Business people at a job interview

We all know that feeling: You found a company or an opportunity you were really excited about, spent lots of time preparing, and maybe even met the team, only to receive that “we regret to inform you” email breaking the news that you won’t be moving forward. It always stings, but it can sting even more when it was a company that you would have loved to work for.
For the most part, it’s rare to be rejected because your interviewer didn’t like something about you as a person (in which case you shouldn’t work for them anyway). Usually, it’s something more skills- or experience-based, and often it’s relative to the other people who are interviewing simultaneously (they may have had a slightly more convincing presentation or more experience specific to the role than you did). Rejection can feel like we blew it, but we can use it as an opportunity to leave a remarkable impression and open doors to future connections.

How to respond to a job rejection.  

It’s normal to be upset after you get that rejection email, but don’t direct those feelings back to the hiring team. Usually, the person sending you that rejection either feels neutral about you or likes you and feels terrible about this outcome, and sending an angry response is a surefire way to change a positive impression into a negative one.

Instead of responding in the heat of the moment, give yourself some time and write back when you can get past that initial disappointment. Some friendly options:

  • Thank you so much for letting me know. Of course, I’m disappointed, but I appreciate your time speaking with me.
  • Thanks [NAME]! Bummed it didn’t work out this time, but it was great to meet you and learn more about the company.
  • Thank you for telling me; I really enjoyed meeting the team and will keep an eye on [COMPANY] in case there’s a better match in the future.

It is also OK at this stage to ask for feedback-make sure to be gracious if/when you do receive it! Remember that many companies won’t share specific feedback for fear of legal action, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Don’t re-apply over and over!

While it’s fine to apply again in the future, hold off for a bit after your rejection, and don’t pummel the company with more applications over and over. Most systems automatically flag if you’ve applied to a job previously, and chances are your recruiter will recognize your name. You’ll certainly become more memorable, but not how we want you to be remembered.

Instead of turning around and applying again and hoping someone different will see your resume, take advantage of your existing relationship with your recruiter. Highlight how much you enjoyed meeting them and/or the team (if you did) and how much you still love the company and hope there will be a mutual fit someday down the line.

Use your shared history to your advantage.

When the day comes that you see another job at the company you’re interested in, fire off that application and then send your old recruiter a note to let them know. It’s helpful to include:

  • A reminder of how you know each other. (e.g., “We spoke last year about the product marketing role, but it wasn’t a perfect fit at the time.”)
  • What you’ve been up to since you last spoke.
  • Why you’re excited about this role.
  • If you received feedback last time, how have you actioned on it since then?

Even if your recruiter doesn’t immediately remember you, a thoughtful email with a reminder of who you are can go a long way to catching their attention.

Things may have changed such that you’re now applying for a different kind of job than you applied for last time-be sure to articulate what prompted the change. Maybe you joined a coding boot camp, and now you’re applying for an engineering job instead of a marketing job, or perhaps you discovered a new passion, so you’re applying for a creative role instead of a finance one. Giving your recruiter all the info helps them better advocate for you, giving you a leg up over someone applying blindly.