After the Job Rejection: Why Following Up Gracefully Works


Getting rejected for a job hurts. Just like striking out in a baseball game or never getting a phone call back after a great date. Even if no one knows you’ve been rejected, it can feel like a first degree burn that doesn’t blister but still feels painful. It’s hard to forget that it’s there.

There are many schools of thought on how to handle a rejection from a job. Some career counselors say to turn your disappointment into fuel — and apply for a job with a competitor of the organization that turned you down. Others say to keep moving, and immediately apply for other jobs in different companies.

I recommend a different strategy: Follow up with the organization that turned you down before you move on.

This may sound counter-intuitive but here are three reasons how it can help your career:

1.  If you ask for feedback and receive a response, it can help you move on.

Not getting an offer isn’t fun, but knowing why you did not get the job can be helpful.

Even if you are perfectly qualified for the job on paper, there could be a number of reasons why you didn’t get the offer.

  • Perhaps the company has a company initiative to hire current employees in order to minimize hiring cuts in another department so they hired a current employee into the job. 
  • Perhaps the job description changed — after the interview. 
  • Perhaps they company really liked you but thought you’d be a better fit — in a different job.

Knowing the truth can bring you peace of mind and/or position your skills better next time!

2.  Following up can help employers better understand you.

Let’s say you interviewed for a job for which you were over-qualified.

Many employers reject candidates on this very basis alone, “She’d be bored stiff. Why would she want this job?”

Responding to a rejection note and saying “I’m disappointed, particularly as this job would have enabled me to learn _______” can counteract this assumption. Note: I’ve actually seen this approach turn one job seeker’s rejection into a job offer within 48 hours!

3.  A personal contact can cultivate a relationship. Relationships can help get you hired.

When you apply for a job working with people you don’t know, you are one in a stack of names.

When you follow up with a personal e-mail or voice mail, you can demonstrate initiative — and showcase your interpersonal skills. In that instant, you may be transformed — from a name on paper to a potential hire.

Saying “I am disappointed but remain interested in working at your company in the future” shows your perseverance and ability to handle feedback — all skills sought after by employers from non-profits to Fortune 50 companies.”

In sum, following up and asking for feedback after you’ve been rejected can help you better understand why you weren’t hired and stand out as an applicant for future positions. You have a lot to gain. What do you have to lose?

© Copyright, 2012, Chandlee Bryan. All rights reserved.

More About Recovering When You Don’t Get That Job Offer

Not Hired for a Job You Really Wanted? How to Recover

Why “NO” Isn’t Always the End

Turning Rejection into Opportunity (


  1. Chandlee,
    Thanks for your article. I had interviewed with a company days ago. The job did require very unique skills and education background, I thought my background should fit this position very well.

    During the interview, I was simply asked two questions by the HR director: the reason to leave current job and your strength. That is it. I prepared these quesitons before the interview. No any job related questions, then I got the rejected email days later.

    I felt frustrated and want to get feedback from this guy. Of course they are too busy to write your an email. I never get any feedback from job interviews. It may be only my personal experince.

    Best regards.


    • SEMI,

      Oh how frustrating! You could look at it from another angle: in a job search you also get to decide if you don’t want to work with someone. Based on how you were treated, I would imagine this wouldn’t be a great co-worker for you to spend your time with?

      Keep at it and good luck.


      • Chandlee,
        Thanks for your response. I wish I had known this website earlier. Your feedback means a lot to me, I felt you did understood our feelings as frustrated job seekers.

        Thanks again.

      • SEMI,

        Thanks for your kind response. I appreciate it..

        Good luck and all the best,

  2. Hello

    I just got an email saying that “After much thought and deliberation we have decided not to fill the position at this time. We very much appreciate your meeting with us and we wish you success in your job search. Should anything change in the future we would be happy to reconsider you as an applicant.”

    Im not sure how what this means. Is it ok to call them and find out?



    • Hi DK,

      I think a better use of your time would be to send them another thank you. This one would be a thank you for letting you know the job isn’t being filled, reiterating your interest in working there if something similar opens up in the future.

      Best to send them the thank you and move on with your job search.

      Good luck!

  3. Hi Susan

    Thanks for the reply! Im just a little confused because i was about to go on a third interview with the company. Why would they get this deep into the process if they are not going to fill this position? Also, this is the second time Ive gotten a response like this from a company. Is this a nicer way of say you are not a good fit and we’ve decided to go with another candidate? Im going to follow your advice and send them a thank you letter.

    Thanks for your help!


    • Hi DK,

      So many internal things could be going on that have absolutely NOTHING to do with you. Budget problems, someone has left the organization, someone new (and significant) has a different idea what to do, a project could not be going as well as expected, and on and on and on.

      So, don’t take it personally, and keep looking. You never know where or when that next opportunity will appear.

      Good luck!

      • Hello

        So the company I applied to that said they are not filling the position at this time, just reposted the position. Is it ok to reapply? If so, should I email the HR person directly or apply through the website?



  4. Hi,
    Iam in my third year of college.I got rejected for an internship in a very good company. usually companies don’t take interviews for internships as I have done some before. However, for this company I was interviewed on the phone by 2 people. It was quite unexpected and was very technical. As this was my first interview I would like to take it in the right spirit. I guess its ok..I have learnt something. But I really want to know if I can apply again. How do I ask them that?

    • Hi Sneha,

      I would move on unless you intend to apply for a different internship (different department or duties) with this employer. Consider what you have learned to be a good education, and put it to use on another opportunity. If you are in school, talk with your school’s career counselors to see what they recommend.

      Good luck with your job search!

  5. Mariann says:

    Hi….after 7 interviews and 2 leadership tests I was called and said that I was a top candidate but in this opportunity they decided to go with someone with a stronger experienced in a specific function of the job. My experience was broad and more generalist in this area….Although they left the door open when told me that would consider me for a future position more fitted to my experience. I haven’t responded yet…What should I say in my note?

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Mariann,

      Great idea! Thank them for the opportunity to learn more about them and reiterate your interest in working there. Tell them you are very impressed with their organization and leadership position in the industry (if they are a leader and if you are impressed). Indicate that you continue to learn more about this field (mention training, seminars, or conferences you will be attending, if they are appropriate), and that you plan to work in this field for many more years. Close by saying that hope they will stay in touch and look forward to working for them at some point in the future.

      Good luck with your job search!

  6. christine says:

    good morning!
    A company has interviewed me three times now, one interview I traveled quite far to get to; they ‘loved me’ and so I completed a project for them – and then also did a personality test; this process has been going on since early May by the way; My follow up letters have been done as well as a phone VM message as no one is answering; I finally received an e-mail from the VP saying they would contact me by end of week – that was over two weeks ago, and nothing. This is a large company under some stress to perform so I know there is a lot going on etc; I am frustrated as I really want to work for this chain, I know I can be a huge part of helping with the challenges they have, and am very familiar with the bones of it. Most people would move on, but I can’t get it out of my head, heart, and cannot believe that no one is responding – like yes or no already…

  7. diamondkiwi says:

    Hi Mariann!

    I recently interviewed for a position last Monday and thought it went very well and was purely excited about it. I emailed them before I decided to send them my cover letter, resume, and portfolio and wanted to confirm it was for an internship position. They emailed me back and said there was a position open this summer for the position. So I quickly emailed all of my work (resume, cover letter portfolio) they surprisingly responded within an hour and set up the interview days later that following Monday . They asked me about my work/collection and gave them insights to my experience which was far from what he expected to hear-he went on to say, “wow, I expected to hear that you were just graduating and wanted to do this and that but your story is pretty interesting! Please go on and tell me more”. After all was said and done he asked if I had anymore questions. I asked him is there a possibility that this position could turn into something permanent? As son as I asked, everything changed and the position all of a sudden turned into an entry level paid position and he went into very detailed job requirements and kept saying “you’d be doing this and this job and you’d be doing this and that….” As if he was placing me in the position. After all this he said, he needs to get back to the CEO AND VP to find out more details and would let me know by the end of the week what’s going on. He told me to definitely feel encouragd to email me during the week if I had any questions and that I could call him too.

    Days passed and yesterday I sent over a thank you note reiterating my strengths and points on what we talked about. So this morning I got a quick response, but I didn’t get the offer I was looking for. I wasn’t too upset but happy that I was even considered! He went on to say they have decided to go a different route for the position in favor of a more ……… role. Essentially not a ….. role at all as we had originally intended. Basically, this position changed twice on me so I guess that why I wasn’t upset to bad.
    After all of this he mentioned that he would love to keep in contact with me once this specific position opened up in the near future! He kept saying how truly and wholeheartedly that I should keep in contact and he loved my work!

    I guess I shouldn’t be confused but I sort of am…does it sound like they might consider me later or just a nice way of turning me down for a position and didn’t want to hurt my feelings? I plan on responding back because honestly It actually was a pleasant experience. Do you think once he talked to the CEO that suddenly gears shifted in the middle of they process? I don’t know, I’m clueless and not sure what to really think 🙁 sorry for such a long post!

  8. Hi,

    First of all i would like to give my thanks to the creator of this post.

    Well after giving 4 interview an IQ Test and EQ Test they told me this :

    “We appreciate your interest and as per your inquiry, there are some dis-matches between our expectation and your expertise. We are exploring few more options in order to induct the right fit resource. ”

    I simply dont know what to make of this statement.



    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Definitely a puzzle! They seem to be telling you that you didn’t get the job you apparently applied for but that perhaps they are interested in hiring you for a different position.

      Hope it works out well for you!

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