do I really need to send a thank-you note after being rejected for a job?

A reader writes:

What is your feeling about sending thank-you notes after you have been rejected for a job? I don’t see the point. It feels a little obsequious for my tastes.

If while being rejected, the person makes you aware of a new role or opens a new path for you … “a colleague at a different company has an opening there” … then absolutely, thank them for that! But why would I thank someone for not giving me a job?

More than a few of my friends disagree. They would say you are thanking the person for being considered and that it is a way to make a good impression for roles you might apply for down the road.

I suspect these post-rejection notes either aren’t read at all, or they are read and immediately forgotten. If one makes an impression that lasts beyond the rejection, it was made during the interview and a post rejection note isn’t making a difference one way or the other.

There’s no particular expectation that you’ll thank the interviewer for their time after being rejected. Some people do, some people don’t. You’re right that if it’s a perfunctory note of the “I appreciate your consideration and thank you for your time” variety, it’s not likely to make much of an impression. If that’s the note you’d send and you’d rather not bother, go ahead and skip it. It’s a polite closing of the loop, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t do it.

However, there’s a different way to use this kind of note that has more value. If you write a substantive email about your interview conversation and/or the work they’re doing, that can make an impression that can help you down the road. That’s not about thanking them for their time; it’s about making a networking connection. That kind of note can make someone think, “You know, let me mention the opening I just heard about at PartnerOrg that they might be good for” or “I should keep this person in my head for other roles in the future.” Or not, of course — there’s no guarantee with this stuff, but that’s true of any networking effort. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. But little networking efforts like this are often smart to do, and it’s not about being obsequious or thanking someone for rejecting you. It’s just about strengthening a connection.

If your friends are arguing passionately for the “thank you for your time” perfunctory notes after a rejection … well, they’re very polite but they’re overemphasizing the value of said emails. But if they’re arguing for something more substantive, they’re right about the impression they can make.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. ZH*

    Been off the market for a couple of years but another argument in favor of the perfunctory notes—I find that writing them makes *me* feel better. Thanking them for taking the time to engage with my materials reminds me that wait, they actually *did* engage with my materials! It’s a great way to get out of the Doom Loop after a rejection.

    1. Don*

      I agree. I had an experience last year that I was annoyed by, but sending a brief “thanks for your time” sort of message was a good “okay, now we’re done with this” sort of mental closing exercise. What’s the harm, anyway? I have the 4 seconds to spare.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        I think this is a good point, but also distinction that makes a difference in my opinion. A quick “Thanks for your time” rejection email makes sense just a polite closing of the loop.

        But my mind still goes to hand written cards when I hear “thank you note” so often. That would be weird to me unless it truly was a really thoughtful thank you.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I wondered about this because odds are that if you are sending an email, you don’t yet know whether you’re been rejected. Is LW thinking people are sending a paper note on an actual piece of dead tree? I think most people are sending whatever they send long before they know the outcome of the interview.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yeah, I think the letter and answer seem to be conflating a note after an interview with a note after being rejected. The advice works in either case, but I’d reckon that rejection emails get fewer replies back than get sent after an interview.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m talking in the response solely about emails after you are rejected, and as far as I can tell that is what the OP is asking about. (As it happens, most of my advice would be the same for notes after interviews, but we’re covered that plenty.)

  2. Loch Lomond*

    I feel like this site and the internet in general has taught me that there is a subset of people who seem to think that both thanking people for things and apologizing take something away from you when you do them- that being politer than the minimum necessary is like a waste of your… power? Capital? I don’t know.

    I’ve seen people claim things like they shouldn’t have to say thank you to a waiter for giving them their food (since it’s the waiter’s job; see also thank-you emails to coworkers), or say “Sorry!” when they and another person bump into each other, unless it was probably 100% their own fault. It just seems like such a petty and unhappy way to go about your life, it’s very Logan Roy in vibes.

    This letter isn’t a perfect example of that, because obviously the rejection thank you notes are in fact optional/unnecessary/not an expectation. But it’s more the mindset behind it being obsequious in some way. You’re not ceding power by saying thank you, so why not err on the side of doing it?

    1. Don*

      I once had a date tell me “you don’t really need to say thank you every time they refill your water glass.” We did not have another date.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Did you thank your date for not wasting your time?
        What a strange hill to climb, much less die on.

    2. Smithy*

      I’m in nonprofit fundraising – and have genuinely never heard of sending a thank you note after receiving a rejection. Which….given the generic amounts of obsequieousness in our profession overall, I’m shocked this is a thing I’m just learning about.

      That being said….our profession is also one where having 4+ interviews isn’t uncommon, and by the time you get a rejection, you’ve already sent multiple “thank you for interviewing me the second, third, fourth, fifth….” emails. But I do think that some of this goes to the point of when something is genuine as opposed to perfunctory. And the reality is that being genuine as part of the interview process can be exhausting, and being genuine around rejection even more so. So I also think there’s a case to be made here about saving these acts for interviewers where it feels worth it.

      Going to every networking event to the point where you hate them, won’t help you build a professional network. However, going to a few when you’re in a good mood and around people you like – that works a lot differently.

      1. Morgan Proctor*

        As a former server, you really, really, really do not have to say thank you. You can if you want! But seriously, it is our jobs and we’re so busy we generally don’t notice or care when people say thank you. In my case, I preferred when people didn’t, because then I didn’t have to say “you’re welcome.” I know that sounds minor and petty, but seriously, we’re busy! We’re there to serve you, and you’re paying us to do it. We’re not doing you a favor.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I agree, you’re supposed to send the thank you for the interview *before* the decision IME. It’s understandable that you’d send a quick response to the rejection email that comes six months later if only to indicate you received the email, but I wouldn’t think anything of it as the person on the other end of those emails either way.

      3. Loulou*

        So when you send a rejection email, you never get a reaponse? That sounds so strange to me, to the point where I’m questioning whether we are all talking about the same thing?

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Right? I’ve turned down jobs and sent a very thoughtful note declining and wishing them well. Then I hear nothing back from them at all. I’d appreciate a “Thanks for letting us know.”

          If I am rejected after any round of interview (so, once some initial meeting with a fellow human has occurred), I will send a polite “Thank you for letting me know.” Again, more to close the loop than anything.

    3. Loulou*

      Yeah, OP’s perspective on this (specifically “why would I thank them for rejecting me) is really odd to me. You’re not thanking them for rejecting you, you’re thanking them for *informing you* of said rejection. Obviously the situations aren’t at all similar, but if you called a store to find out if they have a specific item, you say “thanks for checking” whether the answer is yes or no, right?

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. And it’s really easy-
        “Thanks for letting me know! I really enjoyed speaking with your team and learning more about your organization. I’d love to reconnect if another role opens in the future!”

        Will it guarantee a future job? No. But it certainly doesn’t hurt, it solidifies a good impression of you, and honestly, the recruiter might even find it refreshing after some the ridiculous candidates they have to deal with.

    4. KatEnigma*

      This! Why does LW care if his friends thank people? If saying thank you, especially if it’s perfunctory, makes him “feel obsequious” then perhaps he should explore that in therapy.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree! There is definitely not a need to send this thank you email and the friends arguing it is a *must* are being a little excessive. But there is also not a need to be so strongly *opposed* to it either. I’d say “thank you for your time” is on par with “have a nice day” or something like that–it would be totally fine if the conversation ended before that, but it is also a very normal and polite thing to say and it comes across oddly to dig your heels in against it.

    6. Retired To The Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      I know someone who won’t apologise when she makes a little mistake that affects someone, or bumps into someone, or other small things like this. She sort of regards apologising as “humiliating myself by saying I’ve done something awful even though I haven’t” – even when she objectively hasn’t done something awful, she’s just made a small, normal mistake, and no one thinks she’s done anything awful (but they sure would appreciate a little apology for the bump or whatever). Knowing her background, I suspect it’s because she has been over-criticised in her life and is now super sensitised to the idea of conceding she may have ‘messed up’. She can come off as ungracious, which is a bit of a tragedy because she’s nice.

    7. Properlike*

      Agreed. It’s a very transactional view of relationships. Or maybe seeing work as separate from the human relationships. I suspect these are the same people who think “shmoozing/networking” require you to be fake, and so are usually bad at it, thereby confirming that it’s a waste of time.

      Even though I wrote in once asking about how to make my emails sound less perfunctory without having to use emojis, I’m actually pretty good at the networking/thanking part of things.

    8. Cass*

      It can absolutely take spoons away, both emotional and social, to thank and/or apologize for so many things. Especially if the person is neurodivergent, or has anxiety or depression, which combined represents a large portion of the population.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Sure. So LW shouldn’t do it if he doesn’t want to.

        But why the disdain and insulting (“obsequious”) language for those who choose differently?

        That’s not someone who is out of spoons.

  3. Moonlight*

    For me, it would depend on where I was in the hiring stage. If I’d been interviewed and someone who interviews me is specifically emailing me to thank me for my time but they’re not hiring me, I might email back to just say “thanks for letting me know” but it also really depends. I’ve gone to interviews and gotten a form rejection email and I’m like nah if you can’t even write a personalized email I don’t feel the need to respond. And if I don’t so much much as get an interview then I am definitely not answering to thank them for my rejection. That’s just my 2 cents.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree if you don’t get an interview, don’t bother with an email. Especially since it’s probably coming from an automated system.

      But if it’s after an interview, I’d jot a quick response. Sure, it’s a form letter, but sometimes these HR folks are so busy that they are just doing what saves them time (even Alison has said she uses a form letter). It usually takes me just a couple minutes and leaves a nice impression, so I figure why not.

  4. CH*

    I see it as an opportunity to demonstrate grace and professionalism. You just never know what role may open up tomorrow, or if the candidate they chose will last 1 day and leave.

    1. Artemesia*

      If the process got to the interview stage where you are one of the last people considered and you spent considerable time with them, then I do think it is wise to sign off in a way that keeps the networking possibility open. My daughter was hired and rose to COO of an organization where on her initial interviews she was passed over. Because she kept the relationship going, they reached out to her for the next opening.

      If no interview was done, then don’t bother or do if it makes you feel better.

      1. Squeakrad*

        You also never know that their first choice is going to work out. It hasn’t happened to me, but it’s happened to many friends and acquaintances that they were the second choice for the job, but were gladly welcomed when the first person didn’t work after a short time out for a number of reasons. Especially if I was still interested in the organization, I would definitely thank them and remind them that I’m still interested in other roles, they might have open.

    2. Antilles*

      Bingo. If we had an actual interview, might as well.
      What does it cost me to write a very brief email saying “Thanks for the consideration, I enjoyed meeting you and learning about TeapotCo, have a great day”? Three minutes, maybe five at absolute most. If there’s even a small chance that we could cross paths in the future in the industry, why not spend that extra 3-5 minutes to leave them with a good professional impression?

      1. Anna*

        Although that sounds like the perfunctory kind that AAM is saying won’t matter either way. Still worth doing imo but not the same thing.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I’m kind of assuming that they already wrote that thank you note when they had the interview, though? So writing another one seems redundant. Also, rejection letters may very well not come from the people who did the interviewing. Would someone really think that someone was unprofessional for not reaching out to thank them a second time after receiving a rejection letter?

    3. Ginger Baker*

      ^This. I didn’t have this situation happen but I did get the job that turned out to be for my VERY favorite boss ever and a really great career move because the person they originally hired backed out at the very last minute and they now urgently needed to fill the role they thought they had filled. Maybe none of their other top candidates kept the connection open (or maybe they had found other positions) but that person’s decision to pull out last minute was a GREAT win for me – those sorts of things definitely happen, where the role suddenly opens back up again!

      OH actually I think I did have one job reach out to me when their original hire did not work out a year later iirc – but I had been the top choice of the person reaching out (who in fact very nicely took me out for coffee after the rejection and we had a good networking discussion – she had been overruled by the team based on “fit” and candidly told me she thought it was the wrong choice which, turns out she was right) so she would have been thrilled to have me join. At that point I had since gotten Best Boss Ever so I nicely declined, but I still occasionally keep in touch with her because you never know!

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My career started because I handled my rejection well. I was one of the top candidates, I just lost out to someone marginally better. I thanked the hiring manager, I was polite, he offered to pass along my resume– and he did that, and I got my first job in the industry I’ve been in for 20 years.

      When I’ve been on the other side of things, I remember everyone, and I would absolutely go to bat for someone we didn’t hire, as long as they’re professional and polite.

  5. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I’ll usually thank them for their time, for getting back to me with their decision (since so many employers just ghost), and ask if they have any feedback on how I potentially could have been a stronger candidate if they don’t give any reason.

    I only do this for personal emails from the people I interviewed with, never for those auto-generated ones. Like some others said above, it gives me the feeling of closing the loop, and only takes a few moments of my time.

  6. Anonymosity*

    I’ve only done this when I receive a personal rejection from an interviewer. Most rejections are auto-generated without a reply option, and sending a response is impossible. If someone takes the time to write me from their own email, I will thank them for their time and effort and let them know I’d appreciate being considered for any future openings. It’s just a little thing, but you never know when it will prop a door open.

    1. another Hero*

      If I receive a rejection I tend to respond kind of like “thanks for closing the loop!” to reinforce that as a candidate I appreciate being informed that a decision has been made lol. Not generally for a form rejection if I haven’t interviewed, but I’ve definitely done this and basically considered it positive reinforcement haha

  7. Aggretsuko*

    I feel crappy enough after the rejection that frankly, I don’t want to engage with them again for a token thank you. I already had to write one for the interview as is.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      How would you feel about (genuinely) asking for feedback on how you could have been a stronger candidate and if there’s anything they would be willing to share with regards to your presentation during your interview?

      If I got an email like that as a hiring employer, I would feel positively toward the candidate and I imagine I’d feel more inclined to network with them if a position opened up in the future.

      But if you’re already pretty raw, would that make you feel worse?

      1. Just Another Fed*

        My experience is that most interviewers take that as a dangerous question for liability reasons, at best will not respond and at worst will blacklist you for asking.

        1. Still Queer, Still Here*

          Asking for feedback after a rejection is so, so normal. Generally the reason interviewers don’t respond is because they’re busy or it came down to something that the candidate can’t change or would find satisfactory. If an organization were blacklisting candidates (!) for asking that, I would be really suspicious and wary of working for them!

          1. Lunar Caustic*

            This absolutely should not be normal. It is not an interviewer’s job to provide you with free career coaching.

          2. Confrontation Wednesdays*

            I’ve never had anyone ask me for it in ten years of interviewing. If one did, I wouldn’t answer them, because I don’t want to say something that will get me in hot water with HR if an unscrupulous candidate decides to take my email to an attorney.

            And you’re right: I’m busy. I’m going to be annoyed that the rejected candidate doesn’t seem to realize that and expects me to have the time to do a critique of their interviewing skills or lack of experience, for which they could hire a professional (except they want me to do it for free, of course). I’m not going to blacklist anyone, but I’m not going to think well of them either.

      2. korangeen*

        How often does that actually work though, asking for feedback? Personally I’ve never had it work. They just ignore me.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I’ve had a couple of really helpful responses to just that very thing. However it was very industry dependant; I was asking teachers for feedback on the teaching philosophies I mentioned in interviews (always a possible cultural mismatch) and their take on my example lesson which forms part of the interview process. It’s very rare for experienced teachers to be able to avoid the temptation of giving feedback; early career teachers are told to be hungry for constructive criticism too (and this never really goes away) because there’s so much performance and prep that goes into the lesson persona.

      4. No feedback*

        I agree with Just Another Fed.

        Providing external candidates with feedback on their interview performance is a no win game.

        In addition to potential liability issues, it’s likely to lead to arguments (…prove to me that other candidates fit the position better…)

        None of this applies to internal candidates, of course.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I don’t think you’re legally allowed to discriminate against internal candidates either and I think the points about liability issues absolutely still apply.

  8. Abogado Avocado*

    I agree with Alison. If you have had a good interview and you leave it believing you would like to work for that employer in the future, even though you’ve been rejected, then writing a substantive thank-you note to the interviewer can make it much more likely that you’ll be considered for other openings. I know I’ve gone back to the rejected pile when new positions opened or a hire didn’t work out, and have contacted formerly rejected candidates who were qualified, and advised
    of their interest in future openings.

    1. Genuinelycurious*

      But I’m guessing you’d prioritise the rejected pile based on qualifications, interview performance and fit, or even not have a pile but just go right to the second choice and offer them.

      So how much weight would a “thank you for informing me” email from a candidate push them above someone more qualified/had interviewed better but didn’t respond to your last email?

      1. Splendid Colors*

        What if they had multiple candidates who were good enough to hire if #1 Choice hadn’t been available? Maybe the person who thanked them for letting them know the decision would get a slight edge, or even just their email would be more recent in the inbox.

        1. Genuinelycurious*

          Sure I could see that in a dead heat between candidates. I’m saying that a dead heat is generally unlikely and otherwise a thank you note wouldn’t edge someone from second runner up to overtake the original runner up. At least not in any recruitment I’ve undertaken. I’d give HR a puzzled look if they suggested that to me.

  9. Fishgirl56*

    A thank you note after an interview is a must but after being rejected? Unless there is a REAL REASON I can’t imagine again saying thanks again for your time and….. rejecting me. After being ghosted by so many people who I did send a thank you note and getting rejection letters from an automated system, not even HR, then hard no. If a human can’t even say you did not get the job then I do not need to send a thank you. And at that point who would I even send it to? And this has happened with 1st and 4th round interviews.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      No, you wouldn’t do it for an automated response but only if there was a potential to exchange words with the interviewer.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      A thank you note after an interview isn’t a must.
      A good idea yes, but not a must.

  10. Allornone*

    I think writing a thank you note after a rejection actually helped me get a job a month later! The person they did hire was tasked with hiring her replacement at her current organization. She asked her soon-to-be boss if there had been any other top candidates that they had been considering, and my name came up. Actual Hire contacted me, and two interviews later, I was replacing her. I know my qualifications and ability to interview (thanks, Alison!) had a lot to do with it, but I imagine the polite response to the rejection helped me stand out in the original hiring manager’s mind.

  11. DrSalty*

    It takes about 10 seconds to type “Thank you for your time and letting me know.” Costs nothing to be polite. And frankly, I would thankful to be actually concretely rejected and not just ghosted …

    1. Robin*

      I was thinking along those lines re: getting ghosted. “Thanks for actually telling me” is definitely a feeling I have had but the bitterness in there is probably not helpful to make known.

    2. another Hero*

      this is why I reply! I consider it positive reinforcement lol. “thanks for closing the loop!” feels natural to me because I really am glad they did

    3. PsychNurse*

      I totally agree. If I receive a rejection email, it is instinctual for me to respond: “Thanks for letting me know!” It takes less than five seconds to write it, and I can’t imagine just ignoring an important email. Even if it appears to be a form letter, if it was signed with a person’s name, I respond with a thank-you. (Or I guess if I didn’t want to thank them, I might write, “I understand; all the best.”)

    4. to varying degrees*

      This is a good take on it. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to say thank you after a rejection (spontaneous call, card, email) but replying back to an email, one that’s not coming from a non-reply account, seems like a very normal and easy thing to do.

    5. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I sometimes do that if it was an actual person who sent the rejection. They’re taking the time so I thank them for letting me know.

      But mostly today it’s generic rejections sent by the HR system.

  12. Brian*

    I have my current job because of my post-rejection thanking and follow-up. I interviewed for a fundraising role with several members of a non-profit’s hiring committee, and after getting to the final stage I lost out to another candidate. I was devastated but I thought “what would Alison do??”. I thanked each of them with handwritten notes and referenced the projects the organization is working on, and how excited I was to see them come to fruition. I also reached out to one of the committee members and we met occasionally for coffee in the coming months, discussing trends in our sector. About a year after my initial rejection, the candidate who beat me out gave notice, and they called me the next day and offered me the gig. And it’s a great one!

  13. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    “Thanks for getting back to me. It was great to meet with you. I really enjoyed seeing how your llama grooming department works. Your clipper management process is really on point! Please keep me in mind if any other positions come up.”

    In other words — 1. Please keep responding to candidates. We really appreciate it. 2. You people are nice and I wish I got the job 3. No hard feelings, so call me when your first choice falls through or something else comes up.

    1. Robin*

      Oooh, I like this template! Not currently interviewing, but I will be noting this down for the inevitable moment when I am.

  14. Angeldrac*

    I am a health care worker and during my most recent job hunting stint the vast majority of recruitment processes were conducted in a a very automated/systematic/HR-speaking for-everyone kind of fashion, whereby the system I was being emailed by and the people I was interviewing with were not the same people, didn’t actually know one another and, in some circumstances, weren’t actually people.
    Not much point in sending in any “thank you for the rejection” notes there as any contacts I had weren’t actual people or weren’t people I ever actually spoke to anyway.

  15. MnM*

    I always reply thanking them for their time, saying I enjoyed talking with them, and ending with something like “if you’re ever looking for someone with X skill I’d love to chat again” or whatever is appropriate.
    What would a more substantive reply to a rejection be? Any ideas or things you’ve used ?

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Mine was a very specific situation, because the hiring manager and I clicked very well, and they ended up not filling the role at all. She expressed how bummed she was, and I said I’d love to get together and just geek out over our industry sometime. Not asking her out on a date, but thinking like it could be a mentor-type thing. She agreed, but saw it as more of a new-friend thing.

      Friendship won! And has lasted across several jobs for the both of us. She also introduced me to a bunch of people in our field, in part because arts people are terrible at work/life separation so social things are also accidentally networking.

  16. Whale I Never*

    This isn’t exactly the same, but almost two years ago I gave a pretty bad interview—I misread the job description and thought duties were split like 80-20 in favor of a task I had a lot of experience in, prepared myself thoroughly for that, and learned mid-interview that it was actually 50-50, and stuttered through half the questions. I spent an hour feeling sorry for myself, then pulled myself together and sent an email clarifying some of my horrible answers. When I got the rejection email, my response was definitely more perfunctory than detailed (although I did try for a warm tone and might have wished them well in a specific area?)

    Regardless, one email the other, or a combination of both, helped to form a favorable enough impression that when a position opened up in the same department a couple of months later, the hiring committee remembered me and reached out. It was the first time I’d seen any tangible result from this kind of networking, and it made me really glad I had resisted my initial urge to go “omg that interview was so horrible, I need to delete all the emails and contact info and hope they forget about me entirely.”

  17. Baron*

    Generally, if a human sends me a non-form-letter rejection e-mail, I’ll shoot back a polite, “Thanks for letting me know, it was a pleasure getting to know you, etc,” unless it really, really wasn’t. I write something more substantive in cases where the process was very involved. Maybe I’m just getting rejected too early in processes, though—I find 99% of rejection e-mails I get are form letters from an automated account. I’m not thanking anyone for those.

  18. Bookworm*

    Depending on the rejection and/or the process, I often still send a thank you note. (If it’s a form email, no point?) But if they take the time to let me know, I often do appreciate it and say thank you, even if only to let them know I do appreciate the update, good luck in the future (please, PLEASE organizations, do send some sort of note–it’s really unfair for candidates to never hear back if you make them put in the time/effort and even money if they had to commute, dry clean, etc.).

    I agree that it’s fairly likely you’re already in the trash bin once you hit send but for me I feel it’s still worth a small courtesy (and really, I do appreciate that they do the basic thing in informing me I’ve been rejected and that shouldn’t be so common).

    Some places/experiences certainly don’t deserve any more headspace, though, and that’s okay too.

  19. Still Queer, Still Here*

    I was recently rejected for 2 roles at different points in the interview process.

    Role #1: I had done an initial 30 minute zoom screening. It was very similar to the job I currently hold (and I’m mostly happy in) but with an appropriate title and salary. It paid about 40% more than I make now, with fewer responsibilities. So I was definitely into it. I was rejected after that initial zoom screening. I sent my usual pretty perfunctory thank you and a request for feedback, especially since I was pretty surprised to be rejected given my current role. They actually did respond and let me know that they felt like I was over-qualified and would probably be bored in the role. I doubt they realized how underpaid I am and what a motivator that would be for me to do good work, but it is what it is. Moving on.

    Role #2: I did 2 initial interviews, and then was 1 of 2 candidates invited to an all-day on-site interview. In my field it’s generally unusual to be flown out at my level, so it was definitely a sign of great interest. The interview day went very well, and I felt really confident that an offer would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, they ended up going with the other candidate. It was pretty devastating, as this was a job that doesn’t even exist at many organizations and just really speaks to my unusual strengths and experience; it’ll probably be a couple of years before another opportunity like this is posted anywhere. However: in the rejection email, my contact made it really clear that this was a painful decision and they really hated to have to make it, and that they wanted to stay in touch because they thought I was an “enormously impressive and qualified candidate” and hoped very much to have the opportunity to work with me in the future. In this situation, since the hiring manager was so specific in their rejection, I definitely sent something more than a perfunctory thank you, and really made an effort to forge a connection with this manager, especially since we really clicked.

    This all happened recently, so I don’t yet have a new job and can’t give a satisfying end to this about how I leveraged that connection into a job, but… I’m hopeful!

    All this to say I agree with Alison. Sometimes a good thank you makes a difference. But most of the time I don’t think it matters much.

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Assuming the interview cycle didn’t end in a hostile situation = which it can – if you were lured into an interview under false pretenses, or the interviewer exhibited some type of insulting behavior –

    Yes, a thank you is in order. Yes, it’s a remote chance that you’ll be hired if Mr. Firstchoice doesn’t work out BUT usually pride prevents an employer from doing that. But some companies are pragmatic, so that may come back in your favor.

    Or, as others have said, another position might open in the future. So unless you were conned or jerked around in the interivew process, it’s not a bad idea to say “thanks for your time, I appreciate it.”

  21. SchuylerSeestra*

    As a recruiter I encourage sending a thank you, but it’s not required.

    I will say I have kept relationships going with strong candidates, there are so many factors that go into hiring. Some folks could be excellent but not fully at the level we need, or a better fit for another role, or someone else was better.

    I’ve definitely placed past candidates, so it doesn’t hurt to keep the line of communication open.

  22. Viki*

    I would not have gotten my first “Career” path without a thank you note to my then hiring manager for her time after a rejection. I was the runner up, and while there was a lot of crying when I didn’t get the position, I sent a thank you note for her time, and her notes on being a better candidate.

    Three weeks later, she reached out to ask me if I was still interested as she now had the budget to hire me. And all those years later, getting to be senior management, all of that happened because I sent a thank you note, after being rejected.

    I advise to always send thank you notes for the time and effort, as well as any feedback.

    1. Former Retail Lifer*

      I’ve never, ever been able to get any feedback. I’ve tried a few times and never gotten a response. Maybe if I did, I’d be more likely to send a “thanks for your time” email after being rejected. Hiring managers always seem to be too busy to resp0nd to candidates who aren’t moving forward.

  23. Beebs*

    I’m in a position where I have to tell folks who have done two rounds of interviews that they didn’t get the job. I send a short email that’s (honestly) mostly formulaic but I always try to include something specific to the candidate. I don’t expect to get a reply, but when I do, a) I appreciate the confirmation that they received the email and b) often we had several great candidates but only one opening–I really would have loved to have hired the person we had to turn down. So getting a short, as gracious as possible under the circumstances reply always makes a positive impression for the future. And I have been able to offer a different position to rejected candidates in the future on many occasions!

    I did get a one-word response, once: “Bummer.” Wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

    1. Ginger Pet Lady*

      I wonder if they meant to forward it to spouse or friend and accidentally replied to you instead.
      My most recent job rejection that hit hard, my husband was out of town and time zones were so far off we were only communicating by email for three weeks. So I forwarded him the email and just said “well this sucks, wish you were here to give me a hug and cheer me up.” or something.
      I could totally see a simple “bummer” being something sent to a friend/family member. Or at least meant to be sent there!

  24. Excel-sior*

    I wonder if this is one of those cultural differences where we do things differently in the UK to the US, or if I’ve just been completely oblivious to social convention all my adult life (which, honestly, is by no means a stretch to imagine), but I’ve never sent a thank you note for a single interview I’ve ever had.

      1. Excel-sior*

        That is a massive relief (and thank you Alison for answering so quickly so I won’t be worrying about it all night!)

  25. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    I have only done this a handful of times, and usually only if I made to to final rounds and/or thought the particular job I interviewed for wasn’t the right fit, but liked the company and wanted to be considered for better fitting roles in the future.

    I don’t think it’s ever worked out that they remembered or called me though. So I think mainly it’s a waste of time.

  26. irene adler*

    Is it okay to send the thank you via the recruiter if the candidate was not given contact info for the hiring manager?

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I certainly have done this on more than one occasion–asked if they minded and they were happy to do so.*

      *we could go down a cynical path and assume that they didn’t pass it along, but I prefer to take them at their word.

  27. Former Retail Lifer*

    I always send thank you emails after an interview, but I feel like the people sending rejection thank you notes are not getting rejected all that much. I’ve been looking since last April and have landed interviews with about ten employers but competition is fierce in my field and I just can’t seem to be the best candidate. I’ve sent two thank yous after being rejected, and it was because the hiring manager or hiring team was exceptionally kind and gracious during the interview process and also on the rejection. They took the time to send a personal email that wasn’t a cut-and-paste of what everyone else got, too, and I felt like that was a relationship to keep open. I’m getting rejected too much to send a kind email after every generic rejection I receive.

  28. SheLooksFamiliar*

    How about we stop calling it a ‘thank you’ note? Instead, call it a ‘follow up’ or ‘let’s keep in touch’ or ‘wrap up’ or ‘for future reference’ or ‘leave a good impression’ or ‘why not be gracious about it’ note.

    I regularly get letters that say, in essence, ‘Thank you for discussing your opportunity with me, I enjoyed meeting you and your hiring/leadership team, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the role, hope we can reconnect if another role comes available that suits my interests, let’s stay in touch, all the best with your new hire.’

    Roll your eyes if you must, but I will tell you plainly that I’ve gone back to runners-up when a similar role came available and we hired a good percentage of them. I also shared leads outside my company when someone I worked with asked, ‘Hey, you know anyone I should talk to?’ and I could say, ‘Yes, this is a solid talent and I think they warrant a closer look…’

    A little savvy never hurts and you lose nothing by sending a polite note. It won’t change a bad impression, but it cements a good one.

  29. Michelle Smith*

    I will never understand why people are so pushy about trying to “help” someone they think has a health issue. I call it concern trolling. Please don’t give your coworkers unsolicited medical advice. We have our own doctors, therapists, and other people with expertise helping us or we’ve decided for whatever reason we’re not interested in that. Either way, it’s not your business. Channel that compassion towards donating to relevant charities or volunteering at a related nonprofit and LEAVE YOUR COWORKERS ALONE.

  30. Michelle Smith*

    Sometimes I write a nice note. Sometimes I don’t. If I get an automated rejection? Unlikely, but it has happened. If I get a personal rejection? Nearly always, but not 100% of the time.

    I interviewed with a place once that really treated me exceptionally poorly. I, to this day, despite having a colleague that works there and having referred someone else there who got hired, do not understand why a particular organization ghosted me. I was promised a final interview. Then they dropped off for two months. They came back and said hey we didn’t forget about you, we’ll be scheduling it in the next 2 weeks. A week later I got an automated email rejecting me. Of course, I reached out. The main reason (even though it was not hinted at or implied in my message) was to give them an opportunity to respond to me with an “oops, we hit the wrong button in our system, that wasn’t supposed to go to you.” I never heard from them again and no future applications to that office in other departments over the next couple of years received responses either. I don’t get it, but whatever. I still think it was a good reason to send a thanks for the rejection, please keep me in mind for the future kind of message in response to an auto-reject.

    Now for an example of the reverse experience. I applied for a job with a major nonprofit in my city that I’d worked with regularly in my then-role. I had a person from that agency fail to show up to the initial interview, fail to respond to the phone after offering for me to call her 30 minutes later, reschedule the interview, and then fail to show up on the day it was rescheduled. Needless to say, I was done with the process at that point and definitely no longer interested. She reached out to me two days after the second no-show, did not even acknowledge that she failed to join the Zoom interview, and told me that she wasn’t hiring for the position anymore right now but would be reposting an amended job description soon. I did not respond to her because there was literally nothing I could formulate to write in response that wouldn’t have been a poor reflection on my own professionalism. So I ignored the email.

    In my opinion, there is no hard and fast rule on whether to respond to a rejection. I think if you want to do it and you can do it in a professional way, it won’t hurt you and might even help you. (I have had people who rejected me for jobs recommend me for other jobs because they liked me in the interview and I was a decent human being to them after the rejection.) However, if you’re going to respond to “tell them about themselves,” so-to-speak it’s probably best to just act like you missed the message.

  31. Jasmine Tea*

    I have a young friend whose first job was teaching English online. At the end of her one year contract she was not renewed. At her Father’s suggestion she wrote a note thanking them for the opportunity. She mentioned how much she learned and the desire to work with them again in the future. Two weeks later she got a phone call saying they had reconsidered and wanted to renew her contract. Good manners never hurt!

  32. Aberdonensis*

    I’m a UK reader so I understand there are cultural differences around interview thank you notes as mentioned elsewhere in the comments, but having to thank people for rejecting you seems like it’s enforcing incredibly subservient, dissonant behaviour from a mental wellbeing perspective. “Thank you for hurting and humiliating me” is not an emotionally healthy thing to make people think, or even pretend to think for the purposes of keeping their foot in the door.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      If a company sends an unprofessional rejection that specifically humiliates you for your audacity in applying when you are so unqualified, sure, don’t thank them because you don’t want to work there anyway.

      Most of the time, though, it’s disappointing not to be chosen but they can’t hire everyone they interview. Letting you know they made a decision is better than just ghosting you.

      And Alison commented elsewhere on this post that thank-you notes in this situation isn’t a thing in the UK.

    2. NL*

      Experiencing being turned down for a job as “hurtful and humiliating” is the real problem here. That’s not universal, you know.

  33. Don't be mean to Pixley*

    I wrote a thank you note for one rejection, because it had been an intensive interview process and I got a very kind rejection email that was personal and from the main person I’d been interviewing with and so it felt right to acknowledge that.

    Turns out, the person they’d originally offered the job to ended up withdrawing their acceptance a month or so later, and the company reached back out to me. I don’t know if my gracious response to the rejection was a factor in that, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

    That said, it felt like a one-off because of the specific circumstances, rather than something I’d do as a matter of course.

  34. Sydney Bristow*

    I always do this if I have gotten to the stage of an interview and the person I have interviewed with is the one who sent me the rejection. I work in a small field and there is every chance that I might interact with them in another capacity in the future and it’s important to me to leave an impression of professionalism. It’s never something formal, just something along the lines of “Thanks for letting me know, I appreciate the opportunity to interview for this position.” If I was really into the job, I might even say I was disappointed that this was how it turned out, but that I hoped that we might work together in the future.

    This has actually helped me get the job I have now. One of the people who turned me down for a job was a former supervisor of mine (from when I was an intern) but I know that she gave me a glowing recommendation for my current job. While I wouldn’t have needed to send any kind of note, keeping a cordial relationship with her was really important. I also was turned down for a different short term position after that, but the supervisor for that job actually sent me the listing for the job I am in now after she rejected me because we kept in touch (and I had only met her through the one interview I had with her).

  35. Marilyn Wilson*

    Generally, I do follow up with …thanks for your time, these are the traits, abilities, skills and characteristics why I think I would be a great fit for this company although I do respect your decision a la Andrew LaCivita youtube, “Getting the job after being rejected.”
    He recommended it because people do quit after getting the job and the company has to start up the ole rehire machine so they might reconsider you for additional scrutiny.

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