Hearing you’ve been rejected for a job is rarely the most pleasant moment of a job search. But there’s a way to turn the rejection to positive use. Ask for feedback, with a goal of strengthening your job search efforts in the future.
How does this assist future efforts? First, it helps you address issues that may need addressing. If you presented a marketing plan that didn’t convey sufficient knowledge of the company’s core markets, it lets you know you need to display more awareness of the company.
Second, it can leave a positive impression in the employer’s mind. You are turning a negative (rejection) into a positive (more information and growth). Many employers have multiple openings, so you might end up with an interview for another position!
Nearly 70% percent of job seekers never hear feedback, however. So you’ll have to specifically request feedback. Here’s how to do that.
How to make the ask.
Never personalize the issue or become emotional. Frankly, employers reject job candidates all the time. It’s part of job-seeking (and job-filling) to accept their right to make a decision. You will not leave a good impression if you show shock or distress.
Frame the request as a desire to know more to improve in the future. You would like information to enhance future competitiveness and opportunities.
Make the request fairly quickly – within 24 hours of receiving the information. Ask the person who conveys the rejection if they would be willing to answer some questions about why you were rejected, with a goal of strengthening your job search going forward.
Be thoughtful and considerate about their time. If you receive a phone call, for example, ask if now is a good time to ask for feedback. If an e-mail, ask if you can have a brief discussion at a convenient time.
The most common feedback and how to respond.
Respond thoughtfully to the feedback you receive. Take notes. Thank them for their time and comments.
Here are three common scenarios and how to respond.
We went with a stronger candidate.
If you receive this response, ask for specific areas in which you might improve your competitiveness in the future. Keep the focus on your job search, not on the candidate chosen.
It’s important to realize, though, that hiring decisions occur because of multiple factors. “Stronger” can cover everything from more education and training to subjective factors such as personal relationships with the company head.
Some decisions may occur that have nothing specific to do with you! One of your goals is to know whether the company made a choice that ultimately has nothing to do with your qualifications or whether you need to change some element of your search.
You didn’t have enough of a background in X.
This response can provide valuable feedback if you are looking for a similar job. Were they looking for more experience managing sales or a path-breaking campaign in artificial intelligence, for example?
Contextualize their reasons why, and evaluate whether you need more background for future jobs. You can also ask about types of background they prefer and why, such as education and hands-on experience.
Your salary expectations were too high.
It’s always prudent to do some research on comparative salaries before an interview. This prepares you for salary discussions and negotiations.
It also protects you against naming a salary range that’s too high or too low. The former can cause them to go with another candidate. The latter can end up penalizing you for decades, as most employers base raises and promotional increases on current salary.
If you receive this answer, compare it with your own research. It may mean you are on the high side and thus not as competitive as you could be. But it may also mean that someone else was on the low side and equally qualified, so the employer went with them!
Never bring down your salary expectations just because an employer went with someone else based on money. It doesn’t ultimately benefit you to snag a job that underpays – and that’s a possibility if you get this response.
What is helpful to know, though, is whether the employer thinks your salary requirements truly aren’t in line with your qualification and experience level. That can definitely hurt you going forward, as employers go with people whose salary expectations are in line.
If they indicate that you named too high a range, get more feedback if you can (on what their ranges are, for example). Then, with more research, make a decision on whether you can be more flexible going forward.
Again, be sure to thank the respondents for their time and consideration.
It’s also smart to indicate your willingness to work in another position at the company if you are qualified and positions become available. Something like “I’m very interested in Company X because I think my skills in marketing could add value to the future campaigns. Do you foresee any positions becoming available in the future?” is low pressure but lets them know of your interest.
Then, think through their responses. Does it seem as if the decision indicates you need to revise your job-search in some way (interviewing techniques, resumes, references, portfolio)? If so, revise it.
But also realize that some decisions may simply be due to the synergy between the company and another person, and doesn’t reflect on you. If they think playing soccer indicates strong teamwork, you don’t necessarily need to go out and learn soccer! (But you might think of methods to showcase your teamwork.)
Obtaining feedback after a job rejection can provide you with valuable information to use in the future. Go about it the right way and it can strengthen your job search going forward.
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