DiversityDo Men and Women Deal With Professional Rejection Differently? Rose Walsh 
Do Men and Women Deal With Professional Rejection Differently?

Not getting a job you applied for, felt qualified for, and interviewed for is hard. Never understanding why you didn’t get the job is harder. We’ve all been there. You wrote your perfect resumé, you thought you nailed the interview, and then you hear that somebody else got the position- or perhaps more often- you hear nothing at all. So how do we pack up and move on? Looking for jobs is a grueling process and companies often receive hundreds of applications for a single job posting and can only reach out to so many qualified candidates. We asked four hundred men and women to tell us about their experience in the job search process and we found their overall sentiments and experiences to be quite different from one another.

After a series of questions about job searches, interviews, and other experiences, we asked, “Is there anything else that you’d like to share about the job search process? What’s worked and what hasn’t?” There were a few shared sentiments as well as some gender-specific ones. Amongst all respondents over forty age bias was of significant concern. Candidates often resented needing to include the year they received degrees (or other age markers) and felt they were counted out before they’d had a fair chance. Both men and women felt that personal connections within the job search process were more fruitful than searching online; often citing the “blackhole” phenomena of applying on job boards, company websites, or LinkedIn and never receiving any responses. All expressed frustrations about not dealing with hiring managers or companies directly and universally felt that referrals and networking connections worked best. There were also shared criticisms of the massive amount of expired or unavailable job postings that are still online.

The women we spoke to had unique asks from the job search process; they sought out company reviews and employee ratings, insights on the specific managers and teams they’d be working with, parenthood-friendly jobs with flexible hours, and more personal connections in the process. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a government task force responsible for enforcing federal laws regarding discrimination in the workplace) estimated that in 2016 twenty five percent of women experienced sexual harassment in their workplace. With a staggering one in four women experiencing harassment - it's no surprise that women put such a large importance on employee insights, company culture, and trustworthy networking connections; perhaps making the impersonal modern online application process much less appealing to them. Potential harassment isn’t the only issue- women are more likely to feel that their gender prohibits their success in the workplace, to be confused for much more junior employees, and to feel unwanted in their jobs. The culture of a company can dramatically shift how welcome a woman feels at her job and her success moving forward.

Men, on the other hand, largely had two concerns. A repeated grievance with the online application process was time. Multiple respondents noted the massive commitment that the application process was; often (fairly) feeling like it was a waste of their time to consistently go through many rounds of interviews and not receive the position. Overwhelmingly, however, they had one question; “Why?”. A large portion of the men we spoke to said that the application process could be improved if they were told why they did not receive the position. In fact, they sometimes implied that recruiters and companies owed it to qualified candidates to provide an explanation. We were struck by the massively different sentiments men and women presented us with- women felt discouraged and unwelcome with the job application process and men largely felt exacerbated.

People leave their jobs for many different reasons, but overall women more likely to leave their jobs because of a change in their personal life (i.e motherhood or marriage) or disliking their current employer or company (with 22.3% of women choosing this as the reason for leaving their last job versus 14.2% of men). Men, however, are most likely to leave their jobs because they want more money (with 35.8% of men citing this as the reason they left their last job vs 19.9% of women). Women are also significantly less likely to not apply for a position if they have been rejected from a similar role in the past (men are also less likely to apply but the effect is 1.5 times greater for women).

Women in the workplace often struggle with imposter syndrome; feeling unwelcome or out of place at work (usually rooted in being one of the only women in the workplace). There is typically no question about a male applicants belonging in a company based on his gender. It is a given that men are welcome in the workplace. In addition to that- men’s employment is often crucial to their livelihood - and sometimes even their lives. A study conducted by McGill University in 2011 showed that unemployment increased the chances of premature death for men by 78% and by 37% for women (regardless of health status and quality of care). Women, on the other hand, tend to base their livelihood and self-worth on other factors. Of course, looking for employment is inherently competitive and not everybody will “make it”, but the standard for professional success for men has been widely accepted for many years as well as deeply ingrained in their sense of worth; perhaps explaining their indignation and anger regarding the constant rejection of the job search process and why the issues of the modern job search process hit such different notes across gender.

Ultimately, a hiring decision often comes down to many comparably qualified candidates. And often- this is where an individual’s unconscious bias can come in; whether it’s believing a man is more committed to his job or a candidate over fifty won’t stick around for too long. We all deal with personal and professional rejection differently. But how can we create a job search process and protocol that keeps us all moving forward? Do men and women really deal with rejection differently? What’s been your experience with the job search process? Tell us here!

About The Author

Rose Walsh is Head of Content at Meytier. She can be reached at rose.walsh@meytier.com

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