Most of us will likely have experienced some form of job rejection during our lifetime and the frustrations and disappointments that come with this. Standing out from hundreds – sometimes thousands – of applications isn’t easy. On average, 75% of applications get screened out before they even get to the hiring manager, who won’t spend more than 7 seconds reading through a CV. If you’ve gone through all this and landed an interview that resulted in a rejection, wouldn’t it be great to know what went wrong in the last leg of the job-seeking journey to ensure you reach the next career destination safe and sound?
So, don’t let your bruised confidence be the only thing you get out of rejection. In this guide, we asked our specialist consultants to share the common reasons job seekers are rejected and how to turn rejections to your advantage for your next job application.
Is Your CV Telling a Relevant Story About You?
A fundamental error that's crucial to avoid is not double – or even triple – checking through a CV for mistakes.
Especially for Medical Writer and Editor positions, this could cost a job seeker a good opportunity. Zoe, Associate Consultant specialising in Medical Editorial roles, has seen many job seekers who should have had a better chance in the process but were held back because of silly mistakes. She suggests: “Avoid errors in the CV; these include typos, mistakes in grammar, spelling, and formatting – particularly for editing roles as this can result in instant rejection.”
When a CV is too generic, it won’t showcase your key skillset that’s most relevant to the position. Based on her experience with some job applications, Hannah, Pharma Sales and Training Consultant, says: “Tailor your CV to individual roles and highlight relevant experience for specific opportunities.” For Pharma Sales job seekers, this usually includes emboldening relevant therapy area experience, key networks, key experience relevant to the vacancy etc. Hannah has seen CVs that focused on listing responsibilities rather than key achievements. “They end up reading more like a job description than what the candidate has actually accomplished.”
How Do You Come Across During the Interview?
Many applicants meet the requirements from their CV but then get turned down because of what they show in the interview.
A common problem is a lack of preparation. Oftentimes, interviewees put all their focus on displaying their experience but forget that hiring managers would also like to see what they’ve done to get to know what the company they're interviewing with does.
Louise, Team Lead for Med Comms and Med Education, says: “You need to be informed, positive, and interested in the company with solid reasons for applying to that position.” This is where your research into the company and the position will shine through. “You need to be able to articulate what you can bring to the company you are speaking to, and what excites you about the opportunity.”
Preparation will also help you stay focused on any assignments given as part of the interview process, which will allow you to better understand what the interviewers are looking for.
There are also some dos and don’ts for applicants to take note of to help avoid a job rejection. “Always actively listen during the interview to ensure you grasp important information and can interact with the interviewer to show your interest,” Market Access consultant Joe Grundy recommends. Confidence is often what hiring managers like to see in a job seeker as the conversation goes on, “You need to strike a balance between overconfidence and underselling your capability.”
Apart from showing a level of preparation, what you do and say during an interview also lets the interviewers gauge your character and whether you’d fit into their team. In this respect, it’s best to avoid bad-mouthing your current/previous employer; at this stage, job applicants are also advised not to focus on the salary and benefits.
We understand the comfort of having a note at hand to remind you of everything you want to cover in an interview, but the hiring manager would like to see that you’ve taken the effort to prepare as well. Sarah, Senior Associate Consultant, advises against what some of her candidates have done: “I’ve had some candidates read from their notes rather than bring their own knowledge to the interview; notes are fine to have with you, but they should be kept only as a reference point.”
Without a doubt, you should always do your research around the company and the role you’re applying for. But don’t forget to check how your recruiter can help you prior to the interview. “We try to give candidates as much information on what to expect in terms of the tone, formality, and the style of interview,” says Healthcare Advertising & PR Consultant, Alice. Your mindset also makes a difference, so make sure you walk into an interview with a clear vision of what you want with regard to the job. One last piece of advice from Alice: “Despite the rejections you’ve previously received, you should leave any job search baggage at the door and walk into an interview with gusto.”
Not many job applicants know this, but it is possible to go back on a certain question you feel you didn’t do well on after the interview. Senior Associate Consultant James says: “It’s normal to have a bit of a missing moment because of nerves. And even after the interview, it’s always possible to ask your recruiter to extend an explanation to the hiring manager and rectify your answer to the question you didn’t provide the best response to. They would understand.” James continues, saying: “Don’t assume you’ve lost the opportunity. You just never know, so keep at your best throughout the interview.”
A Few Final Thoughts
If you’re actively looking for a new role make sure to prioritise yourself and be available for interviews.
We’ve seen hiring processes stretch for longer than they should have or being knocked back to square one because the job applicant changed their expectations midway through. It rarely leads to a positive outcome to suddenly change your salary expectations or hours you want to work, as it could compromise the hiring manager’s impression on you or cost you the job altogether.
Lastly, learn from your mistakes. If you’re already in the habit of asking for feedback after every rejection, that would be your first go-to for any pointers on what you can do better next time. Good luck with your job search!
If you want to start updating your CV and are looking for tips on creating a CV that will stand out, our guide shows you how. For professionals in the Pharma and Life Sciences sector, we also provide insights into what Pharma employers look for in a CV. If you’d like to see what opportunities are available within Pharma and Life Sciences, you can find them here. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Get in touch to arrange a chat with our consultants!