Handling rejection from employers: an autistic perspectivePhoto by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash.com

So, you’ve prepped for the interview, showed up, done your utmost and even felt like the interview went OK-ish. The people interviewing seemed friendly and you’re even feeling vaguely positive. But then the dreaded rejection email comes through. Or sometimes it’s just a blanket silence.


However the information is fed back to you, it’s never nice to receive a no.

You are by no means alone here and I’m sure virtually everyone you know will have had this experience. I appreciate it’s so hard to find comfort in this knowledge when you’ve been working so hard to decipher the rather bizarre world of applying for jobs; how to get a CV properly structured, deciphering job descriptions, tweaking a cover letter - and then putting everything together to actually apply for the role. It takes so much time, energy – in fact it feels even harder than doing a full-time job in itself. Well firstly, I’m really sorry you didn’t get the job. I really am. Please do take the time you need to take in all that you may be feeling. It’s never easy nor nice to receive a no from a potential employer. Or anyone/thing in fact.  

My hope is that this blog will help you consider other factors and pick you up and get you going again.

A rejection is not personal. It's really not.

I know being autistic, I almost have this automatic ‘defence sensitivity’ to thinking that that I didn’t get the job (or whatever situation it is), because I’m autistic. And that’s regardless of whether I’ve even disclosed to the employer! Or I have another ten other personal reasons that come to mind. None of which are helpful, I must say. And it only deepens my low mood. But when you’re recruiting someone, all you are looking for is the very best person for the role and fit for the organisation. Recruitment is always such a complicated process, and as an interviewee, there is so much going on behind-the-scenes that you’re simply not privy too. Perhaps there was already a strong internal candidate in the picture, and the interviews were simply a formality. It doesn’t make it OK, but it shows that there’s more to the process than meets the eye. And as long as you’ve turned up, been true to who you are (this is so important) and tried your best, then that really is all you can do. Everything else is out of your control at the end of the day. And none of this is personal.

Ask for feedback

This is a such a practical step you can take, and I’d suggest doing this right away, while you are fresh in the recruiter’s mind. This is sometimes given over email, or it may involve a phone call with the person who interviewed you.

Do take note of this feedback

Feedback is really useful in helping inform your next application and is generally beneficial in guiding you towards roles that are a good fit for you. Always be polite and even ask if it’s OK to connect over LinkedIn, or whether they can let you know if there are similar roles available in the future. The process doesn’t just end with a rejection. Your friendly and positive nature will be remembered. And you never know what could come about in the future.

Reflect and evaluate

Always take the time to reflect on how an interview has gone. What you felt went well and where you could have improved. You can ask yourself broader questions too, like ‘how do I see my ideal job scenario looking like?’. Humility is a great skill in this process, as is honesty.

I know when I address this reflection period as openly as possible, I’m often surprised by what comes up

I know in the past, all sorts of golden wisdom has come out, e.g. realising that I didn’t really want to be doing the type of jobs I was applying for in the first place. Yeh, pretty major, right?!

Also, consider whether there were any reasonable adjustments that you could have asked for, that you previously hadn’t thought to request? This can include anything from asking for the interview questions in advance, to asking for short, direct questions to be asked. There are different requests that can be made and it’s worth having a think about what would help you feel like you’re comfortable, and to help you do your best at an interview.

Keep going

Hopefully at this stage, as some time has passed, you’re starting to relate to your rejection differently. I appreciate this process isn’t a linear one and it takes time. This length of time is different for everyone, so don’t set a limit or expectation for yourself to be ‘over it’ by a certain point. Either way, at this stage, you’ve asked for feedback, reflected on how the interview went, and you’ve been honest with yourself in terms of what you want for yourself. This is tremendous progress in itself and it’s important to acknowledge and understand that you are continually learning and developing yourself in this process. You’re likely to be learning lots about yourself - I know every job hunting process that I’ve been through, I’ve always learnt so much. And as well as improving your interview and job seeking skills, you’re building your resilience and understanding of yourself. So please don’t forget this. And do keep going!

In life, you are always so much more than a job

As cliched as that may sound. But it’s by no means your identity and you have a great deal to offer on so many different levels. So please don’t forget the bigger picture of all that you already have going on for you. I like to believe that whenever I don’t get a particular job or opportunity, it’s because something far better is coming my way - and that the rejected job just wasn’t the one. I appreciate this may be hard to read and accept when this doesn’t feel like your reality right now, but it really is only a matter of time until the right opportunity comes along. And honestly: this doesn’t need to be a paid job, it can come in another guise or form; be it volunteering or utilising your time in a way that is satisfying to you. I’ve always found this to be the case for me – even when I’ve had periods of not working and haven’t fully understood why it wasn’t right for me to be doing anything in that moment. And sometimes it can take years (or perhaps never) to realise that it just wasn’t the right opportunity for you. I wish you well as you continue your search (whatever form this comes in).

You have absolutely plenty to offer. And they’ll be damn lucky to have you!

Mahlia Amatina

May 2022