed to gain contact with a member of the company for a role they had advertised, which I was particularly interested in. I wanted to specifically know what they were looking for. They responded by telling me they had put a pause on hiring. WHY is the job application still open then? There are many people like me spending a great deal of time trying to cater our talents to suit an employer when behind the scenes they have a whole different agenda.

We are constantly told at school and university to follow our dreams, but we are never taught how to prepare ourselves for how tough and deflating the job search can be. It is almost seen as a guarantee, when you get your degree you will get a job and become a success. But nobody wants to speak about the constant knock-backs. Now it seems to me, to not only be about the knock-backs, but to wonder, “is this job even real?”, “what’s the point because it’s not like they are going to acknowledge me anyway?”.

Even though rejections are something nobody wants to face, I believe it is shaping me into the young professional adult I am blossoming into. When I do get my job one day (and I know it will come eventually), any type of set-back, change of plan or even just something not going how I expected, I will know that with hard work you can turn it around and get the outcome that’s been worked for.

The Media Mentor says: This is one of the toughest aspects of job applications, particularly when you are starting out. Any feedback at this stage is useful and the silent treatment offers no insight. Many people apply for roles and never hear back. Sometimes that's because they are not suitable and do not match the experience required. Sometimes though it's because the role has been filled, the job has been withdrawn or the company has reassessed what they need. Whatever the reason, an applicant will feel a deep sense of failure, unless told clearly why they haven't been chosen. It is impossible to reply to every person - when sometimes there are hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. However, I often hear stories of people that have made shortlists or even interview that then get the silent treatment. This is unacceptable. If that happens chase them and push them. If you apply for something and it vanishes into a void, also chase them. But do not spend large amounts of energy on the process. Try and move on. What can help is looking to make contact with someone when you first submit the application, as Xian tried to do. Phone or email and say you have submitted the application. Get a direct contact helps to raise your profile. Utlimately though HR departments need to improve the communication process and portals can be very cold and unfeeling. It doesn't really help to know you're not alone but, if like Xian, you experience this deep sense of rejection, understanding it is not personal should soften the impact (a bit).


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