So You Didn’t Get the Job—Now What?

October 23, 2018

You’ve done the interview (and the phone screen, and the follow-up interview, and the Skype chat with the big boss who was out of town), written your thank-you notes, and spent the past week waiting anxiously for the final hiring decision. Then the email comes in: We regret to inform you that we’ve decided to go with a different candidate.

It can take the wind out of your sails—you thought the interview went really well, you built great rapport with the hiring manager, and maybe you even bought yourself a new shirt/tie/pair of shoes to make a great impression on your seemingly inevitable first day on the job. And now you’re back to pounding the pavement.

What happened? And more importantly, what now? While there’s the understandable impulse to delete the email and move on, you should resist that urge and instead thank the employer. Why would you thank an employer for rejecting you? Here are a few reasons:

1. It demonstrates good manners

Rejection is never a good feeling; it taps into base insecurities and deflates our egos. And some people do not react well to that feeling. As a result, rejected candidates may be in a hurry to put the whole incident out of their minds rather than taking time to craft an appreciative response. It’s a human impulse, though a bit immature. But writing back and accepting your rejection with grace? That’s professional—and a classy move to boot. You can’t go wrong staying on an employer’s good side, especially if the employer is one of your top choices. Your mom was right—it never hurts to be nice.

2. You have no idea what happened

Anything in the world could have kept you from being the one hired. Maybe you left feeling better about the interview than the hiring manager did. Maybe the other candidates did one more internship or went to the hiring manager’s alma mater. Maybe someone above your interviewer made the final decision. You could play “The Maybe Game” all day, and while I don’t advise you to do so, it does go to show that there are nearly infinite reasons why you were passed over. But just because you weren’t ultimately hired doesn’t mean you weren’t one of the top candidates or that the hiring team didn’t dedicate time and resources in considering your application. Acknowledge their efforts with a thank you, and express your interest in future opportunities.

3. You have no idea what could happen

When one door closes, sometimes a window opens. And, yes, usually windows are harder to get through. But that doesn’t mean that you should slam them shut out of spite. In replying to a rejection email in a cordial, courteous manner, you have cemented yourself in that hiring manager’s mind as a respectful professional. And that is always an excellent reputation to leave behind because anything can happen in the future. Another position with the company might open up, one you are perfectly suited for. The hiring manager may hear of a similar position elsewhere and offer to recommend you. The person they just hired might not work out after all. If you put in the effort to develop a connection, these types of windows could open for you.

So write yet another thank-you email. It doesn’t need to be more than a few sentences, but it should sing—express your disappointment at not being able to join their team, but wish them well with their new hire. Express a desire to be kept in mind for future openings. Ask to add the hiring manager/interviewers on LinkedIn, if you haven’t already. Wish them the best of luck on an upcoming project you discussed in your interview. And most of all, be genuine, despite the emotions that a rejection can spur. In the end, acting professionally can only help you, while not doing so is just going to make finding a position that much more difficult.

by Kaitlin McManus

© 2018 Inc.
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