Knowing how to ask for feedback after a job rejection can benefit your career in a number of ways. While it’s never ideal to get passed on for a job you want, it’s realistic to assume that it will likely happen to you at some point.
This guide will teach you how to ask for feedback after a job rejection and provide you with some sample emails to make the process easier.
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How to Ask for Feedback After a Job Rejection
Getting rejected for a job can be tough. That’s especially true if it was a job you were genuinely interested in and went through several rounds of interviews. While you can do everything in your power to prepare, rejections happen.
The best way to handle those moments is to ask for feedback. Understanding why hiring managers passed up can help you in your future endeavors, equipping you with the knowledge you need to improve. Here are a few tips on how to ask for feedback after a job rejection in a way that reflects well on you.
1. Reach Out to the Right Person
When asking for feedback after a job rejection, the first thing you need to do is figure out who you should talk to. During the hiring process, you’ll likely speak to multiple people. You might interact with someone in human resources, talk to a dedicated recruiter, or communicate with the hiring manager directly.
Typically, the best person to ask for feedback is the one who delivers the news (often through a rejection email). In most cases, that will be a recruiter or hiring manager.
Even if you spent more time interacting with an interviewer, they might not have anything to do with the final hiring decision. Hiring managers are usually the ones who choose who to hire and who to pass on. Asking for feedback from someone who doesn’t play any part in that decision-making process would be pointless.
If the recruiter was the person who told you that you didn’t get the job, they might have an idea why. That’s not always the case, but they generally act as the liaison between the organization and the applicant. They are the middle-person and often have insight into why the company made its decision.
Recruiters root for you, so most are willing to pass on that information.
Now, if you didn’t hear directly from the hiring manager, you might feel tempted to contact them anyway. You can do so, but tread lightly. If a critical decision-maker passes the task of delivering bad news to a secretary or assistant, they probably won’t have the time to provide feedback.
It’s better to talk to your last point of contact or the manager who let you know you were rejected.
2. Ask for Feedback at the Right Time
The right time to ask for feedback after a job rejection can vary. This is an area where you’ll often hear some conflicting advice. Some people believe that you should ask for feedback immediately, but doing so isn’t always the wisest choice.
The best approach is usually to ask for feedback within 24 hours, but to avoid getting back to them instantly. Here’s why:
Imagine being in the hiring manager’s position. They likely have a list of people they need to call. All of those individuals but one will hear bad news.
Managers get used to rejecting applicants, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Asking someone to tell you why they didn’t want to hire you puts them on the spot. It creates an uncomfortable situation; many managers aren’t expected to hear that question.
As a result, it can create a genuinely awkward moment that doesn’t shine anyone in a good light. Give hiring managers a moment to collect their thoughts before you ask for feedback. The best course of action is to wait and send an email. Even if the hiring manager delivered the bad news by phone, refrain from asking during that call.
Instead, wait a few hours and send an email so that they can take their time to develop a constructive answer. Asking on the spot might send them scrambling to come up with reasons, ending up in a response that’s not helpful.
Aim to send that feedback request within 24 hours. You want to ask for feedback about the rejection when you’re still on their mind, allowing them to provide an honest and helpful answer.
3. Ask What You Can Do to Improve
The point of asking for feedback after a job rejection is to learn and grow from the experience. When doing this, ask for pointers on how you can improve. You can be as broad or specific as you want.
However, open-ended questions are usually best. That allows the hiring manager to provide the information they feel comfortable divulging. For example, you could ask what they would like to see on your resume if you reapply for the company sometime in the future.
With a question like that, the manager might tell you that you lacked the amount of experience or qualifications the company was after. It’s better than a pointed question about what went wrong during the interview or why they didn’t like you.
Ask how you can improve, but don’t put the person you’re contacting in a bind. Let the person you’re talking to share when they want without forcing them to say anything they’re not comfortable saying. Focus on actionable tips.
You can ask about what skills they would like to see, if the level of experience you have is enough, or if there is anything missing that they want to see. There’s always room for improvement, so listen to what the hiring manager says and take it to heart.
4. Accept Their Feedback
It’s not easy hearing the reason why you were rejected. Sometimes, it’s simply that someone had better qualifications than you. But in other times, glaring issues or interview missteps cost you the opportunity.
Whatever the case might be, accept the feedback and move on. There’s nothing you can do about the situation now. Even if you don’t like what you hear, resist the urge to push back.
Arguing with the hiring manager about their decision isn’t going to make a difference, and it could hurt your chances of getting opportunities in the future. Bite your tongue no matter how much you disagree with what they say.
Accepting feedback should also apply if they don’t want to provide any at all! Some hiring managers don’t want to have that conversation. That’s fine. There’s no need to press them on it.
Hearing any amount of criticism can be frustrating, but accept it with grace and apply it to your job hunt moving forward.
5. Plant a Seed for Future Interviews
When asking for feedback after a job rejection, you always want to plant the seeds for potential opportunities in the future. Just because you were rejected now doesn’t mean that the hiring manager didn’t like you or thought you had nothing to offer. As we mentioned earlier, sometimes the issue is that someone with better qualifications walks through the door.
Always leave things open for future interviews. Thank them for the opportunity and the feedback they provide. Then, mention that you’d be open to staying in contact and getting considered for other roles that open up.
You don’t have to make it a big deal. A quick note about how you’d enjoy the chance to discuss future opportunities is all you need. From there, you can connect on LinkedIn and keep tabs on new positions as they become available.
Who knows? A similar role might open up not long after the rejection. If you leave the door open, a hiring manager could call you directly for another interview!
How To Approach This Over the Phone
The standard approach when asking for feedback after a job rejection is usually to send an email.
But what if you have the hiring manager or recruiter on the phone? Can you ask then?
It is possible to ask for feedback on the same call, and some people will have no problem giving it immediately. But be cautious about this tactic. Asking for feedback immediately on the same call could put the manager on the spot.
That can lead to an awkward and potentially unhelpful conversation.
If you must ask for feedback on the phone, be extra gracious. Instead of asking for it now, you can always request to set up a phone conversation for a later date. That typically goes over better than asking for feedback on the spot.
It shows that you’re aware of the hiring manager’s busy schedule. There’s a good chance you’re not the only phone call they have to make about a rejection. Plus, it gives them time to figure out what advice they want to share.
What to Avoid When Asking for Feedback
Requesting feedback after a job rejection is a delicate conversation. Now that you know how to broach the topic with respect and grace let’s go over some things you should avoid.
An Upset or Argumentative Tone
Never begin this conversation on a sour note. It’s understandable to be upset, but don’t let that frustration turn into negative energy. Whether you’re on the phone or communicating through email doesn’t matter. Hiring managers can tell when people are upset.
Being rude and combating every piece of advice will not work in your favor. It essentially ruins your chances of ever getting a job at that organization. Not only that, but word travels fast. That hiring manager can tell others, ruining your reputation in your city and industry.
Don’t burn bridges! It’s the worst thing you can do, so always be respectful.
Desperation and Begging
Begging for a job can be just as bad as being argumentative. Nothing sours a hiring manager’s opinion on a candidate more than groveling. It’s not a good look and could hurt any future opportunities with the company.
Keep things positive. You can accept feedback with grace and move on. Remember that this job opportunity isn’t the only one you’ll get. There are other fish in the sea, but this one wasn’t for you.
Attempting to Change the Decision
Finally, don’t try to change the hiring manager’s mind after asking for feedback. If that is your goal, you might as well stop trying to get feedback. That’s not the point of this follow-up request.
It’s about learning, accepting failure, and moving on. Trying to change the decision comes off as both desperate, pushy, or disrespectful. Furthermore, the futile attempt will likely squash your chances of getting helpful feedback.
Asking for feedback after a job rejection isn’t easy, but it’s a great way to learn and improve. Every rejection is just an experience to prepare you for the future. If you’re unsure how to broach the subject with hiring managers, here are a couple of sample emails to inspire you.
The first email is a universally good example. It can work with any job and hits all the marks. It’s respectful, asks for advice, and doesn’t burn any bridges.
“Dear Mr. Smith,
I thank you for your time and for following up with your decision.
While I am disappointed that I won’t have the chance to work for [COMPANY], I respect your decision and appreciate your consideration. I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and my career. Can you share any feedback that might help me when applying for a position at your company in the future?
I truly appreciate your time in this process. If another role opens up that you feel I would be a good fit for, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you again for your consideration.”
In our second example, the applicant asks for specific feedback on their skills and qualifications. The request is still respectful and leaves the door open for future contact with the hiring manager.
“Dear Ms. Johnson,
Thank you for considering me for the job at [COMPANY]. While it didn’t work out, I enjoyed our discussions and the opportunity to meet your team. I hope that you’ll consider me in the future for positions you feel that I could succeed in.
As someone committed to continuous self-improvement, I’d like to ask for some feedback. More specifically, I’d like to know if there were any skills or qualifications that I lacked for this role. I appreciate any feedback you can share with me that would help me in my career.
I thank you for your time and hope to meet with you at some point in the future.”
Now that you know how to ask for feedback after a job rejection, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes. Missing out on a job isn’t fun, but you can use it to learn how to make yourself a more competitive applicant in the future!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.