Job Search Tip of the Week #42 (2018)


Break the Job Rejection Cycle

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

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

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

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

No matter how you spin it, job rejection hurts — even more so if you don’t know why you were ignored or rejected. And not just emotionally, but professionally too, because knowing the reason(s) why you were passed over for a position can help you progress in your job search. Below, the 5W1H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) you need to know about asking for feedback after a job rejection:

Why you should respond to job rejection

You can’t get better if you don’t know where you’re going wrong! Job rejection provides an opportunity to learn about areas you need improvement, such as your first impression, job search strategy, technical expertise, job competency, or interviewing skills. Not to mention, rejection builds resilience. Responding to a job rejection – and how you do so – says a lot about your character. Expressing affability and understanding shows that you can maturely handle hearing the truth and want to maintain 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’ve been turned down for the job. That said, don’t let your request for feedback be the first contact you make with the company post-interview — because 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.

In addition, the most detailed, insightful feedback you’ll get is if you’re rejected after a second or third-round/final interview. Why? By then, the company has gotten to know you beyond your résumé 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 and 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 didn’t get to interview at all or make it past the phone screen, chances are:

…and you’re less likely to get a reply to your inquiry for feedback.

Who to appeal to for advice

It depends. As a rule of thumb, you should ask for feedback from the person who rejected your candidacy and/or arranged the interview for you. 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 like 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 Chase Technology Consultants (CTC), good news – your recruiter will gather detailed feedback on your behalf, directly from the hiring manager, 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 rather than over the phone or in person. It’s less disruptive and doesn’t put your interviewer on the spot, giving him or her time to reflect and write a more thought-out response.

That said, if a representative from the company calls to inform you that you won’t be advancing in the hiring process, use that 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’re 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 candid, constructive criticism.

Say something along the lines of:

Dear [Interviewer’s 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 you 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’ve done differently. Feedback isn’t about looking back, but moving forward. Focus on what you can do next rather than what you didn’t do then.
  • For reasons why you were rejected or what your weaknesses were, which can come across as antagonistic and defensive. A recent Harvard Business School study found that you’re more likely to get constructive feedback if you ask for advice or recommendations for improvements you can make.
  • 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 won’t be considered for future positions, and you could even burn 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 haven’t heard back, move on.

Do thank your interviewer for his or her suggestions, and assure him or her that you found the advice invaluable and that you’ll address the issue(s). Then, make sure you take steps to do so! Keep in touch periodically so you can stay top-of-mind should future opportunities arise.

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

Blogging Forward,

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