Your resume was phenomenal, the phone screening was a success, and you left thinking that they were sure to hire you. But you didn’t get the job. Maybe worse yet, no one told you why you didn’t get the job. So how are you supposed to improve what went wrong if you don’t know what it is? This is another one of those ‘Catch-22’s that trip people up. Much like how every job requires experience, but you need the job to get that experience, this one feels like a trap. Here’s the right way to ask why you didn’t get the job.
Remember it’s not Personal
First of all, ouch. No one likes to be rejected. Not in dating, not in elections, and not in job interviews. Keep in mind that this isn’t a rejection of you, as a person. This is just not for this specific role right now. They’re not going to change their minds after they’ve rejected you.
So why would you respond after they rejected you? This is a search for information for next time or a networking opportunity. And if you find a great job somewhere else, that’s their loss, and you can use this experience to figure out how to improve your interviewing skills and resume. If you really want to work at that one place, then this is just how you’re going to get information on what to improve before you apply again next time.
Why Employers Don’t Provide Feedback – and a Response Isn’t Guaranteed
First off, this is a frustrating situation for the job-seeker, but it can become a legal situation for the company. When employers reject candidates, those candidates can and do file employment discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on basis of sex, gender, race, disability, or religion. Before resorting to that, asking why you didn’t get the job can help you improve your interviewing process and get you a better position.
One of the first steps is comparing your resume to the job description and honestly checking to see if you’re a good fit. Was there anything you said or did in the job interview that you could have done differently? Did anything feel “off”?
Common Reasons That Could Be Why You Didn’t Get the Job
Many factors go into the decision to hire or not hire someone, with most of them not being related to the people who interviewed. Managers if anyone who works there already can do the job instead, what should that new person’s expertise be, and if there’s money in the budget to hire a brand new person.
Someone else was slightly more qualified
It’s hard to compete if someone walked through the door with all of the ideal experience and had exactly what they were looking for. Were you missing any of the skills listed in the job description? People are always encouraged to apply when they have at least 80% of the job requirements, but if someone with 100% shows up, it’s in the company’s best interest to hire them.
They promoted internally instead
You’ll get your answer if you start seeing the company is now hiring for a lower-paying position that’s related to the one you interviewed. Promoting internally saves the company time and money.
The company has budget constraints
It’s quite possible that not everything went according to plan and they didn’t hire anyone. Once push comes to shove, the cost of hiring a new person might not have been feasible at this time. If the budget was needed elsewhere for an unexpected cost, then it’s better they didn’t hire anyone instead of being unable to pay them. After all, you want to get paid for your work!
Why How You Ask Now Might Help You Get a Job in the Future
Remember that saying, “you get more flies with honey than vinegar”? If you can impress on them that you think you’d be a good fit for the company culture and you’re open to any opportunities that they have in the future, you could have a decent shot at being hired them later on. While it’s not helpful right now, responding with interest in the company will show that your interest in working there during the interview was genuine.
Be Polite, Professional, and Grateful
Overall keep your tone when either on the phone or in an email, polite, professional, and be sure to thank them for the experience. If nothing else, you learned more about the company and you improved your interview skills. Hopefully, they will give you feedback so that you can see how you can improve, and you will have more information about how the company works the next time they’re hiring.
Keep it Short and Positive
Shorter emails are more likely to get an answer since not everyone has the time to read a long email. They were invested to read your resume, but now that they’ve chosen someone, they have other work to do. The same principle applies to the phone call. Keep it short and snappy!
Staying positive while talking to the hiring manager will help them know that you’re not attacking them or on the defensive. In order to get that information you need to improve, you need this person’s help – which they’re not required to give you. Keeping the tone light and positive will make it more likely for them to answer you.
Why Rejection Phone Calls are Better Than Emails
Because of the legal reasons why employers don’t give feedback, hiring managers probably aren’t going to respond to your email. Use only the contact information you already have from setting up the interview to ask why you didn’t get the job. Finding any contact information from another source is inappropriate. Calling them, however, improves your chances of getting the real root reason why you didn’t get the gig. It’s easier to avoid an email than it is a phone call, and you need this information in order to improve.
If you only have an email address, use that but know that your odds of getting a response are lower. Be sure to thank them for their time. Be sure to include that you’re trying to learn from the experience and would be open to any feedback on how you could improve as a candidate. You can ask if there were any skills stronger candidates had that you lack, anything you could do to improve your resume and cover letter, or if there was something in particular that that needed work. If you feel too uncomfortable with receiving negative feedback, ask what things you did well or what they liked about your resume. A positive answer will highlight what they don’t say, and that will show you what you need to work on.
Asking the Right Questions During a Phone Call
It can be hard finding out that you didn’t get the job over the phone. Often people’s first response is to be offended or to try and change the hiring manager’s mind. That won’t work. If anything, trying to change their mind or negotiate leads to being blacklisted from future jobs. Instead, you need to stay professional and get the information you need to get the job next time.
As painful as it is getting the rejection over the phone, you can gain a world of insight. All you need to do is ask “what should I have done differently?” or “Is there a specific skill you were looking for that I don’t have yet?”
Take notes now, during the phone call. Writing them down later can be easily muddled with your emotions and that won’t help you improve. You might not remember what they say or the specifics of what skills you need to work on.
Here are some questions you can ask, regardless of the reason they told you that you didn’t get the job:
- “What was it about my resume that you liked? Didn’t like?”
- “Were there specific skills or experiences that you’re looking for that I don’t have yet?”
- “Were any of my answers during the interview unclear somehow?”
- “What would you suggest I improve on before I apply again in the future?”
Dear (Hiring manager or recruiter’s name),
Thank you for the opportunity to interview last week for the role of account manager. I really enjoyed learning about (company name) and getting to know you and the team throughout the process. I understand that you are moving forward with a different candidate.
As I continue my job search, I would love your feedback on how I can improve as a candidate. Is there one skill I can improve upon to improve my career or is there something I should have done differently in the interview?
I would greatly appreciate any feedback you could give me. If you know of anyone else who is hiring for similar roles or that I should speak with, please let me know. Again, thank you for taking the time to interview me.
(Your name and contact information)
That’s one paragraph about gracefully accepting the situation, a second asking for feedback, and a third keeping the situation open for further opportunities. You’ve told them that you understand you didn’t get it, asked for feedback, and shown you’re open to any help that they may offer.
Not everyone will have time to respond to your email. Giving constructive feedback is difficult and the more time you allow them, the more thoughtful the feedback will be. If they never respond, accept that they’re not going to give you feedback. Again, companies tend to avoid giving feedback so that they can avoid risk. Many hiring managers have trouble figuring out why someone clicked with them while someone else didn’t, and might not be able to put it into words.
It can be upsetting to hear that you didn’t get the job you wanted and it feels worse when you don’t get proper feedback on why. The odds are that it isn’t personal, so try not to take it that way. Do the best you can with the information you have and keep looking. The right job is out there and you just have to find it.
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