Job Search Tip of the Week – 08/08/2014


Break the Job Rejection Cycle

Got a Job Rejection Letter (or Call)? Ask for Feedback!

“Your application was not selected for further consideration.”

“After reviewing your submitted application materials, we have decided that we will not be offering you an interview opportunity at this time.”

“Unfortunately, we won’t be moving forward with you.”

“We won’t be pursuing your candidacy further at this time.”

“We decided to go with another candidate.”

“We regret to inform you that you were not selected for the position.”

No matter how it’s told, job rejection hurts – and to not know why makes it worse. Not just on an emotional level, but on a professional one as well: Feedback on why you were passed over for a position can help you progress in your job search. Below, the five W’s (and one H) you need to know about job rejection feedback:

Why you should respond to job rejection

You can’t improve yourself if you don’t know where you’re going wrong! Job rejections provide opportunities to learn about areas you need improvement, such as your first impression, job search strategy, technical expertise and growth, job competency, or interviewing skills. And not to mention, rejection builds resilience. Responding to a job rejection letter – and how you do so – tells a lot about your character. Expressing affability and understanding shows that you can maturely handle hearing the truth and are interested in maintaining a professional relationship.

When you should ask for feedback

First and foremost, it never hurts to ask.

The best time to ask is right after you get notice that you’ve been turned down for the job. That being said, don’t let your feedback request be the first contact you make with the company post-interview. “If you didn’t follow up with a thank-you note after the interview, you don’t really have a leg to stand on to ask why a hiring manager passed on your candidacy,” advises Scott Marchesi, Boston Tech Recruitment Manager at Chase Technology Consultants (CTC).

In addition, the most detailed, insightful feedback you’ll get is after a second or third-round / final interview. Why? By then, the company has gotten to know you beyond your resume and your initial phone screen, and can better advise you on any specific issues you should address. Hiring managers’ responses may run the gamut from basic (e.g., you showed up too early or arrived late for the interview, you talked too much and then appeared disinterested in what the hiring manager had to say, or you didn’t dress to impress) to more complex or less clear-cut (e.g., you tried faking it or gave up when asked a question you didn’t know the answer to, you choked under pressure, the company didn’t feel confident that you could fulfill the responsibilities of the role, or your qualifications and performance fell short in comparison with another candidate).

But if you weren’t given the opportunity to interview or didn’t make it past the phone screen, chances are:

…and you won’t get a reply to your inquiry for feedback.

Who to appeal to for advice

It depends. As a rule of thumb, just ask the person who rejected your candidacy and/or whoever arranged the interview. If you’ve networked in the company and built a solid, trusting relationship with someone there, it may be a good idea to reach out to them as well. Keep in mind however that you may not get a response due to a myriad of reasons such as potential legal risks, or more simply, because you weren’t a good fit. So if you don’t hear back from anyone, don’t take it personally.

But if you work with an IT staffing firm like CTC, good news – your recruiter will follow up with the direct hiring manager, and gather detailed feedback on your behalf after every interview. Your CTC staffing specialist can also assist you with proper post-interview etiquette, such as writing an appropriate thank-you note.

Where you should ask for feedback

Make your request over email as compared to phone or in-person, because 1) it is more convenient for the person from whom you’re essentially asking a favor; 2) it gives your interviewer time to reflect and write a more thought-out response; and 3) it reflects poorly on you to put someone on the spot like that.

That being said, if a representative from the company calls you to inform you that you won’t be advancing in the hiring process, use the opportunity to ask for feedback. If you get an email, respond within 24 hours.

How to go about getting what you want

It’s all in the approach. Remember, you are not entitled to feedback, so it’s important you take care not to come across as demanding or defensive. By being sincere and gracious, you’re more likely to get a candid, constructive criticism.

Say something along the lines of:

Dear [Interviewer Name],

Thank you again for your time and consideration. While I am disappointed that I was not successful this time, I hope that you will keep me in mind for future positions that become available and for which you think I would be qualified for.

In the meantime, as I would like to improve my application and interview skills, I would be grateful if you could provide some feedback on my performance. Is there anything you could share with me about what I can do to further my job search and be a stronger candidate in the future? Any advice you can offer is most welcome.

I can be reached anytime via phone at [Your Phone Number] or email at [Your Email Address]. Again, I really appreciate for taking the time to consider me for the [Title of Position You Applied To] position, and should a role become available that you believe I may be a good fit for, I would like the opportunity to apply.

Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you.

[Your Name]

And avoid asking:

  • If there was anything you could have done differently. Feedback isn’t about what you should see looking back, but rather how you can move forward. Focus on what you can do rather than what you didn’t.
  • For “reasons” why you were rejected or what your “weaknesses” were. Requesting “feedback” and “advice,” or what “improvements” you can make comes across as less antagonistic and is more constructive.
  • The obvious. First, make an honest self-evaluation. If you unapologetically broke an Interviewing 101 rule, that’s probably why you were rejected – so if you ask for feedback, the reaction will be that you’re either completely ignorant, or arrogant.

What to do after getting feedback

Do NOT get defensive or argumentative. If you do, you definitely will not be considered for future positions, and you could be burning bridges at other employers. People talk! Also, don’t be pushy or inpatient. Follow up on your request after a week, and if you still don’t hear back, move on.

Do thank the person for their suggestions, and assure them that you found it invaluable and that you will address the issue(s) – and make sure you take steps to do so! Keep in touch periodically so you can stay top-of-mind and be informed as soon as possible of future opportunities.

Remember: Use the “power of ‘no’” to propel you forward in your job search and career!

Blogging forward,

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