A 3-Step Plan for Turning a Job Rejection Into an Opportunity
After acing multiple rounds of interviews, daydreaming about how you’re going to decorate your office, and basking in the warm feeling of having finally found “your people,” you’ve just opened an email that says, “Thank you for applying, but...”
But before you send a strongly worded email, order a glitter bomb, or dissolve into a puddle of self-pity, take a deep breath and try to read the situation for what it is: You got really close. Final round interviews typically mean you’re competing with only one or two other people. The hiring manager likely remains very impressed with your skills, but for some reason—which may or may not even be related to you—gave the role to someone else.
Don’t throw away all the effort you’ve put into this company by moving on without responding. This might not be exactly the opportunity you were envisioning, but it’s an opportunity nonetheless. Make the most of it by sending a thoughtful thank you note. Here’s how.
1. Say Thank You
First things first: Say thank you. Hosting a candidate for an interview takes time, effort, and a surprising amount of coordination from many people. You may not have landed the job, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to be courteous hosts throughout the interview process.
The key here to not sounding generic or even passively annoyed is to be specific. Thank the hiring manager or recruiter for the chance to learn more about the company and meet the team and for the overall experience of interviewing for the role. Did anything from the day stand out to you in particular as a positive memory? Write about that. Just a sentence or two will do.
2. Ask for Feedback
Maybe you not getting the job ultimately had little to do with you, but maybe not. And the only way for you to find out is to ask what you could have done better.
In general, it seems interviewers are typically pretty hesitant to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you made it to the final round. If they don’t respond, there’s no harm done, and you get bonus points for being the type of person who seeks feedback. If you do get feedback, you’ll have something to work on for your next interview. Win-win.
Make it easier by asking something less broad than, “Do you have any feedback you can offer me?” Try something like, “Are there particular skills that you think I could bolster for future opportunities?” or “Pointers on how I could better approach the technical portion of the interview would be greatly appreciated.”
3. Keep the Door Open
At this point, you’re already going to successfully make the impression that you’re a gracious and introspective person. Good job. Wrap up by keeping the door open and maximizing this chance to expand your network. Reiterate your interest in the type of work you interviewed for, and ask that the team keep in you in mind for future similar opportunities.
You never know what this simple request could lead to. As Sara McCord explains, she was able to turn a rejection from one company into a job offer at another after the CEO she interviewed with vouched for her. Treat this note as a way to open more doors, rather than just the closing of one.
As with all thank you notes, you’ll want to follow the standard etiquette and send it quickly. It’s okay to be bummed out about not getting the job, but don’t let it hold you back for long. Who knows? This could actually lead to your next big break.
Photo of hand courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author