Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"

So You Received a Rejection Letter....Now What?

So you had hoped (and maybe even prayed) for a phone call, but instead you received the dreaded rejection letter.  You had it all planned…the new work space, a job you were excited about, new co-workers…oh and let’s not forget about the money!

But it didn’t go down that way.  Instead of all of the good things you had hoped for went to a different candidate.  While you may not want to hear it right now, from my experience things really do happen for a reason.  And while you may currently question it, the sun will continue to rise and set without the job you so desperately hoped for.

So take a deep breath and let’s consider the things you should do after receiving the “dreaded letter.”


Step One-Chill for a bit!

Admittedly the application and interview process can be a grueling one both physically and emotionally.  So the first thing you need to do when not the successful candidate is nothing…at least for a couple of weeks.  Trust me, the last thing any hiring manager wants is a phone call from the non-successful candidate who is still raw with emotion.  Give your emotions time to settle before proceeding on to step 2.


Step Two-Reach out. 

Once you’ve taken some time, it’s critical that you reach out to the person that interviewed you.

Now there are several ways to do this, but as a highly experienced interviewer, I always react best to a quick email.

Likely the hiring manager is crazy busy and trying to engage them on a phone call may meet with resistance…if you can even catch up with them!  So your email is short and sweet.  Something like, “Hi, I understand that I wasn’t the successful candidate for your position xyz and wanted to reach out and thank you again for the opportunity.”

Now for the tricky part….you want to include something relevant to the time you spent with the interviewer that will either help them remember who you are or have a pleasant memory regarding your time together.  And if you can weave a genuine compliment to them in, even better!  So this might look something like, “I really appreciated the passion you have for the company and your team.  It seems you’ve created a great work environment!”

Then that’s the end of your email (at least the first one).  Don’t include anything about the fact you had really hoped to be the successful candidate or ask why you weren’t selected.  Short, simple and non-threatening should be the tone for this email.  Then end it with a quick, “thanks again” and wait for a response.


Step Three-React

Chances are high that you will receive a response from the hiring manager.  You see, in your mind because you weren’t chosen, you aren’t valuable to them.  But I would challenge you to consider the managers perception.

Finding qualified candidates is very time-consuming and unexpected things happen all the time.  Other star employees move on, new positions are created and companies shift directions.  All of which means managers need to have a pipeline of “go to applicants” when openings occur.

If the response to your email is brief with just a quick “my pleasure,” then you should table all further communication for a few weeks.

But instead, if it opens a conversation (which many do!) engage and see where you can take the discussion.  With that said, keep in mind how busy they are!  Writing a long email that fills their screen will likely cause you to experience “death by email.”

Rather, keep it to 3-4 sentences:  a greeting, another compliment (if genuine) or recollection of a personal connection you shared, a request for feedback and a closing.

The ultimate goal with this engagement is three-fold:

  • Stay visible. Engaging in this manner keeps you in the forefront of the interviewers mind long after all of the other “letter recipients” have moved on to chase other opportunities.  I can assure you that most candidates simply tuck tail and run.  Take this opportunity to be different!
  • Appear Determined. Every hiring manager hopes to find a candidate that is driven to succeed.  And the fact that you are passionate about (and still engaged even after a no) is impressive.
  • Gain Feedback.  While it should never be your leading sentence in the email, eventually you want to gain some feedback on why you were not chosen.  Again, this request should be simple, non-threatening and complimentary.  So it may be something like, “you really sold me on everything great you have going on there.  Any ideas of what I could do to make myself a better candidate for you next time?”


Step Four-Move On!

The opportunity you interviewed for is gone and you’ve laid the ground work for future opportunities with the same manager, so it’s time to move on.

If you slowed up your networking efforts during this process, it’s time to start them again in earnest.  This topic is a post in itself, but check out this article entitled “24 Networking Tips that Actually Work” by Passive Panda if you are looking for some fresh ideas.


Step Five-Build Your Network

Assuming you are active on LinkedIn, send a connection request to the manager that interviewed you for the position.   Yes, you read that correctly!  Realize that at the very least they were impressed by your resume (and likely much more than that!)

If they accept your request, you’ve gained another opportunity to stay visible.  But you’ve also gained access to other people in similar roles to them…hello networking and potential job opportunities!


Step Six-Stay in Touch

While you certainly don’t want to stalk the hiring manager of the job you didn’t receive, it’s certainly acceptable (and even encouraged) to reach back out in 6-9 months.  Again, the email should be only 3-4 sentences.  The goal here is you guessed it…visibility!

But you also want to update them on your status.  This is especially important if you have been working to build a skill they recommended.  It may look something like, “Greetings and hope you have been well!  I wanted to thank you.  I just completed a class on xyz like you recommended and you were right.  This knowledge will really allow me to succeed in this type of position.  Thanks again.”

And now for the kicker…as a PS line.  There’s just something about a PS line that people can’t ignore!  Can you?  Anyway the PS line is something like this:  PS-I’d still love to join the team there.  Are there any opportunities on the horizon?


While no one likes to receive a letter instead of a phone call with a job offer, the reality is it happens.  The real question (and the next opportunity) lies in how you handle the situation!

For you letter recipients out there…what did I miss that has worked for you when you weren’t offered the job?

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Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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  1. Carla Brooks

    I really enjoyed this Blog. You have provided me great information and motivation. Please keep them coming!

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