More often than not graduate employers tell you they cannot give you feedback on your application due to the thousands of applications they received. While you might be accepting of this, no-feedback rejections can be hard to recover from - especially if you're the type of person who typically responds to setbacks with self-improvement.
Being unable to pin-point your areas for improvement gives rise to generalised self-criticism, such as 'I'm just not good enough' or 'I'll never get a job', which can damage your confidence and self-esteem in the long term because, once we persuade ourselves of such things, it can be difficult to change our own minds.
However, you do have options - there are steps you can take to channel your feelings of disappointment and frustration into targeted self-improvement. Here are five of options that you have if an employer tells you they cannot give you feedback on your application:
We are more likely to remember negative experiences than we are to remember positive ones. Therefore, by the time you receive that rejection email (maybe weeks or months after your initial application or interview), you might only be able to recall the very worst moments.
However, self-improvement not only requires you to identify where you could have done better, it also requires you to notice your strengths and to continue to showcase them in your future applications.
You can reduce this bias by journalling your experience in the application process - write down the facts (what questions were you asked? how did you respond) and your feelings (what vibe did you get from the recruiter? did it seem like the company aligned with your motivations and values?). This way, you can remind yourself of your experience on the day and use this insight to guide your self-improvement for the future.
2. Take your time.
Before you start to think about self-improvement, the first thing you should absolutely do is give yourself some time. Even if you feel so much pressure to land yourself a graduate job that you want to start addressing your areas for improvement straight away, you must resist the temptation and allow yourself time to relax and recover.
You should spend time doing the things that restore your energy levels - read a good book, watch Netflix, spend time with your family etc. If you skip this step and start thinking about self-improvement too soon, your raw emotions will keep interfering with the process and you will not achieve the outcome you deserve.
Some relaxing and easy-watch Netflix series I'm loving at the moment are:
- Superstore: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80061132
- The Crown: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80025678
- Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70143858
From my experience, even if we might not dare to admit it incase we somehow jinx the outcome, we usually have a fairly good idea of how we performed in the application process. Having said that, after receiving a rejection email, it can be really difficult to reflect on your performance and draw meaningful conclusions about self-improvement from it, without over-thinking and ending up going round in circles and becoming more and more frustrated and disappointed with your performance.
Using a reflection model can help to give purpose and direction to your reflection. It also means you know when you have reached the end of the reflective process and need to focus on moving forward through self-development rather than continuing to look back.
I really like Gibbs Reflective Cycle. You can find more information about this here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/reflecting-on-experience/gibbs-reflective-cycle
4. Be kind.
Reflection is a powerful tool. However, it can be quite mentally tiring - especially if you are the type of person who strives for perfection. You might find yourself reflecting more and more often and becoming more fixated on what you could have done better.
Remember that nobody is perfect and that you need to be kind to yourself.
Decide to focus your self-improvement on one or two things that you feel you could have done better in the application process. Try to think creatively about the steps you could take to improve in those areas (for example, market research, networking, participating in online courses etc.) and commit to taking those steps within an acceptable time scale. You should record the steps somewhere that you regularly look, such as the Notes in your phone, so that you don't accidentally forget about them.
It doesn't actually matter that the areas for improvement you identify may not be those that resulted in the outcome of the application process. Having the opportunity to channel your feelings of frustration and disappointment into something productive will not only support your self-development, it will also help you to recover from the rejection without damaging your confidence and self-esteem.
So, while an employer might not give you any feedback, you do have options and I wish you the best of luck with trying them out.
Let me know how they work for you!