Persistence is something we're taught at a young age. If we get rejected from a sports team, we're encouraged to practice until we improve and try out again. If we get a low grade in class, we're taught to study until we bring our grades up.
Persistence is an attribute that continues to be important as we get older, playing a part in everything from our relationships to our health to our careers.
When it comes to careers, persistence can certainly pay off -- employers want workers who are truly interested in and passionate about their jobs. But what about when a job seeker gets rejected from a company that he really wants to work for? Can he continue to pursue employment at that company, or could his persistence work against him?
Joshua Siva, co-author of "BOLD: Get Noticed, Get Hired," says that job seekers shouldn't be discouraged from applying again to a company that's turned them down. "When an applicant has taken the time to understand the company, the people and the customers, getting rejected the first time around should never discourage that applicant from future prospects with the firm," Siva says. "Any number of reasons could have led to the rejection."
What to do before re-applying
Siva says there are three things applicants should do before applying again to the same company. The first is to understand the gap in their previous application. How? "Ideally this comes from the company through a contact involved in the hiring process, but if not, the applicant needs to be honest with themselves: 'Did I have the experience, did I speak the company's language, did I sell myself the right way?' Make a list of these things, and spend whatever amount of time is needed to close the gap, and be sure to have it documented and readily demonstrated."
The next move Siva recommends a job seeker makes is to connect with someone at the company in a related function. "[This is] in order to learn everything about their role, their background, how they got in, company trends, etc.," Siva says. "It's amazing how far asking questions can take the applicant, because at the end of it all, the potential applicant will likely get asked about their own ambitions, and when shared, who knows what doors may open via the employee."
Finally, Siva suggests following up periodically with the human resources manager involved in the hiring process from the original rejection. In your follow up, Siva says to remind the HR manager of your résumé on file, share what progress you've made since and reiterate your passion for the company. "It's always a favorable position when an applicant is on the mind of an HR professional involved with recruiting, because they constantly have visibility and support requests to fill roles."
When it's OK to apply again
After you've been turned down by a company, you may be tempted to re-apply right away, especially if there's another job that interests you. But it may be in your best interest to wait it out a few months, to ensure that you're in a situation where it would make sense for them to potentially consider you again.
Lisa Rangel, managing director of Chameleon Resumes, an executive résumé-writing and job-search service, says that in general, it's good to wait a minimum of three to six months. "There needs to be enough time to allow for a possible change in the company situation and for the person to amass additional and/or relevant skills that are different than before."
Applying the second time around
Depending on what you're looking for, and how important it is to work at the company versus in a particular position, you may wait until a similar position comes along, or you may be willing to work in a different function or department just to get a foot in the door. Based on what type of position you're applying for the second time, you should adjust your application materials as needed. But regardless of whether the position is the same or different from the original job you applied for, you need to show the company that you've grown.
"To be taken seriously for the competitive and coveted positions in the marketplace, those who are and aren't currently employed need to be advancing and improving themselves as time goes on," Siva says. "If applying for the same role, that improvement needs to speak to closing the gaps in their previous application. If applying for a different role or function, that progress needs to demonstrate the pivot in knowledge and the commitment made to pursuing the new function of focus.
"Above all else, the applicant needs to be bolder and more creative the second time around in order to stand out from other applicants, in addition to their former self and application," Siva says.