What To Do When You Don’t Get the Job Offer

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You apply, interview, get excited -- but you don’t get the job. It happens. It’s disappointing. Sometimes you’re given feedback, sometimes there’s no explanation.

There are many reasons you might not be hired for a particular job:

  • The company may pull the job opening back
  • The company might change the job description when they see what’s available in the market, and your background and skills don’t match
  • You didn’t complete the application correctly
  • Your skills weren’t as relevant as your competition
  • The company didn’t see you as a cultural fit
  • Something you said in the interview struck them wrong
  • No particular reason, someone else was just a stronger candidate

As frustrating as it can be to thoughtfully personalize your resume and cover letter to a job opening, carefully and professionally interview for the position and then receive a “no thank you” from the employer, how you handle the rejection matters.

Many employers note that just because a candidate isn’t a fit for one job doesn’t mean they don’t belong at the company. If you made a good impression in the interview process, it’s possible that the recruiter remembers you for another, more suitable, job down the road.

For this reason -- and many others -- handle the rejection with poise and professionalism.

If you don’t get the job, do:

Ask for clarification or feedback on why you weren’t chosen. Remember, it’s possible that you didn’t qualify for this job, but you are a fit for the company. Be careful how you phrase your ask for feedback.

You might write: “Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the XYZ position. I was excited for the potential collaboration and understand you’ve moved forward with another candidate. Could you share any insight about the process, or my application, that led to this decision? Feedback is helpful to me as I grow my career forward. Thank you and I look forward to applying for positions with ABC Company again in the future.”

Thank the recruiter and anyone you interviewed with. An email or handwritten note thanking them for their consideration will make a positive impression. Most applicants slip away into the darkness when they get turned down.

Be the candidate who shows decorum and professionalism and thank them for the opportunity to be considered and express that you hope to stay in touch.

Watch for future open positions. If the company later posts a position you think you’re qualified for, and you received feedback that you’d made a good impression in the first interview process, reference that experience as you apply for the next job.

If you don’t get the job, don’t:

Argue with the recruiters. If you were offered feedback you disagree with, don’t make excuses or get pushy. It’s possible they gave you lackluster feedback because they wanted to spare your feelings. It’s possible they didn’t have the time to give you feedback. Either way, if you challenge them it will leave a bad impression.

On the other hand, if they mistakenly interpreted something from your resume or interview, or received erroneous information about you, then correct that information in a polite and helpful way. The company may have already hired someone else, so your goal is not to get that job offer back, but you could make a good impression for any future positions.

Go radio silent. Sure, you hoped you were a stronger candidate yet got passed over. That’s not a reason to ignore the company and future postings. Stay in touch with the recruiters you met with, apply again if you see an opening better suited to your skills or interests and keep top-of-mind with the hiring team.

Post negative comments or vent on social media. Don't post about the company or individuals you met with during the interview process. There is no online information that is ever private and the odds are high that your sentiments will find their way back to the company (preventing you from possibly being hired there in the future).

Also, other recruiters and hiring teams frown on candidates who would lash out online and may consider you too high a risk to interview in the first place.

The hiring process must be a win-win for both the applicant and the employer. If rejected for a job you really wanted, resist the temptation to retaliate. Instead, use any feedback and insight you receive to grow your candidacy for future opportunities.

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