Prime the pump
November 9, 2021
Handling job rejection

My heart was broken, I lost my appetite, I felt detached. I experienced almost every stage of grief - denial and isolation, depression, and finally acceptance.  I was grieving the loss of a job I had hoped for. I attended a first interview and was invited for a second interview – both went well.  However, a couple weeks later, I received an email that started with “Unfortunately.” I knew what would follow “unfortunately” so I deleted the email, and, like a bad breakup, I started grieving. In hindsight, I am so thankful they said no, but believe it or not – even for me – that stung.

Especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people vying for jobs, particularly skilled jobs, far outnumbers the jobs that are available.  As a result, more candidates are going to feel rejected, and experience personal trauma as potential employers make decisions about who gets hired and whose dream is deferred.  While to experience job rejection is to be human, as a human resource professional, I am particularly sensitive these days with how rejection is communicated. Therefore, I thought it apt for us to look at job rejection psychology and how potential employers could make job rejection sting less. 

As potential employers, we encounter different categories of job seekers, including those who have experienced extended periods of job loss and rejections. The implications of long-term unemployment surpass financial, and include many social and psychological consequences.

Many psychologists believe that understanding the long-term effects of job rejections is crucial as many of the candidates we interview may be experiencing the effects of such.

Let’s start with “loss of status.” This is ranked high as an effect of long-term unemployment. It is well recognized that status contributes to the overall feeling of mental and physical health and success. In an article “Coping with Status Loss: The Hidden Cost of Unemployment” Mark Van Vugt, PhD said, the status syndrome is the idea that status determines your physical and mental health. Dr. Van Vugt referred to a longitudinal study conducted by British epidemiologist Michael Marmot. Marmot followed 18,000 high and low status individuals of the British Civil Service in the last century, the famous Whitehall studies. His team discovered that the higher ranked employees were healthier and lived longer.

It was also discovered that the unemployed had increased cortisol levels in their saliva. High levels of Cortisol, the “stress” hormone can be associated with fatigue, irritability, headaches, intestinal problems, anxiety or depression, weight gain, increased blood pressure and low libido. Many Job seekers who have been unemployed for an extended period, come into an interview with an elevated level of cortisol because of loss of status. We will continue this article next week…