“Not applying for enough” is a top reason for not getting jobs. Some fret about applying for jobs thinking they won’t get interviews. Some fret about the same, thinking they will get interviews that fail badly. It’s hard to imagine actively sabotaging our chances, but we do.
In both cases, we imagine “rejection.” The imagination is not unfounded –Statistically speaking, we have to get through a series of unsuccessful job applications to get to that successful one. But this reality does not evoke fear of rejection in everyone. A belief that “I am not good enough” feeds into such fear. Some “evidence” of past failures further supports the fear.
If you relate to this, I want to invite you to notice one trap in this thought process:
Your reality is bigger than the binary world of “rejection/not”
There are only two possibilities when we measure the outcome in the binary system of rejection/not.
Scenario 1: a recruiter shakes her head, “why did this person even bother to apply? Not relevant!” and moves your email to the trash folder.
Scenario 2: the recruiter is overjoyed, “hooray, a perfect kind of profile! I must call the person right away!”
The first scenario feels like an intense humiliation in the ego, no matter how remotely. So people steer away from it at all costs. The second scenario, hm… sounds too good to be true – “most likely it won’t happen to me,” so they say.
Speaking from my six years of recruiter life, I can tell you that both scenarios happen, but they are on the two ends of a bell curve.
Most of the time, things aren’t that straightforward. Let me offer some rarely considered but relatively common scenarios. E.g., the recruiter shortlisted your profile, but the hiring manager decided to keep it for a future role; or everyone felt your profile was a good match, but they had to park the job you applied for due to organizational changes.
There are endless permutations of possibilities in both resume review and interview processes. Generally, the companies like and don’t like your profile at the same time. Therefore, recruitment processes are still laborious and require human involvement in decision-making.
There is NO rejection. There is only reality.
In the company’s reality, it’s not about you. It’s about them. They have to decide whom to interview and whom to offer the job to, if at all.
What is your reality? Your reality is bigger than the binary world of rejection or not.
Each job application and interview contribute to your numbers in the recruitment game, helping you to work along (or defy) the probability odds. With them, you gain momentum, confidence, and resilience. You gain valuable insights to map the market amidst all the ambiguity.
If you can use such dimensions to measure your job application, the chances are, you will find your fear evaporate. After all, there are so much for you to gain.
Will it spoil my future chance if I make a terrible impression?
This question often comes up in the context of applying for jobs internally. It feels like committing career suicide in your company unless you can show up as a dream candidate for any role you attempt.
“Not ready for the role/promotion” sounds like an equivalent to “not good enough.” They are not the same. What if you are both ready and not ready? What if you are both good and not good?
And what are the interviewers’ chances of walking out of the room thinking you are a total idiot? Or that of thinking you are a perfect individual?
Remember the bell curve? The reality is most likely in the middle. And thanks to the mere exposure effect, to make a mixed impression is always better than making no impression at all.
To come to terms with this reality is to acknowledge our imperfections and strengths. This grounded-ness is where confidence grows. It’s a zone where we are no longer afraid of our shadows. And that’s where we can show up proudly, to invite others to celebrate the beauty blossoming in our life.