You Didn’t Get the Job. Now What?

by Sharon Elber

Follow-Up After Job Application Rejection

Unfortunately, most job searches usually include dealing with the rejection of a few employers along the way, particularly as you advance on your career path. While it might be tempting to just ignore it and "move on" after an interview fails to land your dream job, you may be missing an important opportunity.

Sending a follow up letter after you have been declined for a new job is not required, and many people don’t do it. That is one reason why it is such a valuable chance to stand out. Remember, you are not the only candidate that didn’t get the job, but you may be the only candidate that politely follows up after the fact.

Sending a follow up after you didn’t get the job demonstrates:

  • The ability to engage in a professional manor, even when it’s hard.
  • Sincerity about your interest in one day working for the company.
  • A desire to learn from your experiences to continually grow professionally.
  • A willingness to look at your weaknesses in order to improve moving forward.
  • Your openness to be considered for future positions, with no hard feelings.

These are all admirable qualities to have in an employee and coworker. A follow up letter is a chance to demonstrate these character assets, not just say them. If the same HR people are handling the hire for the next job that is also a fit for your skills and experience, they are much more likely to remember your name, giving you a valuable edge.

Tips for Writing a Follow Up Letter After a Rejection for a Job

Following are some tips to keep in mind as you write your follow up letter:

1) Keep a Positive Tone

While it is appropriate to express disappointment that another candidate was selected, don’t dwell on that. Only one sentence in your entire letter should convey this simple and obvious fact.

Instead, use the space in your letter to reiterate your interest in the company or the specific project that you applied for and express your gratitude for the warm welcome you received from the interview staff or others you interacted with during your visit.

2) Mention Something Specific from the Interview

One of your goals with the follow up letter is to be remembered and another is to reiterate your interest in the company and the specific project you interviewed for, demonstrating sincerity.

By including one sentence harkening back to a positive moment in the interview with some detail that came up in the conversation, you are getting two birds with one stone.

For example:

It was truly my pleasure to meet the team working on the Dog Adoption Project. The story that Lucy shared about her dog Jumper really drove home the critical role your organization is playing in serving special needs canines in the community, a cause that I am particularly passionate about.

3) Keep the Door Open

Your follow up letter should encourage the recipient to keep you in mind for similar projects in the future. Make sure you include contact information on your letterhead.

Remember, you made the short list by getting the interview in the first place, so the odds are good that your qualifications are in order. By letting the interviewer know that you are open to future opportunities, you will keep your foot in the door.

4) Ask for Feedback

It is absolutely appropriate to ask for feedback in a follow up letter after you didn’t get a job. However, you want to be careful with how you frame this vital component of the letter. Keep your inquiry brief, broad, polite and open ended.

For example:

I am always interested in learning from my professional experiences. Your perspective on how I could improve my qualifications or interviewing skills would be appreciated. If you have the time, we could follow up via email, phone, or in person.

5) Properly Format Your Follow Up Letter

When sending a follow up letter after a rejection for a job you interviewed for, you should generally use the same overall formatting that you used for your cover letter. Of course, as explained above, the contents will be different, but the header, address lines, signature line, and other stylistic choices should be consistent with your original cover letter.

If you are looking for some great samples for cover letter formatting, be sure to check out the WorkBloom guide here.

6) Avoid Raising the Following Issues

There are a few common mistakes to watch out for when writing your follow up letter after not receiving a job offer. Here is a quick list of what not to say:

  • Don’t ask about who did get the job: What did the person that did get the job have that I don’t?
  • Don’t come off as desperate: Please contact me right away if you have any similar job postings in the near future!
  • Don’t be passive aggressive: I was really surprised I didn’t get the job after the warm welcome I received.
  • Don’t make demands: Please contact me at your earliest convenience so that we can schedule a meeting to go over my mistakes during the interview.

7) When in Doubt, Don’t Send It Out

In some cases, the sting of rejection can take some time to heal. It would do less damage to not send any follow up, than to express negativity or hostility in your letter.

After all, most employers are not expecting a follow up letter. The last thing you want to do is go out of your way to show them that they were right not to hire you because you struggle to handle disappointment with grace. That will definitely get you remembered, and not in a good way.

8) Don’t Expect to Hear Back

Hiring managers and interview teams often lack the time to follow up with candidates. If you do not hear back, don’t be surprised and don’t take it personally.

Although it would be great to get some specific feedback on your performance during the interview, or your qualifications for the position, it is rare for employers to share that information. In fact, sometimes it is a matter of company policy not to discuss such matters for liability reasons.

Conclusion: A Follow Up After a Job Rejection Is Worth Your Time

You don’t need to spend a lot of time on a follow up letter. After all, the odds that it will translate into a job are low. However, if you think the employer is one that is likely to have a future opening that is a fit for your skills, qualifications and career trajectory, it could give you a valuable edge down the road.

Once you have sent off your follow up letter, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for being a good sport before turning your focus on the next opportunity. After all, your good character is what will carry you through the difficulties of your job search. The next opportunity is right around the corner.

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