The Importance of Timing

Have you ever had this happen for a consulting position? You apply for a job through an online portal, perhaps with a referral if the company you’re applying for has such a system set up. A few weeks or months later you get an automated email saying something to the effect of “we’re sorry, but we looked at you in detail and there were better people out there for this position.”

In the past I used to take this literally. Now I know better.

Many times, you’ll get this sort of response if there is no position open. So, you’ll apply, get a rejection saying that there were “many other great candidates.” But it really wasn’t about that at all.

It was just, at that point the position had already been filled, or they already chosen who they were going to interview, or they aren’t hiring at this time of the year.

Should they be more clear about this? Probably, but I can understand why they aren’t. They just don’t have time to process all of the applications they have, remove filled job postings, and send individualized feedback to each person who applied. There are just too many people applying for each job.

So what are the takeaways here? A couple of things:

1. Try to find out why you got rejected. It might be that you applied at the wrong time, it may be that you didn’t fit their requirements, it could be someone else was connected and there was only one spot, it could be anything. The system works in a pretty strange way, but I’d just go with it.

2. Network, to find out what positions are actually open. It’s not always clear what job openings are out there and what you’d actually be a fit for. Sometimes, there are great openings for things you’ve never heard of, with official requirements that aren’t actually what they’re looking for, that aren’t posted anywhere. The only way you’d know is if you stumbled upon the right person at the right time. Again, it’s a strange system but just go with it.

3. Apply at the right time. And what is the right time? if you’re on a target campus, it’s whatever deadline they gave you at the on campus information session. If you’re still in school but at a nontarget, get it in before these companies start hitting the campuses (i.e. before September in the US). If you’re a recent graduate or experienced hire, I’m not sure what the right time is. Probably as soon as you can, but consider takeaway #2 when applying. Again, it’s a strange system but just go with it.


To sum it all up, getting one of these rejection emails may not mean “not ever,” it could just mean “not now, because we don’t have any open positions.” Or it could mean not ever. It’s just not clear.

So, try to figure out what actually happened from a human being, network to find the available positions, and apply at the right time (usually as soon as you can).

Good luck!


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