How You Should Respond to a Job Rejection Email

How You Should Respond to a Job Rejection Email
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock

Job search anxiety is painful enough. Then there’s the gut-wrenching process of constantly checking your inbox, finally seeing an email from a prospective employer, trying and failing to keep your hopes in check, only to open it and read, “We regret to inform you…” or the dreaded, “You were a great candidate. Unfortunately” That “unfortunately” always stings.

Aside from bouncing back and moving on to different prospects, what do you do with your job rejection email? Do all job rejections warrant a personal response? If so, what goes into your reply? I spoke with career experts Dan Schawbel and Jenny Foss. Here are their tips for for taking a job rejection in stride and maybe even turning that “unfortunately” into an opportunity.

First off: Yes, you should send a reply

Both experts agree that sending a response to your rejection is a good idea. “A response is strategically advantageous,” says Foss — depending on how you go about it. She explains that “being gracious and a good sport may stand out to a recruiter or hiring manager who might keep you in mind for a future opening.” As Schawbel puts it, “even if you never get response to your response, there’s nothing to lose.” The only caveat would be if you received an obviously automated rejection form before even reaching the interview stage.

Turn the rejection into an opportunity

Both Foss and Schawbel emphasise that the point of rejection is the perfect opportunity to get crucial feedback. Even if you’re convinced that you crushed the interview — and maybe you did! — we all have blindspots. Your interviewers might be able to share the insight you need in order to improve your interviewing techniques and land your next job. Here’s how to craft the job rejection reply so you can get that feedback.

Writing the email

The most important elements of your email are to (1) thank the team (or recruiter) for their time and consideration, and (2) ask if they’d be willing to provide some specific feedback that may help you strengthen your candidacy for future roles. Avoid going on and on and about how you’re feeling in the moment; Schawbel recommends keeping the reply short and sweet.

Foss says that if it feels appropriate, ask if you might keep in touch and/or connect via LinkedIn. Foss also encourages asking your point person if they have any input on where you might be a better fit within the organisation: “Who knows? There may be another hiring manager or team who would love to meet you.” Below is a sample email provided by Foss:

Hello,

Thank you for sharing this news with me. As you can imagine, I’m disappointed to not be the candidate your team has chosen for the role, but I wish you all the best as you work to [blank].

I will continue to aspire to join the team while exploring opportunities with other employers.

On that note, if you have any specific feedback you might be willing to share that I could use to improve my interview skills or better clarify my fit for this type of position, I would be very grateful for your input.

Thank you again, [blank], and don’t hesitate to reach out if you wish to revisit conversation in the future.

Here are some more examples for handling a job rejection gracefully.

The takeaway

Although you may be working through some major disappointment, it’s a good idea to reply to a job rejection with gratitude and a desire to get feedback.

No matter how you’re feeling in the moment, Foss points out the importance of keeping a cool head and taking the high road: “Unless a potential employer is truly rude or abominable in how they handle the interview process and the rejection (and you feel that burning this bridge is the right move), stay professional…Wish them well as they move forward and, if you’d love to work for this company or team in the future, make sure they know this.”

You never know — maybe the candidate they chose doesn’t work out. When they leave, you’ll be top-of-mind.

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