asking for feedback after a job rejection

by Alison Green on August 13, 2007

A reader writes:

What is the current protocol, or successful strategy, for contact after not getting a job? I have already thanked the panel for the interview. Is there any reason to ask for feedback?

I’m always impressed when a candidate asks for feedback after not getting the job — and it there’s an easily articulable reason, I will usually share it. For instance, I’ve told candidates who asked that we felt we needed someone with more experience in _____, or that we were looking for stronger writing skills, and so forth. But sometimes it just comes down another candidate being a better fit, and I’ll say that too, although I’m sure it’s not as helpful.

That said, I know that there are a lot of hiring managers who never answer this question, for fear of saying something that will open them up to a lawsuit.

But even if you encounter that, there’s still no reason not to give it a shot, as long as you’re not defensive about it and are prepared for an honest critique. I’d say something like, “I appreciate your time speaking with me about the position, and I hope you’ll keep me in mind if something opens up in the future that you think I would be a good fit for. Is there anything you felt I could do to be a stronger candidate in the future?”

And if you get an answer, no matter what it is, remember to say thank you. I remember it when I take my time to help someone with feedback and get silence in return!

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{ 14 comments }

Anonymous December 20, 2008 at 12:43 am

Thank you for this post, and for helping people out with feedback.

I’m trying to get a job right now, and I just emailed back for feedback for the first time in my life. I’ve recently had three interviews that went well for jobs I’m very well-qualified for. The interviews all lasted over an hour, with the employers telling me about their work in great detail, sometimes slipping and saying “you’ll” do this or that. They gave me detailed tours of the work area and introduced me around.

I’m a likeable person, and I’ve never had trouble getting a job after I interviewed in the past, and now I have the added feature of a lot more experience. The interviews all end with: “We’ll call your references and let you know!”

One employer never called me after that, the second said they were “looking for someone who will stay a while” (I didn’t indicate any plans to leave), and the third said only that they went with another candidate.

I have some suspicions about the problem (bad reference or that I’m a breeding-aged married woman), but I hope the last interviewer will give me a few more details on what influenced his decision.

Anonymous June 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I'm also trying to get a job right now. I've recently had three interviews that went well for jobs I'm very well-qualified for. The interviews all lasted over an hour, with the employers telling me about their work in great detail, saying "you'll" do this or that. They gave me detailed tours of the work area and introduced me around also.
I've never had trouble getting a job after I interviewed in the past, and now I have the added feature of a lot more experience and Current licensers for my field of work. Like You the interviews all end with: "We'll call your references and let you know!" As time went by and doing the usuall follow up letters and calls, I ran into the problem that they are never available to answer any questions. Finally one employer called me after that, Stating they went with a student at this time. The second said they were "looking for someone who will stay a while" (Like You I didn't indicate any plans to leave), and the third said only that they went with another candidate.
I have come the conclusion like most people do what has my references said. So I came up with this, (I called all my references to get the feed back on what they have or not said. anonymously. After I get that information on any day I call them personally and ask if they have recieved any inqures. Dumb founded on my answer from them they have not had any calls for reference other than the one I made. So all i can say for know is keep trying and trying the job will come.

P.S. If any Hiring managers are reading this there are people out there that would like a chance to put there skills to work for you sometimes you just have to take a chance and let them show case there skills to you.

Anonymous September 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I totally agree with the previous comment.I am also in the same situation. The employers are becoming over cautious and too picky these days. Firts of all they interview too many candidates rather than interviewing top three. This all takes a lot of time and if you happen to be a first candidate that was interviewed than I am pretty sure what you have said in interviews they don't remember. I have seen situations where they have hired people that don't have anything special. I think they go by instinct rather than brains.

Anonymous June 21, 2011 at 9:30 am

I had the same situation. I did very well during my interview. I had all the skills they needed for the job description. They even mentioned that I had all of the skills. The group met with me and they said upfront that they think I am a good fit. (Maybe they were just acting). I even had a referral from that company (whom they know and respect).
Like the “what color is your parachute” There are 2 types of employers. One: want to hire you. Two: do not want to hire you.
You never know, even if you think you did well on a job interview. People are getting picky. Think they have the power.

Ask a Manager June 21, 2011 at 10:16 am

Well, it’s also very possible that they DID like you and DID think you were a great candidate, but they had more than one person who fell in that category, and only one slot to hire for. That happens all the time.

lindsay July 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

What about rejections without interviews? Is it appropriate to email about feedback if you’ve never met with the person for an interview?

Thanks!

Ask a Manager July 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

You’re way less likely to get a useful response, and it’s more of an imposition on the employer’s time. If they’ve interviewed you, they’re more likely to have an opinion that may be useful. If they’ve never spoken with you, the answer is likely not to be as useful and they’re less likely to want to spend the time explaining their thought process.

Jerry June 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I’m severely depressed right now due to my last application. I’m almost confident they will give me an interview as , for some other reason, I’ve worked there for 3 months previously and got to know basically everyone. I’ve maintained good relationships with almost everyone and now I’m applying for a job there. To impress them, I’ve put a lot of relevant experience I’ve gained while working there and I say it’s pretty clear I wanna be in the company and have tried the best I can. Then comes the rejection email after sending my application that they didnt even want to interview me. I’m so afraid I might have pissed off someone while I was there therefore they/he personally rejected me. Even with rejection, I do want to seek further employment there and afraid now I’ll be blacklisted forever. Should I go and ask about it?

Anonymous June 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I am so sorry. Please, from someone who made a mistake, do not do anything.

Ask a Manager June 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Absolutely you can ask about it. Do it via email and not by phone, and make it clear that you’re not challenging the decision but would appreciate any advice on how to be a stronger candidate in the future. If the person doing the hiring was someone you know personally, go straight to them. Here’s a post that might help:

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2008/10/20/how-to-get-feedback-when-youre-rejected

Jerry June 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thanks so much for the last comment. I do know the hiring person and he is very unpredictable, although I consider still very nice and professional in general. The referees I’ve nominated are both from the same company and they have been every supportive and happy with my performance. I actually still have some work undone in this company and that means I have to check in periodically to work still. I’m really afraid to email the hiring person cuz by any chance I have offended him without knowing it and this will only make my life even more miserable from now on and might even jeopardize my current work. I feel incredibly “stuck” (if it’s the right word) right now and cant stop thinking back on every past encounter I had with the one and what could I have possibly done. Is it still a good idea to go check?

Ask a Manager June 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Absolutely! Ask and give yourself peace of mind. It’s unlikely that you did anything wrong — remember that the vast majority of job applicants end up getting rejected — it’s very normal!

Stefano September 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I recently interviewed with a company I worked with over 15 years ago; I believe I am overqualified for the position, but made sure to focus on how I can meet all goals/objectives. I was a VP of Ops at my last job with a much smaller company; I was applying for a Manager of Ops position. After the passing of the recruiter phone interview, then the 1st phone interview with Ops Director. She indicated she would like me to interview with her direct staff. I was part of a panel interview entirely of Ops Supervisors (5 total). Interview went over one hour, gave very detailed explanations, examples to their questions. A week later I got the dreaded, “Thanks but we’re going a different” way email. I did send the Director the following email.

Hello XXX,

I want to thank you again for hosting me in interviewing with your team. I understand the position was offered to another candidate. I am writing now to inquire if you have any feedback that I might take from the visit to improve my candidacy as I move ahead in my job search. I would be most appreciative of your honest constructive critique if you see elements of my candidacy that could be improved.

Thank you for your time.

Don’t know if I’ll get a response, but I tried.

Mr. Right January 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Situation: I was interviewed for a position April 2012; at which time the persons conducting the interview talked sports and questions seemed to be sporadic. I was not selected for the position, which was fine because I was already employed.

However, I received a phone call late December 2012,requesting my interest in the EXACT same position with the EXACT same requisition number with the EXACT same company that I was not selected for previously.

BELOW ARE THE QUESTIONS I ASKED!

Questions:
• Would I need to complete another application and again go through the interview process yet again?
• What is the current compensation or salary range associated with this position?
• What if anything has changed as far as meeting the criteria for being selected?
• What are the prospects for advancement?
• Could you provide some history of this position?

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