Why Recruiters Should Embrace Rejection

Advice from the World's Leading Rejection Expert

October 15, 2015

Recruiters face rejection daily, from both hiring managers and candidates.

To Jia Jiang, that’s a good thing. Because he knows the more rejection you face, the closer you are to getting a yes.

“Rejection is just a number,” Jiang said at his keynote presentation at Talent Connect Anaheim. “Once you reach that number, a no will become a yes, and you will be better for it.”

Jiang should know. A “rejection expert,” he spent 100 days getting rejected 100 times, asking everything from asking for a burger refill to trying to get his hair cut at PetSmart.

From that, he learned something about rejection: It isn’t so bad. And if you stop fearing it, and instead just know rejection is part of the journey to a yes, great things can happen.

Particularly for recruiters.

“I want to live in a world where we are not afraid of rejection anymore,” Jiang said. “I want to know how many candidates will be closed, how many companies will be born, how many dreams will be realized.”

The story of Jia Jiang

When Jiang was 30-years-old, the Chinese immigrant had a good job at Dell, a wife and a child on the way. And yet, he wasn’t satisfied.

“Life was comfortable,” Jiang said. “But deep down inside, I wasn’t happy, because I didn’t pursue my original dream.”

That dream was becoming an entrepreneur. His wife, despite giving birth to their child just four days later, told Jiang that it was time to stop griping about not being an entrepreneur, and start doing it.

So, he quit his stable job and made an agreement with his wife: he’d spend the next six months trying to start his own business. If it didn’t work out, he’d go back to work, knowing at least he tried.

Four months in, he faced real rejection for the first time: an investor backed out at the last minute. After that, Jiang figured it wasn’t going to work, and told his wife he should probably move on.

“I figured maybe I should start searching for a job now - I only have two more months,” Jiang said. “But my wife refused, she said I gave you six months, not four.”

That caused Jiang to do some introspection, and he realized something: The reason he wanted to quit his business wasn’t because he thought his idea was bad. It was because he had a fear of rejection, and that fear was overtaking his drive.

So he decided to overcome that fear in the most dramatic way possible: Enduring 100 rejections in 100 days. During those 100 days, he made a lot of ridiculous asks - like when he asked Dominos if he could deliver pizza for them:

Expectedly, he heard a lot of nos.

But something else happened as well – he heard a lot of yeses. One cop agreed to let Jiang drive his car. One random homeowner allowed him to play soccer in his backyard.

And one worker at Krispy Kreme agreed to make him donuts replicating the Olympic rings, and didn’t even charge him for it:

“I learned two things from that experience,” Jiang said. “First, if I didn’t open myself up to the world, the world wouldn’t have opened itself to me. Second, rejection is a constant, and it can be painful. But it also can be delicious and very useful.”

What this all means to recruiters

Recruiters face daily rejection from two different sides. They constantly have candidates reject them, either by not returning their InMails or just an outright “not interested.” And they also face rejection from hiring managers, who tell them that their candidates aren’t good enough or they need people faster.

That said, all that rejection isn’t a bad thing. Rejection is just part of moving up, no matter how high you go, Jiang said.

He gave the example of J.K. Rowling when she was trying to get her first Harry Potter novel – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – published. The first 12 publishers she submitted the manuscript to rejected it.

Undeterred, Rowling kept submitting it, and the 13th publisher finally said yes. That lesson applies to everyone in all walks of life, but certainly to recruiters, Jiang said.

“If J.K. Rowling had to get rejected 12 times before Harry Potter got published, how many rejections do you have to go through to sell your company, to get your perfect candidate?” Jiang said. “So don’t fear rejection – it’s just one step closer to a yes.”

*Image from Gladiator

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