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You went through the numerous rounds of interviews. You established great rapport (and—dare you say—even a friendly bond) with your potential new boss. You reached the final stages of the hiring process and you knew it. All that was left to do was wait for the decision. But when an email finally appeared in your inbox, you skimmed the first couple lines, and your eyes stopped on that one sentence: “Unfortunately, we decided to move ahead with another candidate.”

Your heart sinks into your shoes, and you want to cry or throw something (or both). But before you send an “I didn’t want this job anyway, so joke’s on you” 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—they hired someone else.

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And so, to make the best of the situation, you need to find a way to politely respond to that job rejection email.

Why you should respond to a job rejection

I know, it’s tempting to slink off into a dark corner and pretend the whole thing never happened. Getting the old, “Thanks, but no thanks,” is humbling enough, without having to swallow your pride, paste on a smile, and write something friendly and professional in return. But it’s important that you do indeed respond.

For starters, it’s a great way to demonstrate your professionalism and establish the grounds for a continued relationship. Plus—in some circumstances—you can even open the door for future opportunities. Don’t throw away all the effort you’ve put into this company by ghosting now.

Alright, you get it. But now comes the hard part: actually drafting the email.

How to respond to a rejection—tips and a template

As you respond to a job rejection remember to always:

  • Say thank you: Hosting a candidate for an interview takes time, effort, and a surprising amount of coordination. You may not have landed the job, but that doesn’t mean the interviewers didn’t try to be courteous hosts throughout the process—so you need to be courteous in response. Thank whoever emailed you for the chance to interview, learn more about the company, and meet the team. Did anything stand out to you in particular as a positive memory? Mention it. Just a sentence or two will do.
  • Keep the door open: Reiterate your interest in the company and their work. You can even ask that the team keep you in mind for future similar opportunities. Former Muse editor Sarah McCord did and it ultimately led to a job offer.
  • Respond promptly: As with all thank you notes, you’ll want to send it quickly. It’s OK to be bummed out about not getting the job, but don’t let it hold you back for long!

With that, here’s an easy-to-follow template to help you along:

Hello [Name],

Thanks for letting me know about your decision.

While I’ll admit that I’m disappointed I won’t be able to work as part of the [Company] team, it truly was great to meet you and learn more about the great work that you’re doing.

I’m excited to keep following [Company] as the team [pursues a specific current company goal], and I’ll keep an especially close eye on [project/development you discussed in your interview].

Thanks once again for the opportunity, and I hope our paths cross again in the future. I’m wishing you and [Company] all the best moving forward.

Best wishes,

[Your Name]

Here’s an example of an email crafted from that template:

Hello Rosa,

Thanks for letting me know about your decision.

While I’ll admit that I’m disappointed I won’t be able to work as part of the ZipZap team, it truly was great to meet you and learn more about the great work that you’re doing.

I’m excited to keep following ZipZap as the team expands its product line for individuals, not just organizations. And I’ll keep an especially close eye on the upcoming rebrand that’s slated to go along with that expansion. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Thanks once again for the opportunity, and I hope our paths cross again in the future. I’m wishing you and ZipZap all the best moving forward.

Best wishes,

Kai

Or it might look like this (you can make some tweaks to the template to make the note feel like your own!):

Hi Rishi,

Thank you for your email. I’m disappointed I won’t be joining your team, but it was great to meet you and learn more about the great work that you’re doing.

I’m excited to keep up with BookWorms as you work to help independent bookstores sell online and compete with Amazon. I’ll keep an especially close eye on the pilot program you mentioned for free delivery within 25 miles of the store here in the Chicago area.

Thank you for the opportunity to interview, and I hope you’ll keep me in mind for any positions you think I might be a good fit for. I’m wishing you and BookWorms all the best moving forward.

Best,

Ana

What’s next—a LinkedIn request

Another wise thing you can do after hitting “reply” on that rejection email? If you haven’t already, request to connect with the hiring manager or department leader on LinkedIn—making sure to include a brief and personalized message along with your invitation about how much you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning that you’d love to stay in touch.

That message could be short and simple like this:

Hi [Name],

I really enjoyed meeting you during my interview for the [type of position you applied for] role with [Company]. I thought I’d connect here so we could keep in touch.

All the best,

[Your Name]

Yes, it could literally be as easy as:

Hi Tasha!

I really enjoyed meeting you during my interview for the financial analyst role at Pear Co. I thought I’d connect here so we could keep in touch.

All the best,

Daniel

Nobody wants to receive a rejection email, much less respond to one. But sending this email could pay off down the road. And whether your efforts lead to something in the future or not, you’ll at least know that you handled the bad news well and did your best to keep the lines of communication open.

Lily Zhang and Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.

Updated 2/4/2022