What Happened? You Got a Job Rejection Instead of a Job Offer

By Robert Half March 7, 2017 at 10:30am

You’ve been checking your inbox nonstop for days. Finally, it comes: Thank you for your interest in the accounts payable specialist position and for taking the time to meet with us. So far so good. We’ve completed our final screening and regret to tell you … What, regret? Is this a job rejection?

It happens. You sent your best attempt at a resume, got a call, spent time preparing for the interview and walked away thinking you nailed the meeting. What went wrong?

You may never know. It could be that someone inside the company was hired. Or you weren’t a personality match. Maybe you lack the skills and training they need. Your rejection could be one of many, and if they didn’t find what they were looking for, it could be that no one got the job offer.

How do you reply to a job rejection?

Whether you’re turned down by letter, email, phone call or in person, you will want to respond graciously. You probably shouldn't start with something like this: "So, that's a 'no,' then?" No, your best bet is to take this seriously and express gratitude: "Thank you for getting back to me and for taking the time to meet with me. I enjoyed learning about your organization and meeting the members of your team."  

Should you ask for feedback? If you feel comfortable asking for constructive criticism, then yes. You might add that while you would value such a response, there’s no obligation.

Keep your note friendly, short and to the point, but do think of this as one more networking opportunity with the interviewer. You’ve already established a professional relationship with at least one person at this company, and you never know what will come of your efforts down the road.

Rejected job applicant

No doubt about it, getting a job rejection can be quite a blow. If you want to feel better, take a look at what you can improve so you can learn from the experience for next time.

Give your job search a boost

Set goals to improve your resume, outlining your strengths, skills and experience with the most common keywords you find in your online search. Have someone you trust review your resume, and take the time to proofread it.

Stay active by signing up with a recruiter. The best specialized recruiters know about candidate openings in your field, even the ones not publicly advertised. They can connect you to opportunities that are right for you and give you good advice about finding work with just the right employer.

Clean up your online presence  

Make sure your information on social media is up to date, accurate and positive. Review your privacy settings to prevent sensitive or too-personal items from becoming public.

You can assume all potential employers will look for you on LinkedIn, so spruce up your social media profile and make all the sections complete. Use the summary space to describe your unique qualifications as a candidate and highlight your best accomplishments. Have a photo that looks both friendly and professional. Be strategic about asking people for recommendations, and feel free to suggest the career experience you’d like them to highlight. (Also know that you can hide a recommendation, if you get something you don’t like.)

Strengthen your skill set

One way to gain an advantage over other job seekers is to learn a new skill or earn a certification. To a hiring manager, professional development shows initiative and a commitment to learning and relevance.

Expand your professional network

You might think you can do all the work of finding a position online through job boards and recruiting sites, but you also need to expand your professional network offline. Networking events give you the opportunity to practice your elevator speech, find out about openings and meet people, including hiring managers and recruiters.

Make a list of interview questions to ask

For your next interview, remember that the interviewer isn’t the only one who needs to ask questions. So do you. In preparation, make sure you’ve researched the company and know what questions you shouldn’t ask. Then when you hear, “Do you have any questions for us?” you can show your interest and also find out if the job is the right fit for you. To give you an idea of what questions are appropriate for a candidate to ask, here are a few samples:

  • What qualities do you think would make someone successful in this position?
  • What are the biggest challenges someone in this role would face?
  • Can you tell me a little about the team I’d be working with, if I got the job?
  • How would you describe the work environment?
  • How would you describe your career path at this company?
  • What do you see as the greatest opportunities for the company in the next few years?

Don't forget to follow up  

Send an emailed thank-you note to the manager within 24 hours of the interview. Following that up with a handwritten note could help to set you apart. If you were smart and collected business cards from others you met while at the company, you can send them notes, as well.

Write something that not only allows you to show genuine interest in the job but also helps keep you on the manager’s radar. Here’s an example: After meeting with you, I’m even more interested in this position, and I really believe I'd be a perfect fit.

If it happens again, don’t be knocked off your game by a rejection. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other good jobs and opportunities out there. Remember that in today’s employment market, candidates have an edge. Stay positive: Other doors will open for you.

Keep looking! Take a look at the job openings for your location.

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