Tips from Technologists Who Turned Job Rejection into an Offer

When you’re hunting for a new job, you’re told to simply move on if you’re rejected by your dream company. But is that the best advice? How do you account for all the people who finally land at a company after being rejected (sometimes multiple times)?

How did those success stories come about? We asked several “non-quitters” to share their secrets to success. What worked for them might work for you, too.

Find Out Why

Don’t bother re-applying for a position until you find out why you were rejected, advised George Santino, who overcame four rejections before landing an entry-level job at Microsoft and ultimately advancing to partner engineering manager.

“Pick up the phone and talk to the person who rejected you,” Santino suggested. “You need to understand what their objections are so you can address them.”

His theory: “The one who gets the job is the one who breaks the rules.”

Getting another chance could be as simple as correcting a glaring error on your resume or explaining how you used a specific code base to build an application in a previous job. Or you may need to put on your “sales hat.”

Become Adept at Getting Past Screeners

Santino overcame initial rejection by pointing to his work experience as evidence of his tenacity. He didn’t have a college degree—and pointed out that Bill Gates hadn’t had one, either. After he was rejected for not having five years’ testing experience with a recently acquired product, he was able to show that his experience matched that of existing employees.

Your ultimate goal is a face-to-face interview with a hiring manager, where your ability to overcome potential objections is much better. However, you must first get past 10-second résumé reviews and check-the-box screening—and to do that, it’s best to try and speak directly with recruiters and screeners about their concerns.

Show Your Human Side

No matter how automated it may seem, hiring is still a human process. Displaying strong interpersonal communication skills can help you build strong, positive relationships with recruiters and hiring managers. That will tip the scales in your favor, even when you don’t meet all the qualifications.

In fact, 28 percent of employers say gut feeling is their main reason for hiring someone, while only 8 percent cited qualifications as the main driver.

Express Passion and Enthusiasm

Passion and enthusiasm trumps competence most of the time. But how do you demonstrate passion in interviews?

The more you research the hiring manager’s problems and challenges, show empathy, and demonstrate sincere interest and ability, the better your chances of landing an offer, Santino said. All hiring managers have problems that need solving.

“I demonstrated a willingness to do almost anything to get my foot in the door,” Santino added.

Despite initial rejection, his efforts kept his hopes alive and ultimately paid off. Hiring managers recommended him for other positions even when he wasn’t qualified for the job he was pursuing. Within three months of being hired for a role, he was transferred to the job he originally interviewed for.

The bottom line: Once you’re inside the company and prove what you can do, the sky’s the limit.

Work on Your Weaknesses

If you’re going to come back from multiple rejections, you need to be strategic about it. When Sam Hansen started tracking his performance during technical interviews, he noticed he was repeating the same mistakes.

For Hansen, it was make or break time. By changing his technical interview prep and approach, he was able to overcome two previous rejections by Google, ace the interview, and keep his full-time software engineering job after the search-engine giant acquired his company.

What did he do differently? For starters, he stopped cramming and psyching himself out: “I approached it like a technical discussion between two peers and treated the whiteboard like a shared document.” He and the interviewer walked through the nature of the problem and his proposed approach before writing the test code.

Now, as an interviewer, he sees candidates making similar mistakes and offered this advice. “Don’t chase the optimal solution or spend all your time describing the things that won’t work,” he said. “Slow it down and focus on solving the problem.”