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Unsuccessful applications and handling job offers

Find out about how to handle the ups and downs of job hunting.

Job offers

Sometimes a job offer can throw up other complications - see below for how to handle those different scenarios.

Handling job offers

If you have been successful in the recruitment process you may be offered the job verbally in the first instance, but this will usually be followed by an offer in writing. Similarly, even if you verbally accept the job, you should also give written confirmation.

Be aware that if you accept the job offer (even just verbally) it is a binding contract. So only accept if you are sure this is the best job for you.

If you are unsure about any aspect of the job or terms of employment, ask the employer about it as soon as possible and before accepting the offer.

Similarly, if any aspect of the terms don’t match your initial understanding of the job (eg the salary is less than you expected), contact the employer and seek clarification before proceeding.

Once you have accepted, you must withdraw from the recruitment process of any other jobs you have applied for.

Got a job offer, but awaiting the outcome of other interviews

If you have received a job offer, but you’ve got other outstanding applications, you may be reluctant to make the decision immediately. While this is understandable - particularly if you’re still waiting to hear about a job you really want - you should at least acknowledge the offer.

Graduate recruiters are aware that candidates will be applying for a number of opportunities, so you may choose to explain the situation to the employer making the offer. You can ask for time to consider the offer or ask them when you need to accept or decline by.

While employers may be understanding and patient, do not expect them to hold open the offer for very long - they need to meet their recruitment targets and make offers to other candidates.

Choosing from multiple job offers

If you are in the fortunate position of receiving more than one job offer at about the same time, you’ll need to consider which is the best one for you to accept.

To help with this, do your research and compare the jobs and employers on these issues: 

  • Salary and benefits package
  • Training opportunities
  • Career progression and professional development
  • Levels of responsibility and variety of work within the role 
  • Annual leave (holiday) and sick pay entitlements
  • Company culture 

Ask yourself:

  • What aspects are the most important to you? 
  • Which of the offers give you most of the things that are important to you? 
  • Which company and role is the best fit for you?

You may also want to talk through the options with someone, like a member of the Careers and Placements team, an academic or a friend to help you clarify the choices.

Do not use this situation to ‘play off’ employers against one another. Graduate recruiters communicate with one another and such unprofessionalism will be noted and shared

Once you have made a decision and accepted, you should then inform the other employers and be sure to thank them for their offer.

Finally, always remain polite and professional in your dealings with employers, whatever the outcome. Your paths may cross again in the future, whether it’s approaching them for another job later, meeting their representatives at sector events or as you widen your networks and contacts.

Unsuccessful applications

If you're unsuccessful at application or interview stage, don’t worry - it is common to make a number of applications before getting a job. Try not to take it personally, but use a rejected application as a chance to learn and develop for next time. There may be a number of reasons for the outcome and, more importantly, you may be able to do something to improve your chances.

What if I keep getting rejected?

Dealing with rejections

Watch: My applications keep getting rejected and I don’t know why!

Applications and CVs

Are there any obvious reasons why your applications are not successful? What could you do differently to improve your chances?  Here are some suggestions for your next application:

 

  • Expect to spend a considerable time on your application - treat each one individually rather than sending out lots of applications you have copied and pasted from a previous version
  • Research the organisation thoroughly and communicate your motivation for working for them (you may just want a job, but they want to know you are keen to work for them)
  • Make sure you know how to properly
  • Address all the essential criteria in your application - don’t ignore them, and don’t assume the employer will know you can do the job
  • Check and double check your CV and application - typos and mistakes may make employers question how much effort you have put in, and could mean your application is rejected
  • Make sure your CV is clear and easy to read; use headings and bullet points. See our and try CareerSet for feedback and suggestions
  • Consider the language used to describe the required skills and experiences in the job ad and try to mirror their language where possible. For example, “communication skills” may be described as “interpersonal skills”; “outcome” may be described as “return on investment”. Your application may be reviewed initially by recruiting software which looks at language, but don’t repeat these words too much - bots can detect keyword stuffing
  • Review your social media activity - employers are likely to look at your LinkedIn profile, followed by Facebook and Twitter
  • Employers value volunteering - don’t forget to include your volunteering experience in your CV
  • If you don't have the right skills or experience, think about how you could get them (eg volunteering, graduate internship)

 

Interviews/Assessment centres

It is disappointing to be rejected after an interview or assessment centre, but reflect positively on the fact you have done well to reach that stage in the recruitment process. There may be very little differentiating a successful candidate from those who were not selected - you may have been a close second.

 

  • Try to get feedback and suggestions for what you could do better next time. Employers should be happy to provide this if you have reached interview or assessment centre stage.
  • Think about how you answered questions. Did you use the CAR or STAR model to give good examples in response to questions? (See an explanation in )
  • Were you able to communicate your motivation for that particular job? Was it clear that you had researched the organisation and were aware of current issues in the sector? 
  • Read the TargetJobs article about coping with rejection.

How we can help

  • If you have eliminated all the above, or feel unsure of your next steps, book a careers advice appointment to discuss your situation in more depth with a careers consultant (see below)
  • If you’re not sure you’re applying for the right kind of work, revisit the Career ideas section of the website
  • Use CareerSet to improve your CV
  • See the page to find out how to
    • book a CV review or careers advice appointment
    • talk to one of our careers consultants about your career plans
    • practise your interview technique in a mock interview
  • Make use of the other sections in this
  • If you have concerns about disclosing a disability or requesting adjustments to the application process, see our page for and book an appointment if you would like to discuss this with a careers consultant.

Be kind to yourself, take time to reflect and take stock, and then try again. See the University pages for tips on taking care of yourself. As well as careers support, try to get support from your personal network of family and friends.