Looking for employment takes a lot of time and extensive preparation. For each potential opportunity, you need to rework your resume and cover letter so they are tailored to the specific business and role.
Some places also require prospects to fill out online applications with the same information and take assessments that evaluate their job-related skills.
During your search, it’s important to keep track of every submission. Before interviews, you’ll need to research the company, decide what to wear, and prepare to answer questions about your experience. After each meeting, you should also send a thank you letter or follow up email to express your appreciation and keep your name at the forefront of the hiring manager’s mind.
After putting in all this work, it’s hard to hear that you weren’t selected for a position. It’s normal to feel disappointed and less confident when you’re dealing with job search rejection, but these experiences are never a waste of your time and effort. Many good things can come out of missed opportunities if you remain positive and look for ways to learn and grow.
5 Reasons Why You Didn’t Get the Job?
Recruiters and managers consider several different factors when they make their hiring decisions. Usually, they narrow the field of candidates considerably before even scheduling interviews. Most do this either by hand or using software that scans resumes and covers letters for keywords related to the duties in the job description.
Companies conduct phone screenings and in-person interviews to get a better sense of how well a prospect’s expertise, personality, and work style will fulfill their needs. At this stage, there are numerous reasons a business may decide to pass on a particular applicant. Some of the most common reasons include:
- A qualified internal candidate — It’s much less expensive to promote from within than to hire and train a new employee. However, many employers broaden their search to include others outside the organization to have more options. If someone internally shows an interest, they might be offered the job before external applicants.
- Lack of or less experience — Others may have worked in the industry before and be more familiar with the duties and requirements necessary for the role.
- Behavior or body language — Interviews are stressful events. You might have displayed negative behaviors that you were unaware of, like cutting people off while they are speaking, fidgeting, talking too much, or not providing clear or thorough answers.
- Being unfamiliar with the company — Recruiters may question how interested prospects are in helping achieve business goals if they haven’t researched the company enough before the interview to know much about what the company does.
- Bad cultural fit — In addition to knowing how to do the job, new hires should share similar values with the organization and other employees. Managers will want to make sure that who they hire will work well with their existing team.
Since there are many reasons why you may have been passed over, it can be hard to know exactly what went wrong. Discovering what you could do differently may increase your chances of being hired for other opportunities. The best way to understand what needs improvement is to politely ask for feedback from employers you’ve already met with.
The Benefits of Interview Feedback
If you have a genuine interest in working for a specific company, requesting feedback from recruiters and hiring managers can be extremely useful. You may learn that you lack specific skills or experience that another applicant possessed. Armed with this information, you could take on additional coursework or volunteer to position yourself better for similar roles elsewhere.
Asking for feedback can also make a good impression. It demonstrates critical thinking, an interest in self-development, and adaptability. These highly sought-after soft skills are difficult to teach, so employers may give more consideration to applicants that possess them.
It takes courage to make this inquiry, so the majority of rejected candidates will simply move on to other openings. However, prioritizing this practice, even if it is uncomfortable, makes you more memorable to the interviewer and can lead to consideration for other openings.
Conversations outside the context of an interview are also great opportunities to build your professional network. Even if they decline to give specific advice, if someone is receptive to helping you grow, you may be able to add them as a connection on LinkedIn where their expertise and connections might prove beneficial if you are looking for work in a single field.
How to Ask for Feedback after a Job Search Rejection?
Keep in mind that not everyone you have interviewed will be willing or able to help you. Some people may not want to invest more time or have what might seem like an uncomfortable conversation. There may also be legal reasons or policies that prohibit sharing why a person isn’t hired, so don’t take it personally if someone declines or fails to respond to your request.
In general, the further you’ve gone into the interview process, the more useful the feedback will be. It’s difficult to learn much about a person during a single phone call. Recruiters and hiring managers will be better equipped to answer your interview questions if you have met with them more than once.
1. Who to Ask
Always direct your inquiries to the person who conducted your interview or the recruiter with whom you have spoken. If a panel of more than one person attending the meetings, focus your efforts on the individual who sent the rejection letter.
2. When to Ask
It’s best to make your request as soon as possible after you learn that you weren’t selected, ideally within 24 hours. By responding quickly, it’s more likely that a hiring manager’s interaction with you will be fresh in their mind. Doing so also demonstrates professionalism and that you are proactively seeking to improve.
3. How to Ask
The way you make your request will largely depend on how you hear about the hiring decision. Most companies, if they notify you at all, will send a job rejection email. Including your request in a reply is preferred. By taking this approach, it is less likely that the manager will feel as if they are being put on the spot. It will give them more time to formulate their thoughts.
If you receive the news that you weren’t chosen by phone or in a voicemail, either emailing or asking directly would be appropriate.
If you do ask during a call, try to arrange for a conversation in the future, rather than expecting the recruiter to interrupt their work to assist you.
If you reach out to a company during business hours and no one answers, try calling back at another time rather than leaving a message. In this situation, email might be an even better approach as it will allow the recipient to respond at their convenience and the message in their inbox will serve as a reminder if they intend to do so.
4. What to Say
Always approach the discussion with the mindset of preparing for future interviews with other companies. Thank the person for the opportunity and for taking the time to inform you of their decision. Ask politely and explain how their insight will be beneficial to you.
Be sure to phrase your request as a plea for help rather than a demand. Remember to thank the contact for their time and feedback. This is also a good time to mention your interest in being considered for other opportunities if you would like to be.
5. What Not to Say
It is especially important not to come across as defensive or bitter in your request. Despite how disappointed you may be, don’t attempt to get them to change their mind or push back on any of the comments made. If you are unsure how to ask why you didn’t get the job, refrain from doing so. If there is no response, respect that decision by moving on.
Understanding What You’ve Learned
Asking for feedback can be very beneficial, but only if you do something with the information you’ve gathered. If you’ve been passed over more than once (which is common if you apply to several openings), look for patterns in what you’ve been able to discover. You may be doing something that sabotages your efforts without realizing that’s the case.
Take some time to reflect on where you are and how you can make the most of the journey ahead. Here are some other areas to reflect on that may help improve your results:
- Your resume — This document is ultimately how you advertise yourself to potential employers. Give it a good review and check for issues with spelling, formatting, punctuation, and grammar. Make sure the verb tense is consistent in the descriptions of your duties at prior jobs, that your contact information is updated, and that everything fits on a single page.
- Your search platform — Are you looking for opportunities in the right place? Some job boards cater to certain industries or types of positions. If you aren’t finding much on a particular platform, try smaller niche lists that focus on only remote positions, non-profit jobs, or a particular field, like writing.
- Your profile — If you use a site like Indeed or LinkedIn to look for openings, check that your user information is current, including your resume and any cover letters you might attach. This is even more important anywhere you use a “quick apply” option that prefills fields by transferring data to an application form.
- Your social media accounts — Hiring managers often review posts on sites like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok to learn more about who a candidate is outside of a professional environment. Although they must follow fair hiring practices, many admit that this informs their decision making. Be certain that you would be comfortable with what they might see.
- Your needs — If you’re most interested in salary, make sure that the industry pays within a range that will support your lifestyle. Those new to a field might choose to work part-time or as an intern to gain experience. Know what benefits you require and apply to only those openings. Otherwise, you will need to consider if you are willing to adapt in exchange for other perks like a shorter commute, childcare, or a flexible schedule.
- Your fit for each role — Perhaps you need to take a closer look at where and what you are applying for. Think about how you work best in comparison to a company’s mission statement and goals. High energy and collaborative startup might not be the best place for someone who prefers to work methodically or independently. Take the time to find out if you are a good fit for both the role and the employer.
Adapting and Improving Your Job Search Approach
For some people, job hunting may feel like a tedious chore full of potential pitfalls and disappointments. Others see the process as more of an adventure, approaching the necessary research with a spirit of curiosity and a desire to learn.
The job search mindset that you choose to have can affect your ability to successfully find a position, even if there are many factors beyond your control.
While you may not be selected for every role you pursue, maintaining a positive attitude, and staying focused on your goals will make your journey more enjoyable and may open the door to other opportunities.
The application and interview experience can teach you a lot about yourself and help you refine your understanding of what you really want for your career.
The best tools to have when searching for a job are focus, resiliency, and humility. Try not to let job search rejection deter you from other attempts. Nearly every setback has something it can teach us. It is so much easier to gain perspective on how you can adapt and improve when you simply ask others for help.