By Jensen Van Horn
Getting a rejection letter or email for a job you really wanted never gets easier. You spent hours carefully crafting your resume and cover letter to fit the role and highlight your qualifications just to feel like you wasted your time. Even worse, maybe you made it through the first round of interviews and were under the impression you were a leading candidate, just to have those hopes shot down.
With the rise of the online, informal application process and Applicant Tracking Systems, job hunting is more competitive and tricky than ever before. Oftentimes, hiring managers don’t even bother to tell you that you didn’t get the position, and you wait around wondering for months.
However, when you do get a rejection letter from an employer, a unique opportunity presents itself to gather feedback about your application and surprisingly, network.
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Here are a couple of important reasons why you should follow up with job rejection letters, and templates for doing so successfully.
1. Ask for Feedback About Your Application and Qualifications
When confronted with a rejection letter, you may be confused about why you didn’t make the cut. You believe you have all of the necessary experience and your cover letter should’ve dazzled by painting a picture of you as a well-rounded and hard-working human being. Of course, there are far more reasons you didn’t get the job than meets the eye. For one, perhaps the company’s ATS couldn’t read your resume. Or maybe they already had a leading candidate in mind when you applied.
Regardless of what the real reason is, getting a rejection letter presents a rare opportunity to ask the hiring manager at that company for feedback about your application and overall qualifications for the role. You can inquire about why they decided not to move forward with your candidacy, how you could make your application stronger in the future, or improvements to your interview style (if you were interviewed).
The hiring manager might not respond, and that’s okay — you made an effort, nothing lost! But if they do respond, you get insights directly from the hiring manager on things you can use to make your future applications stronger and successful.
Here’s a basic email template to ask these kinds of questions:
Subject Line: Your Name – Position
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Thank you for taking the time to review my application for the _______ (job title) position at _________ (company name).
While I am disappointed that my experience doesn’t fit what you are looking for in this position, I am still very interested in _________ (company name). Would you be able to elaborate on why you decided not to move forward with my candidacy? Do you have insights into how I could improve my interviewing style? Do you have any suggestions on how I could make my application stronger in the future?
I understand that you may be swamped with applications at this time, but I would be very appreciative of any constructive feedback you may have.
Thank you for your time and encouragement.
*Your Name Here*
2. Potentially Be Considered for Future Positions & Network
While you may not qualify for the initial position you applied for, there might be other opportunities at the company that could be a better fit. By sending a follow up to rejection emails thanking the hiring manager for their time and consideration, your professionalism and kindness go far — they’ll remember you down the line! This creates the perfect opportunity to ask the hiring manager to keep you and your application in mind when new positions at the company become available.
Similarly, hiring managers that are impressed with unqualified or rejected candidates often will network on their behalf and get them in touch with other companies that could be a better fit. This kind of networking is advantageous because word of mouth from one hiring manager to another speaks volumes about your strengths as a candidate.
Here’s a basic email template for networking and asking for future candidacy consideration:
Subject Line: Your Name – Position
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Thank you very much for considering me for the _______ (job title) position.
While I am disappointed that my experience doesn’t fit what you are looking for in this position, I am still very interested in _________ (company name). If there is a position that might be a better fit for my experience and qualifications, I would be very interested in applying. Please keep me in mind for any future opportunities as they arise.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration,
*Your Name Here*
Of course, if interested in both, you can easily combine aspects of the two email templates to inquire about how to make your future applications stronger AND if they can keep you in mind for other positions.
Things to Avoid in a Follow Up
Receiving a rejection email presents a fantastic opportunity to network and get feedback about your application. However, it’s important to keep follow up messages brief, professional, and positive. Do not bombard the hiring manager with a sob story detailing the effort you put into the application and how devastated you are about the rejection. Likewise, don’t frame the message as if you are questioning the validity of the hiring manager’s decision or process.
Avoid these five things in a follow up:
- Asking directly why you didn’t get the job (try to phrase this more indirectly)
- Asking if there was something missing from your resume
- Telling the hiring manager you’re actually very qualified and asking them to review your application again
- Detailing your skills and experience again
- Expressing dismay or grievance with the company
Remember that the hiring manager is doing you a favor by providing feedback about your application! Take what they give you and use it constructively to improve your resume, cover letter, or application for future interviews.
Don’t forget to get a copy of the Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan so you always know what step to take next in your job search.
And if they don’t respond, don’t take it personally! There are tons of reasons that have nothing to do with you that might have come into play. Plus, you have nothing to lose by asking for insights.
You can read about one of my experiences following up to a rejection email and the insights I gained into the company’s interview process here!
Jensen is a recent college graduate and sole researcher, designer, and content creator for The Yellow Haired Warrior Blog. While she currently works in academic neurology research, she is an aspiring writer, designer, and marketer. Originally creating her blog as an online portfolio of her personal learning journey, she soon developed it into a resource for struggling recent graduates and aspiring side hustlers focusing on career development, design, and marketing. Her current ongoing project is the Post Grad Interview series where she interviews recent graduates about their experiences and composes those responses into compelling narratives. In her spare time, she loves to go to a cycling class, listen to podcasts, and play animal crossing. You can find her on Instagram or contact her at email@example.com