Main image of article Tips from Technologists Who Turned Job Rejection into an Offer

Reapplying for a job is a tricky subject. Can you apply for a job twice? Will a company ban you from ever applying again if you decide to resubmit your application at the wrong moment? From a job-seeker’s perspective, there’s so much about the hiring process that’s aggravatingly opaque. Fortunately, many tech pros have managed to turn previous job rejections into offer—here’s how they did it, along with some tips about whether you should reapply (or not) after a rejection.

Should I Reapply for a Job After a Rejection?

That’s a great question. You shouldn’t resubmit the exact same application soon after receiving the original rejection; after all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Here are some other reasons to hold off reapplying:

  • You haven’t learned anything new: If your skills and experience haven’t changed, there’s no reason for a hiring manager or recruiter to take a second look at your resume.

  • You still don’t align with the job’s requirements: Companies have very specific needs. If you can’t fulfill those needs, your resume will be rejected yet again.

  • You can’t think of a good reason to reapply: Ask yourself: do you really want this job? Or are you reapplying because you can’t handle the idea of rejection? You better have a good, concrete reason for putting your application in front of a recruiter and/or hiring manager for a second time.

However, if you’re learned new skills, if some time has passed, and if the role has changed to better fit your experience, you should definitely reconsider applying. If the company posts the same job again, pay careful attention to the requirements and goals in the job description; what have you done recently that aligns with those?

What’s the Best Way to Reapply and Land the Job?

Let’s say you’re feeling good about reapplying for a job after a previous rejection. What can you do to improve your chances and show a hiring manager that you’re actually a good fit for the role? Here are some tips for reapplying:

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. Maybe you needed to craft a stronger resume objective statement in order to move past the applicant tracking system and the first round of human review. 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.

Before you reach the interview stage, give your resume and other application materials another read. Many companies rely on automated screening software that checks for certain keywords. Read the original job posting and note the skills; put any listed that you’ve mastered into your resume, which will help you move past the automated screening stage.

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.”