Career Magazine

Applying for a Job is Like the Trying to Get into a High-maintenance Relationship

By Howtobejobless @howtobejobless

How applying for a job is like the beginning of a relationship

When I see puffy dark bags under the eyes of a fellow bus passenger, I no longer think “busy professional”. I think “fellow jobseeker, rejected again.” Nothing keeps you up at night like the resounding sting of the hundredth “thanks but no thanks”. (Except car alarms. I might become a car thief. I’ll tactically steal any car that pierces my slumber with its shrill, incessant and totally ignored alarm, and leave in its place a small alarm clock.)

Applying for a job is like trying to get into a high-maintenance long-term relationship. Both involve excitement, a change in Facebook status and the possibility of a crushing humiliation. Ah, the lure of the dance…

The chase

The job ad scrolls onto your screen. Your heart skips a beat. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. You immediately project all your hopes and desires onto it. You picture yourself strolling into their offices with an independent coffee shop cappuccino, in clothes you don’t currently own, looking unaccountably tanned. Similarly sexy people beam their good-mornings at you.

This will solve everything

You apply – coyly, at first, but with growing confidence as you forget the other suitors lined up around the proverbial block. You’re the one for this job. It’s fate. It’s destiny. It’s £18,000 a year.

The first date

You don your least creased interview shirt. You panic over which side to part your hair, knowing it will have no bearing whatsoever yet also feeling it might be the most important decision of your life.

You meet for the first time. You’re charming. You’re clever. You laugh with the interviewer. You may as well hand over your P45 right now, because you are in here, my son.

The rejection

You really weren’t expecting the “thanks but no thanks” email this time. You thought you’d at least get a second interview, a second chance…if only you’d researched the company better. If only you’d had a firmer handshake. If only you’d parted your hair on the OTHER BLOODY SIDE.

The next stage is descending, fast. The sofa warms up for the imminent arse-groove; the guilty-pleasure box set gets ready for its close up.

There’s no stopping it.


Piles of them. Every one gives you a little lift, followed by a dull thud. The sweetness subsides, the crumbs dissolve into your teeth and you’re left with nothing but the condolences that it’s “their loss” (oh yeah, I bet their bins are just bursting with biscuit wrappers), that “You’re better off without them” (how, exactly? If they hadn’t rejected me, I’d be at my very own desk with plans to book a trip to the Seychelles. Right now I’m on my mum’s sofa with plans to Google “Oreo home delivery”.)


Last week, you were heartbroken. You couldn’t picture yourself with any other jobs. Now, you can picture yourself with hundreds of them. You spend a beastly few hours a day scrolling through positions on Gorkana, Monster, Mediargh. You stare at jobs that are WAY out of your league. The fantasy makes you feel better and significantly worse at the same time. But at least it gets you to the stage where you can talk like a character from The Hills…

I’m, like, SO over you

Like, ugh. You don’t even NEED them. You are totally awesome, and they’re like…so…not. I mean, like, HELLO? That headline is so totally wrong, and the layout is like, super confusing. And that typo is WAY embarrassing – Tiffany, can you believe they missed out the definite article in the intro? I know, right. Amber was like, omigod. And she wasn’t even kidding.

The new chase

Alright, that’s enough moping, jobseekers. A short, pointy-eared elf creature once told me, “Moping is the path to the dark side.” Time to pull on your running shoes for the New Chase. But this time, you’re more cautious. You’ve got battle scars, and for better or worse, your confidence never fully repairs. You say things like “It’s a long shot”, “I’m not getting my hopes up” and “Mum, get the Oreos on standby”.

But modesty and realism can become self-loathing and fatalism all too easily, turning you into the jobseeker equivalent of the weirdo who’s so sure of impending rejection, his go-to chat-up line is: “Hey, I saw you from across the bar… you didn’t see me though. Obviously. Stuck up JERK.”

For shame, I found myself on this path. Those of you who applied for the Guardian Digital Journalism Scheme will remember the application: so detailed and lengthy, many of us had to crawl into our mums’ attics to dig out our GCSE results (although it was nice that finally someone other than UCAS was interested). I dreaded spending hours on another application only to be rejected – or possibly ignored – at the first post.

My solution? Rush off the application as if I was in a race.

Luckily, the one thing I’ve done right in life is choosing the kind of friends who are happy to give constructive abuse. The kind of friends who will drag a vat of custard to your house and dangle you upside-down in it until you see sense.

According to my friend, rushing applications so they don’t rob my time in exchange for, at best, a cursory “Naaaah”, was about as stupid a method of getting hired as turning up to interviews sobbing with a 17-page letter I’d written about “my feelings”. (Which I thought was a bit below the belt. One time that happened.)

So, fine, Guardian. Have my time. My precious time. I spent two days on that application – two days of Comedy Central reruns, gone. You don’t get that back.

But it paid off. I got through to round two, and somehow convinced them I was worthy of a final interview – and an hour of Alan Rusbridger’s time.

I hope Alan realises we’re going to have to take this slow. I’ve been hurt before. If this one goes badly, my history of rejections will be a drop in the Oreocean…


Want to read more from How To Be Jobless? Here’s the reality behind an interview at The Guardian.

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