How HR Directors and Recruiters Avoid F.A.D.E.

“Your application has not been successful on this occasion.”

As job seekers across the world read these sterile words in countless impersonal one-line emails, their hopes of a future that could have been fade away…. maybe never to return.

It feels devastating.

I have created an acronym to describe this:


Failed. Applicant. Devastating. Experience.

I instinctively want to use a stronger word than devastating. The strongest word. Depressing. I think that we have all felt that momentary crush of rejection. When you receive such a response, dark clouds gather.

Discouraged applicants may not apply again. Disappointed candidates will likely talk to others about their experience. Disheartened job seekers will take a knock to their fragile confidence. Your employer brand will be damaged. I can think of many other “D” words to fit the acronym, but you get the gist.

While it is clear that HR organisations often do not have the resources to offer significantly more personal feedback, there is a way of softening the blow a little and showing that they care.

Unsuccessful applicants need one thing:


Candidates may not have been a fit for a role at this time, for whatever reason, or there simply may not have been a role available, but they need to be assured that they will find a job and that their efforts are not in vain. In the absence of an employment contract, applicants need emotional validation. Don’t be devastated. You’ll get there in the end.

Failed. Applicant. Validating. Experience.


Turning a devastating experience into one that validates a candidate’s continued search isn’t so hard. Employers simply have to make an effort to help. When someone cares enough to assist you when they don’t have to, the journey seems that bit more meaningful.

So, how do HR Directors (and recruiters) ensure a F.A.V.E. outcome?

With 400,000+ words of job search content from JobWords+

Every year.

Written by leading HR writer Paul Drury (with 42,000 followers on LinkedIn), and alongside the JobWords app, JobWords+ provides employers with a licence to use 400,000+ words of fresh and exclusive job search content every year. Employers choose which of the 750+ blogs to share with candidates in branded e-books or email campaigns (and this goes for departing employees, for that matter).

Assist job seekers with some thoughtfully-curated content.

Avoid F.A.D.E. Become part of (and validate) their journey.


Get in touch with Paul Drury for more details:

“JobWords by Paul Drury” App – Free Employer and Recruiter Branding

Hi, I’m Paul Drury.

I have been writing and ghostwriting job search content since 2012. My preference has always been to write longer-form content of 500+ words, but as the social algorithms have morphed to favour shorter (and mostly vanishingly forgettable) updates and videos, there is a gap in the market for a job seeker sitting down for a few hours at the start of their search and consuming some advice with a little more depth.

That is why I created my “JobWords by Paul Drury” app.

A mobile job search companion.

Please do check it out on App Store and Google Play.

At the heart of the app, by early 2021, there will be 50,000-70,000 words of job search content in the form of short blogs (currently 20,000). I have written over 4 million words over the past few years for myself and clients, but I am only sharing my very best personal work on the app.

I obviously want the app to reach as many people as possible (it is a labour of love, not of profit), so I have made it free to download, but in the noisy world of social media that is not enough.

Therefore, I am offering employers and recruiters an opportunity to become….

…. JobWords Supporters.

Supporters will have their logo featured (for no fee) within the text of the blog pages.

I simply ask that supporters help to promote the app to their candidates in any way that they see fit. I will be sharing a weekly blog every Tuesday afternoon on LinkedIn, so getting behind that might be one option. Tag / mention me if you are sharing something and I will happily join the conversation! Nothing prescriptive, I just want my words to make a difference to people.

And you want to get noticed as a people-centric brand.

I hope that my content is worth reading. 42,000 people followed my previous blogs on LinkedIn, and I will be actively promoting the app to my audience.

Would you like to join me on the JobWords journey?

All you need to do is send a jpeg or png of your logo to:

I will be featuring the first supporters in November / December 2020.

Job seekers need all the help that they can get right now.

Act Like an Underdog in Your Job Search

The weak sometimes win and the strong rarely learn.

There is something incredibly powerful in adopting an attitude of humility at certain times in life. When you cannot know for sure that you are “the best,” it is arguably psychologically more beneficial to assume the mantle of the plucky challenger.

In a job search, there is often no way of accurately measuring yourself against the other candidates and given the added opaqueness of rationale behind hiring decisions, you rarely know for sure that you are going to come out on top.

So, you do what sports coaches have done for decades – you assume that you are likely to be second (or third, or fourth) best. You decide to assume that you are weak.

Assuming that you are weak does not equate to giving up.

The weak sometimes win; you still have a chance to get that job. However, to get it, you know that an underdog has to bring out their “A” game. When you assume that there is someone who on paper is more qualified than you, there is nothing more motivating than giving your all to secure that dream job ahead of them.

“Strong” people don’t need to hustle most of the time.

But every now and again they will fail.

It is well documented that in international relations, weaker players triumph against stronger adversaries 30% of the time. That is a significant failure rate, but the underdogs still win this much because they have the resolve, adaptability, creativity, and sheer tenacity to overcome their more powerful adversaries. On paper, they shouldn’t win at all. The powerful remain happy with their 70% win rate and life goes on.

So, looking at the job market again. If your dream job came up and you know that there are probably more qualified candidates out there, would you pass up the opportunity and move onto something more achievable? Or would you adopt the attitude of an underdog and take those 30% odds? You will have to put up with a decent amount of rejection and disappointment, but if you keep pushing the envelope of your potential one day you will defy the odds. If you don’t fight, there is no chance of winning.

All this obviously comes with a caveat.

You do have to be semi-realistic in your aims in terms of the match with your experience – you have to deserve your place on the field in the first place. Having said that, you don’t search for a job that often, so why not shoot for the moon a few times and see where it gets you? The worst thing you can do is chalk it up to experience. That is never a bad thing.

A job search is a potentially transformative moment in your life, so why would you risk arrogantly sitting around and assuming that your next role is going to fall into your lap.

You owe it to yourself and to your family to hustle for it. By adopting the attitude of the underdog, you give yourself the best chance of levelling up your career.

There is always something out there that is worth striving for.

If you don’t assume that you deserve it, you will work all the harder to get it.

Five Reasons to Walk Away from a Job Offer

After all those hours of preparation, interviews and shredded nerves, that magical job offer finally lands in your inbox.  

But something inside you doesn’t feel quite right.

As you read the text and scan through the detail, shouldn’t you be feeling happier?

Any job hunt can confuse emotions and blur priorities, but I would suggest that if you are not at least 95% sure that it is the right job for you, then, as long as your financial situation allows for it, you owe it to yourself to hold out for “the one.”

Here are five nagging reasons why people might choose to walk away from a job offer:

Doubts about the rapport with your future manager.

Our gut is a proven vital source of basic instinct, and when we can’t quite put our fingers on why something doesn’t “feel right,” there is usually a reason why. If you have initial doubts about your rapport with your future boss, it is worth analysing why you are hesitant. First impressions can deceive, but ignore the power of a “blink judgement” at your peril.

The job spec has changed significantly from when you first applied.

If your future employer is so unsure about the scope of your role, how do you know that the goal posts won’t shift once you have started. You are making one of the biggest decisions in your career, something that is hard to walk away from one you have started, so maybe ask a few more questions to tighten the definition of the role before you take the plunge?

You are told the salary offer is non-negotiable. And it isn’t what you asked for.

Paying someone what they are worth is a no-brainer if you want them to be motivated to stay for the long-term. If you are offered less than you asked for, there may be many reasons, but at the heart of the matter remains the fact that they likely don’t value you enough. Employers can nearly always offer more for the “right” person, no matter how they might protest.

Your partner is probing your motivation that little bit too much.

It is all too easy to lose our sense of self in a job search, so it is sometimes useful to lean on those that know us well to give us a sense of perspective. If our partners are asking us a few too many questions about whether a certain role is a fit, maybe we should explore the reasons why for ourselves.

You have another offer pending that you think might be better for you.

Now, this is probably the biggest spanner in the works of all. Imagine yourself fantasising about another woman (or man) on your wedding night…. Hardly a positive sign for the impending marriage, is it? The offer that is pending might well fall through, but if you think that is better for you, then there will be other better opportunities that follow in its wake.

The grey areas between all of the above and many more factors will ultimately influence your decision, but if more than one of these warning signs are flashing, maybe it is worth having another think?

How to Leave the Interviewer with Your Stars in Their Eyes

We’ve all looked at the sun for a little too long and been left with a blurry image for a while after we have looked away. I’m not sure about the science, but it is somehow so bright that our eyes can’t focus on anything else. The sun is our closest star.

For me, it is the same looking up at the night sky.

I have always had a fascination with the stars – distant giants twinkling to us from far, far away. On dark and clear summer nights I like nothing better than to sit outside with a beer and look up to the sky. It may sound silly, but, for me, every star represents something good that I have done in this world. I sometimes try to sit outside and count the stars – thinking back for each one to a time when I have “made a difference.” It isn’t always easy, but every time I have a win, I put it on my mental list for next time.

I like to go to bed with the stars on my mind. Life feels worth living.

I am lucky that I don’t have to work for an employer (although I do have a large amount of writing clients), but if I did have to have another interview for a job, I know that I would want to leave the interviewer with the imprint of my stars in their eyes.

You need them to go away in awe of what they have just seen and heard. Although they might be impressed with other candidates, your stars will shine brighter and longer, and when it comes to decision time, there will be only one candidate at the front of their mind.

But first, you have to picture your stars in your mind’s eye.

If you do not know what good you have done in this life, it is impossible to share with a total stranger. So, rather than sit down and write a big long list, wait for the next starry night, put on some warm clothes, drive out to the countryside and look up.

For every star that you see, think back to a moment in your career that you want to leave with your future interviewers. Focus on the star as you replay the scene in your mind. Then, with a pause for gratitude, move onto the next star, and the next one, and the next one.

It might seem very random, but for me, there is no more powerful image than looking up at the stars and understanding that every one of them might represent a good moment in my past. If you have physically stood there and done this exercise you know that this can be the case.

If you do remind yourself about it regularly enough, you not only feel that little bit better about your life, you also have a ready-made story to tell a future employer.

They want to see your stars in their eyes because they know that you will help to create future stars with them. In an interview situation, your future stars have not yet been born, but you have to convince the interviewer that your past can be their future.

Lots of people talk about the importance of storytelling in a job search.

I would call it the importance of stargazing.

Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Affect Your Interview

You do not think that your successes were down to you. Your internal narrative tells you that you may never be that lucky again. You overprepare for presentations and meetings in fear of being exposed for your lack of knowledge. You think that everyone around you is more qualified and secretly sense that they know it too.

These feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy are debilitating, but for more people than we might realise they are very real. According to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, over 70% of us experience these feelings at some point in their lives.

Imposter syndrome tends to limit our courage when it comes to making changes in our life, but it is potentially even more damaging when the internal narrative is revealed to people who barely know us and take our self-deprecation at face value.

If (in the name of authenticity and pseudo-humility) we let these lapses in self-esteem dominate our job search interviews, potential hiring managers won’t leave with the best impression of our impact on the world.

When we walk into an interview, we have one chance to make an impression. It will be hard for an interviewer to guess that we have a tendency to make light of our impact – they have probably never talked to us before and they assume that we will take the opportunity to present our career achievements in the best light.

If we downplay our impact, that is the message that they will remember.

So, in my view, a candidate has two choices.

They can either make a superhuman effort to be positive or they can gently mention the fact that they find it hard to talk positively about themselves in such a situation.

The second approach is not such a bad idea.

Interviewers understand that an interview is not a natural setting, and most are supportive of mental health issues. If you mention that you find it hard to see yourself as the hero of the day, you can simply recount what you have achieved, and any inadvertent downplaying of your role will be understood in the new context. If you are to be natural in an interview (and that is so important), giving people a heads up on your issues with self-esteem shows honesty and courage.

For them it is most important that you can do a great job – it is a shame that you do not see these successes as yours, but the most important thing is that you can shine in your role. If you prove that, who you think “owns” the successes is immaterial to the interviewer.

As neurodiversity takes a more central role in the interview process, bringing such things into the open is going to become more common. It might seem a strange thing to suggest that you should openly admit issues with self-esteem to a future employer, but better that then them doubt the impact that you can make because they don’t understand what is going on inside your head.

Remember. You are in that room for a reason. The interviewer hopes that you can do a great job. You have done a great job in the past, and you have to tell yourself that much of that was down to you. Focus on how you made your difference and try to own your successes. Then tell the interviewer all about them.

7 Negative Words That Can Ruin Your Interview

I believe that in certain stressful situations, our language reverts to a set of stock phrases that have carried us through life. If these patterns of our language tend towards pessimism and self-deprecation, it can cause issues. Particularly during a job search.

During an interview, we know that we should choose our words carefully, but there are other distractions. We are so hyper aware of our body language and facial expressions, that we risk losing focus on what comes out of our mouths. We are so intent on listening to the question that we don’t always take the time to properly formulate the answer.

If we have a habit of slipping into patterns of negative language, it can have a genuinely detrimental effect on how we are perceived.

I would like to share seven words, which (while you don’t want to sound hopelessly positive) should be carefully rationed during an interview:

Sorry. When you need to shine, why would you choose a word that diminishes your thoughts and actions. If you want to come across as intentional and deliberate in how you go about things, sorry should not be in your vocabulary. I know that us Brits love to use it as a tool to ingratiate ourselves to others, but this pseudo politeness is often misplaced.

Never. Showcasing yourself as a balanced and rounded professional is harder if you are interspersing your thoughts with extreme language, positive or negative. Using the word never in a professional context is relevant in certain situations, but it is safest to avoid if at all possible. It conjures up the image of an inflexible approach and a closed mind.

Hate. Negative language is one thing, but negative emotional language is even worse. While emotions do play a part in an interview, any sort of negative emotional language should be used very sparingly as it can easily stick in an interviewer’s mind and be remembered out of context. You may have hated the commute, but what else might you also hate or despise?

Shit. Don’t swear. It is the ultimate indication of disrespect to your listener. Shit, you can’t be bothered to find suitable words to express your emotions, so you resort to lazy (and often offensive) swear words. They will think that you can’t communicate, that you are totally unprofessional, and that they want you to leave the interview room right now.

Honestly. Why would you ever need to say that? Is much of what you say so dishonest that you need to preface certain sentences with the word? Together with actually and genuinely, these “framing” words only serve to make the listener think what lies behind your other words. It is the sort of word a politician might use, and not a very good one.

Mistake. Interviews should not be centred around your mistakes or your weaknesses. No one is perfect, but your future employer will hire you based on what you are good at and what you can contribute, rather than what you can’t. You might want to discuss a mistake in the context of what you learned from it, but try to avoid the word itself.

Nervous. This type of language is interesting. It is tempting to describe your feelings to an interviewer as they have never met you before and you want to give them a window on your world, but when you talk about nervousness you automatically make them feel uncomfortable. No one wants to make someone else feel nervous.

Artificially changing how we speak for an interview is a tall order, so maybe we could all try to say these words a little less frequently in everyday life? What do they really add to conversations, in any case? What do other people think of us if we say these words a lot? Do they reflect our inner world, or are we simply intentionally diminishing ourselves to make others feel better?

Avoid these words. Talk yourself up at interview. You know that you are worth it, and your interviewer will know it too.

Deal with the Drip-Drip of Job Search Pressure

When you are looking for a job, many of the events that happen around you have the potential to add to the pressure on your shoulders.

Your wife might (well-meaningly) ask about your plans for the day whilst you are having breakfast together. You could be hoping to receive an interview request that you fear might never come. You hesitate to complete an application because you are starting to doubt whether you would be a good fit for any role, let alone this one. You have a to-do list that looks remarkably similar to yesterday’s list….

With every passing day, little drip-drip moments of stress drop onto your increasingly sagging shoulders and you start to feel the pressure. This is entirely normal, but if you do not do something to relieve your burden, it will have a detrimental effect and your normal behaviour may start to be compromised.

When you need to be “in control” in your job search, you can’t risk these drip-drip moments of pressure destabilising your natural equilibrium.

You have to somehow release the pressure.

People deal with stress and pressure in many different ways, but I am a big believer in the power of action. It might sound a little “cosmic,” but if you focus on taking positive action in the rough direction of travel, it may not directly reduce your stressors, but it will psychologically make them feel that little bit more bearable. When you take action in the hope of a positive conclusion, good things generally happen. They might not be exactly the outcomes that you were hoping for, but they will move you in the right direction.

When life is drip-dripping its challenges your way, every action will make a difference. When worries come your way, the worst thing that you can do is let them sit there and fester.

In any job search, there is always plenty of action that you can take, even if you are not certain whether it will move you to where you would like to be immediately.

Everyone is different, so I am not one for giving a comprehensive list of tips. However, here is what I have done in the past: read a book, attend to a conference, connect with people on social, write a job search diary, rewrite a cover letter from the perspective of your boss, see how you can add value to your recruiters, ask a potential boss out for coffee, write a blog about what moves you, go for a run up a big hill, write a list of everything that you love doing at work, talk about your concerns with your partner, apply for a few roles that you don’t think that you have a chance of getting.

Or maybe just slowly drink a coffee and tell yourself that everything will be okay.

That is affirmative action too.

Just don’t sit there and let the drip-drip of worries overwhelm you.


These #10wordsaboutme define me:

Wordsmith. Restless. Doodle. Rebel. Solitude. Attitude. Social. Hawk. Waves. Daddy.


For me, there is a definitive difference between the written and the spoken word. When I speak, I sometimes find it hard to engage my brain before I open my mouth, and I could definitely be a little more considered in things I say to certain people. However, when I write it is an entirely different story. I delight in taking the time to find what feels like the right words, no matter how blank my mind might be before they appear. The search for those words is one of the most enjoyable parts about writing. You know that they exist, and the act of clearing your mind to find them offers a moment of mindfulness and inner peace. Words will always be an imperfect way of conveying feelings, but I strive to get as close as possible.


I am rarely happy with the status quo. I am not sure whether this is some mild form of ADHD (which I may have had as a child), but somehow I am always on the lookout for the next thing. I worked in a corporate setting in retail and recruitment for the first ten years of my career, but I never quite made my peace with the drudgery of the corporate treadmill. Embarking on my “gig economy” writing career has allowed me to find my perfect balance. I am able to concentrate utterly and totally on perfecting a piece of writing for a couple of hours and then I can move on to the next one. This is me at my best.


If I could describe my approach to life in one word, then doodle wouldn’t be far from the truth. Every change in circumstances can create an opportunity for deviation, and I believe (where possible) to seize the opportunity to make a change for the better. I learned Russian at university and met a beautiful girl in St Petersburg on my year abroad. We got married after university and I started on a graduate scheme for retailer B&Q. They then (amazingly) invited me to help with a retail start-up in Russia. After a couple of years in Moscow, we had trouble starting a family, so we decided to come back to the UK for fertility treatment. My wife fell pregnant in the month before our departure, so we went to the fertility appointment to see our tiny little daughter on the screen. I hadn’t planned any of it. I let my pen flow across the canvas of life and make the most of the chances that come my way.


I believe that you have to break something in order to make a genuine improvement. Iterative changes always build on something imperfect, so when you want to make a step change in your life, the path of the rebel is unavoidable. For me, the definition of rebellion means going against all that has gone before. You might argue that gradual change is a positive force in the world, but there is nothing like ripping up the rulebook of limiting beliefs in your mind and starting again with a fresh sheet of paper. When we are at that blissful point where nothing exists, everything is possible. As an aside, maybe that is the one key reason why I enjoy writing so much.


As technology turns us towards our screens and away from other people, loneliness is fast becoming one of the plagues of modern society. It is that devastating feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look up from your iPad that “no one is there for you anymore.” You might be able to name some friends, but do they truly know you? When did you last have a heart-to-heart with your parents, or are your chats full of superficial politeness? This is loneliness, not solitude. For me, solitude is something that I seek on a regular basis. The tranquillity of being alone with my thoughts allows me to escape from the everyday stresses of life. Every year when my kids visit their grandparents for a week in the summer, I get away to my spiritual home in Cornwall on my own for a week. It is where I find myself again.


Choose your attitude. No matter how shit life might be treating you, and how helpless you might feel, you have to remember that you are the main actor in all this drama. What you do affects what happens around you, and what you think has a direct influence on your actions. One of the most important things that I have learned about life is that you can choose what to think about things. There is sometimes a certain amount of mental gymnastics involved in turning certain negatives into positives, but with a little hope and determination, I genuinely think that the right attitude is the basic ingredient for happiness.


You might wonder how a (recluse) writer can simultaneously be a social butterfly? Well, I do like my own company a little too much, so this isn’t that sort of social. I am talking about social media, and specifically LinkedIn. Since I started writing my own blogs in 2014, I have somehow attracted over 42,000 followers on the platform and I have been helping my content marketing and job search clients curate their social personae for a good few years now. We might spend a lot of time on social media, but not many of us have a place where we define who we are in such a specific way. It matters, especially when you are looking for a job.


My daughter Lizzie plays Goal Shooter for the U12s of our local netball team Saffron Hawks. She is my eldest child and when she was young, she was hopeless at catching and throwing. I am a firm believer in the benefits of team sports, and as Lizzie has always been tall, I bought her a netball post for her ninth birthday. After many happy hours of practice in the garden with her, her competitive shooting percentage is now 97% (I can compete with her when I have ten shots to her eight). I have few happier places than when I am court side seeing her swishing her shots into the opponent’s net.


I spend a week every year down in North Cornwall while my kids are at their grandparents. I use the time to get my creative juices flowing and think about the year ahead. At least three hours every day is spent in the waves at various spots. I am a decent bodyboarder and a semi-decent surfer, and I love bobbing around on the water waiting for the next set of waves to come in. I often conjur up the imagery of waves when I am thinking about ideas for my writing. The pull of the moon means that the waves will just keep coming – somehow my brain is wired in such a way that the ideas do the same. They don’t have to be big though (waves or ideas). The smallest waves can offer the cleanest ride.


I have left this one until last. Probably because I could write a few books about it. It is the reason why I left corporate life long behind me, and why I live for the moment when my kids walk in the door every day after school. Condensing being a Dad to Lizzie and Danny into such a short paragraph is impossible, so I will just pick a few words to describe what it means to me. Privilege. Joy. Journey. Tickles. Challenge. Emotional. Deja-vu. Puzzle. Life. Scary. Transition. Pride. Trial. Hugs. Enrichment. Escape. Advice. Unique. Strict. Learning. Vertigo. Rhythm. Supporter. Family. Love.