When you thought that you and that awesome guy were more than just friends — and thought wrong, you spent the next three days in your pajamas.
When you went on an awesome interview, but the job went to another candidate, you vowed to learn the pots and pans and spend the rest of your life as a street performer.
We’ve all been there.
Rejection is just one of those things that, no matter how many times it happens in life, it never gets any easier. However, it doesn’t always have to result in self-loathing and days spent moping around in your pjs. In fact, John Kador, author of “301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview,” dedicates an entire chapter of his book to rejection, and how it can actually have a positive effect on your job search — if you take advantage of it by finding out why you didn’t get the job.
True, it may seem like adding salt to your wound to reach out to the refusing employer and ask “What’s so wrong with me?” However, doing so can also be one of the most rewarding ways to handle a rejection, since any constructive feedback you receive can be applied to your future job search.
Also true, is that positively handling rejection is a lot easier said than done, so below are the top tips for following up with a company that has turned you down, adapted from Kador’s “301 Best Questions to Ask On Your Interview.”
1. Figure out where the recruiter was coming from
Sometimes, you will have a hunch as to why you were rejected. Maybe you were under- qualified, or maybe you set your salary expectations too high. But on those occasions where you were completely blindsided by the rejection, understanding it will take some further investigation.
Usually, this involves contacting the recruiter. Start by sending a simple note. Something like:
“Thank you again for interviewing me. I understand your decision to go with another candidate and I accept your decision. I’d appreciate any feedback you can give me.”
Sometimes, this will be enough to get you a constructive dose of honesty. However, HR departments are often apprehensive to give straightforward feedback these days, due to a fear of lawsuits. But, that doesn’t mean you should just accept their generic response saying “You were great, but the other candidate was better.”
2. Cut to the point
To increase your odds of getting true, useful criticism, take your query one step further, by following up with something along the lines of:
“I need to improve my interviewing skills and I’m asking for your help. I am asking you to be honest about my performance and what I could have done better. If you do, I will make you three promises. First, I promise I will not interrupt you. Second, I promise I will not defend myself. Third, I promise I will not contact you or your company for a year. Will you help me?”
This approach lets the HR rep know that you have no interest in hounding them or pleading your case, and are genuinely interested in honest feedback. It should also help ease the recruiter’s fear of getting in trouble.
When using this approach, though, be ready to keep your promises or risk putting your reputation with the company — and possibly the industry — on the line.
3. Be gracious
If directly asking the recruiter for interview feedback still seems too intimidating, at least send a thank-you note. Many interviewees discontinue professional niceties when they don’t get the job, but genuinely thanking the interviewer for their time makes a good final impression. If possible, prove your gratitude by:
- Recommending another good candidate for the position
- Offering a sales lead
- Including a link to an article, website or job-board you think the recruiter would find useful
- Asking if there is anything else you can do for the recruiter or the company
Simple gestures like the ones above will make you stand out to the recruiter, who will be more apt to keep you in mind for future jobs at the company.
Hopefully, you won’t face too much (if any) rejection during your job search, but if you do, the above guidelines will help turn a negative response into a learning experience. Be sure to personalize these steps based on your individual interview situation and what you feel comfortable with. If you don’t think you can handle hearing a less-than-glowing review from a recruiter without interrupting, you may want to skip step No. 2. For more suggestions on what to ask before, during and after an interview, check out “301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview.”