You applied for your dream job, made it through the review process and a series of interviews and felt very confident about your chances. Then your confidence was dashed by a rejection email, or letter, politely yet briefly telling you that you didn’t make the cut—somebody else was selected for the position. You didn’t measure up. You’re not qualified enough. You weren’t selected. You’re a loser.
But wait. Not so fast. Before those negative, self-deprecating thoughts firmly take hold, take a deep breath and consider how you can salvage something positive from the experience because the good news is that you can! It is entirely possible to respond to a rejection email with positivity and grace that may pay dividends in future.5
How Not to Respond to a Rejection Letter
First things first. Above all else, do not shoot off a negative email slamming the recruiter or hiring manager for making a bad decision. In fact, avoid what may be a very strong temptation to respond negatively in any way.
“Recruiters talk,” says Laura Handrick, careers analyst with FitSmallBusiness. So do HR professionals and hiring managers. And, in this digital age, it’s a small, small world. That means that, even when you don’t get a plum job you were hoping for, despite how well you felt the interview process went, it pays to leave a good impression. You never know, after all, when another opportunity will come up.
Should you respond to a rejection email? Yes, say the experts. But, how should you respond? Here are some best practice recommendations for replying to a rejection email or rejection letter.
How to Respond to a Rejection Email
Drew DuBoff a blogger and chief career coach just went through this experience, he says. After applying for a management training position with a large hospitality organization, and taking an online behavioral leadership assessment, he received the following email rebuff:
“Thank you for your interest in career opportunities with Marriott International. As a company growing globally we are always in search of talented individuals to join our Team.
“Unfortunately, even for those who possess the required background, there are far more seeking employment than there are positions available. After reviewing your resume we regret that you have not been selected to interview at this time.”
The rejection stung, but he says, it’s important to not just leave it at that. “Most people will be angry and never react positively to the company again. But, those that don’t act that way stand out,” he says. He sent the following response:
“Hey [Recruiter’s First Name],
I hope your week is going well.
I just received an email that I was rejected from the [specific program or position]. I wanted to follow up with you to see if there is anything I could improve on for the future and if there were other employment opportunities within the company.
I still very much want to work for [company].
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.”
You never know, says DuBoff, where this connection could take you. “Everyone knows everyone in the business, so you don’t want to establish a negative reputation for yourself.” Negativity won’t fix anything or get you a job, he says, but positivity might!
Handrick agrees. “Contact the hiring manager and congratulate them on filling the role, and thank them for giving you the opportunity to interview for it,” she recommends. You never know—you may be the second choice and the first choice might not work out, she says. “then ask, since they’ve met you, if they know of other roles in the company where you might have the right skill set, or better yet, ask them if they know of other companies in the area, or other recruiters looking for someone with your experience.” That’s a good way to get a leg up for the next opportunity, she says.
Nurturing Your Network
Neil Thompson, founder of Teach the Geek, recommends cementing the relationship even more formally by reaching out to connect via LinkedIn. Send a message saying: “I appreciated your time chatting with me about the position. While I wasn’t selected, I’d still like to connect. Perhaps there will be opportunities for us to work together in the future.” Once they accept your invitation, he says, “periodically send them a message with information you think would be useful to them—a white paper, an article of interest, etc. You may then become top of mind when another position opens up and you won’t likely have to apply through the regular channels since the hiring manager will reach out to you directly.”
“Job hunting,” says Handrick, “is a numbers game, just like client pitches and sales proposals. You will apply to many jobs, get some interviews, and eventually find the right role. Having that perspective takes the personal sting out of rejection.”