A reader writes:
I just wanted to write in and thank you for the way that your blog has helped me in my (ongoing) job search. I have been looking for work after a summer spent travelling, and I had an application in that I was really excited about. The employer I’d be working for has a great reputation, I have lots of experience, etc. A week after I applied they emailed me and asked whether I was still interested, and what my desired salary would be. I wrote back and didn’t hear from them for about a week and a half.
Yesterday I received an email letting me know the position had just been filled.
A bit disappointing! But thanks to you I knew that it’s okay to ask for feedback as long as you’re not a jerk about it, so I wrote back:
Thank you for letting me know; I appreciate it. I hope that things will work out well for Mr. X and his new staffer.
I know that I am not in a position to ask for favours, but if you have a moment to spare I would love some feedback. Is there anything in the way I present myself in my resume or cover letter whereby I shoot myself in the foot? Was my expected salary in a reasonable range, or should I adjust it?
Please do not feel obliged to answer these questions — but if there is something you noticed, it will help me in my continuing job search and I would be most grateful.
You can well imagine my delight when she replied with this:
You made it down to our top six out of more than 40 applicants. It was very impressive and you were about to be called for an interview. Within a day, however, three different contacts called us to endorse one particular applicant who had volunteered extensively for each of them. All three stated they would hire her themselves if a position had been available. Based on their assertions, and the fact that the applicant was only an hour away and was able to come to the office for an interview, Mr. X decided to move forward with her on a probationary term.
Again, your application was great, and you certainly did not shoot yourself in the foot. The circumstances just aligned themselves perfectly for another applicant.
I do wish you every success, and will absolutely be in touch with you should any other opportunities come up with our team.
Hands down, that is the most encouraging rejection I’ve ever had — and I’m glad to know that I didn’t get passed over because I stink, but because someone else was perfect!
Thank you for giving me the savvy to write an excellent resume and cover letter, and the courage to ask for more information. It’s definitely paid off, and I’ll be jumping back into my job search with renewed vigor.
Hooray! This is great to see.
This is a good reminder about asking for feedback after a job rejection. Four things to remember when you do:
1. Not every employer will give you feedback (some of the reasons for that are here), but you should not be discouraged by that or let it prevent you from trying in the future.
2. When you ask, it’s crucial that you not sound even slightly defensive or argumentative, or there’s zero chance you’ll get a candid answer. Note that in the letter above, it’s very clear that the writer isn’t objecting to the decision or feeling irked; she’s asking for advice and assistance, and doing it in a way that’s so engaging that any normal person would want to help her.
3. Related to that, I’ve received requests for feedback that sound like a form letter, or like the person is only asking because they’ve been told they should ask. The request above doesn’t sound that way. It sounds genuine, shows personality, and underscores that there’s a real person behind it. That helps.
4. Say thank you if you get a response. Giving feedback is not obligatory. If someone takes the time to help you, that person is doing you a favor. They’ll notice if you don’t thank them.