There’s No Crying in Recruiting: 5 Tips to Handle Rejection
Back in 2000, I was a commission-based headhunter for a boutique recruiting firm outside of Washington, D.C. At 22 years old, I had been working in the “real” world for less than a year and had just landed a new client. I was working my tail off to fill one of their openings, even though their list of job requirements was long and a bit unrealistic.
Just after the first candidate left the interview, one of the VPs called. Apparently, she didn’t approve of my work. And she made sure I knew it. Her phone call was the first time I experienced incivility and heard someone drop an F-bomb at work. It was the first time I felt completely rejected at my job.
It took everything I had to not lose it over phone. As soon as the heated call ended, I closed my office door and sobbed. But I had learned an important lesson, which is why I’m sharing this story.
Rejection is part of the recruiting game
Recruiting is filled with highs and lows. Every interaction you have can go well or not-so-well. Like sales, it’s the constant possibility of rejection or reward that motivates or breaks you. So much of a recruiter’s job hangs on the decisions of others—clients, hiring managers and candidates.
You advertise jobs, network, source, interview…and then you think you’ve finally done it! You found the “purple squirrel” and extend an offer, only to be thrown a curveball and have it declined.
Or the candidate no-shows for an interview. Or someone fails a drug screen. Or the hiring manager’s a jerk. Or the salary isn’t high enough. Or this or that or the other.
And there you are, right back where you started. But, every time you start over, you learn something new. If this sounds like you, use these five simple tips to learn to deal with rejection:
1. Give up some control
Over the years, I’ve learned that you can’t control other people. You can do your best to influence them, but you can’t control them. As cliche as it sounds, sometimes things happen for a reason and you just have to move on.
2. Grow a thick skin
Chances are you will be tested. Hiring managers will disagree with your recommendations. Candidates will upset you, try your patience, lie to your face and disappoint you.
Then one day, you’ll realize that people say and do crazy things, and you’ll stop being surprised by this and be able to do your job well in spite of it.
3. Manage your emotions
“You can’t always get what you want.” I’ve been known to sing that to my five-year-old when she’s upset that I’ve said “no.” Keeping your cool in the moment of rejection takes experience and some getting used to, but being rejected builds character.
4. Stop taking it personally
If you’re doing your job, acting appropriately and are otherwise a professional, kick a** recruiter, then it’s not you, it’s them. (Now, if you’re not working hard or doing your job with integrity, you should probably take a look in the mirror.)
5. Keep at it
The worst thing you can do is let rejection get the best of you and give up. If you want to build a career in recruiting, you have to learn from your mistakes, work on your pitch and practice, practice, practice.
Shannon Smedstad spends her days leading the employment brand and HR social media strategy for a major U.S. auto insurer and has more than 14 years of industry experience. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Views and opinions are her own.
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