How to Respond to a Rejection Email on a Job Application 

 August 28, 2020

By  Marie

If you are in the middle of a job search, it's inevitable that you will receive a rejection. It's important to understand how to respond to a rejection email on a job application as well as how to stay motivated in your job search after rejection.

Don't ignore a job rejection.

Instead, learn how to leverage it to make yourself a stronger candidate for future applications.

How to Handle a Job Rejection

First, take a deep breath.

A sudden job rejection email can be very jarring. It can instantly stifle your motivation during your job search.

You need to remind yourself that a job rejection is a normal part of the process. It happens to everyone.

How you handle a job rejection will determine, ultimately, how successful you will be in landing a fantastic job.

So before you do anything else, take a few hours to yourself. Go on a walk, listen to some music. Get your initial emotions out- whether it is disappointment, anger, or frustration. 

It’s important you approach your next steps calmly and with a clear head.

Should I Reply to a Rejection Email?

The next natural question will be, what do you do about the rejection e-mail?

You need to respond.

It’s astonishing but many employers don’t even provide the common courtesy of letting candidates know when a hiring decision has been made. 

Candidates end up waiting around for weeks and sometimes months. Eventually, giving up hope.

Even worse, a lot of employers don’t even respond to candidates asking for an update on their application.

I won’t tell you to be grateful for rejection. But, you should be grateful that you were made aware of the decision

Now you can mentally move on rather than being stuck in limbo.

So, the employer was courteous in letting you know about the hiring decision.

You should return the courtesy by accepting the rejection with professionalism.

Responding will also leave the door open for future networking opportunities. These can be invaluable and maybe even lead to a different position with the organization.

It is worth taking 5 minutes to respond to the rejection email.

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How to Respond to a Rejection Email

When responding to a rejection email on your job application, remain professional and respectful.

Upon rejection, your goal should be to keep the door open with this employer in the future and to obtain feedback on your interview and/or resume.

I have spoken about the importance of feedback before. Obtaining and utilizing feedback is a critical skill for career development and growth.

A job rejection is the only opportunity you will have to obtain feedback from an employer on your job application.

In order to try to obtain feedback, I recommend you structure your email as follows:

  • Thank them for letting you know about the hiring decision
  • Briefly express disappointment
  • Re-iterate your interest and excitement about the organization with a positive statement about them or their work
  • Thank them for their time during the process
  • Ask for feedback

Below is an e-mail template using this strategy.

Hello [name],

Thank you for letting me know about the hiring decision. I am of course disappointed in the decision. I was very impressed by [organization name] and excited at the opportunity to work there. [Personalized statement about an exciting objective the organization is working towards].

I’d like to thank you for your time during my application process, as well as for the consideration.

Feedback is extremely important to me and to my future success. I would be very interested to hear any feedback from you on my application, resume, and/or interview.

Thank you so much,

[your name]

If the sender of the rejection email was an HR representative or recruiter, as it typically is, I would also recommend that you reach out to the hiring manager to request feedback. 

This should be done if you made a connection with the hiring manager during the interview, and obtained their contact information (e.g. business card).

If you did not obtain contact information from the hiring manager, then plan to do so for next time and do not cold-contact the hiring manager after this rejection.

During an interview with a hiring manager, you should always ask for a business card (it will often be provided preemptively) and if it would be okay to reach out in the future if you have additional questions.

This provides a perfect set-up to follow up after a rejection email. 

Once you get word of a hiring decision, send a polite email to the hiring manager, and communicate the following:

  • Thank them for their time during your application process
  • Acknowledge you have received word on the hiring decision
  • Let them know that you were impressed with the organization, their projects, objectives, any positive item from the interview regarding the role
  • Wish them luck
  • Ask for feedback

Here is an e-mail template that employs this strategy:

Hello [name],

Thank you again for your time during the interview. I received notice from [X] that you have made a hiring decision and have decided to go another direction.

I am disappointed as I was really impressed with [company] and your commitment to [objectives, customer, team members, etc.]. I wish you and your team the best of luck in the future. 

Feedback is really important to me and my growth. I would be very grateful if you would be able to provide me with feedback on my resume or interview? 

Thank you again,

[your name]

How to respond to a rejection email without an interview

If you received a rejection email without having an interview, it’s likely because the company found a candidate that was a good fit for the position and had to act quickly.

Unfortunately, that is the luck of the draw sometimes. 

Employers can be put in tough situations as well. 

If a candidate already has a job offer, the employer has to make a decision quickly on whether to also extend an offer. They sometimes simply cannot wait to hold all of their interviews.

In this situation, if the other candidate accepts the job offer the employer is forced to cancel scheduled interviews.

Although not ideal, it is understandable and fairly common.

Other times, the employer may be forced to close an open position due to budget changes or strategic shifts. Typically, an employer will share why the interview was canceled. But not always.

You should still respond.

In your response I would recommend that you:

  • Thank the employer for letting you know
  • Express understanding about the situation
  • Voice your disappointment in not having an opportunity to learn further about the company and team
  • Communicate your continued interest in the organization
  • Ask to be considered for any other opportunities in the future
  • Ask whether you can reach out if you see a job posting applicable to your experience in the future

This strategy not only handles the rejection gracefully, but it allows you to keep the lines of communication with this particular individual open. 

You now have started a network at this company that you can tap into in the future. 

Having a connection, and actual individual, to tap into at a company is invaluable. If there is a similar job posted in the future, you will be able to bypass resume screening by reaching out to this individual directly.

So although you may have gotten unlucky with this particular job posting, you are still closer to a job than you were before applying to this posting. That’s something to stay positive about.

Here is an e-mail template implementing this approach:

Hello [name],

Thank you for letting me know [that the interview was canceled/job position was closed/etc.]. I completely understand these situations happen. I am disappointed that I did not get to learn more about [the organization] and meet the team. It seems you are working towards some very exciting objectives.

I’d love to be considered for any similar positions in the future. I will keep an eye on your job board and, if you don’t mind, will reach out if I see something applicable to my experience.

Thanks so much,

[your name]

What Not to Say When You Didn't Get the Job

Once a hiring decision has been made, the employer will not change course. 

So never approach rejection as a chance to change the employer’s mind.

Do not attempt to convince the employer of your value or experience after a hiring decision has been shared with you.

Additionally, do not probe as to why the other candidate was chosen over you. Beyond requesting feedback on your own application, you should not ask questions of the employer about the hiring decision.

An employer is under no obligation to share information as to why and how the hiring decision was made, and frankly, they won’t. 

That is why you should focus on trying to receive feedback on your own application.

It goes without saying that you should never be rude, snarky, critical, or insulting to anyone. Let alone a potential employer.

One thing I have learned with my 10+ years in the industry is that it is small. You run into people years down the road that you never thought you would see again.

So always remain professional and respectful. Even if, sometimes, it isn’t returned.

How Do You Stay Positive after Rejection?

Staying positive and motivated during rejection is crucial, but also difficult.

If you find yourself in a slump after being rejected, take some time for self-reflection.

It’s okay to take a day or two off from your job search if you find yourself demotivated. But you should do things that will reset your mindset and get your energized again.

Re-examine your goals and tactics. Read a motivating book. Exercise. Bullet journal. Here are some more tips to get motivated.

All of these things will help you come back from rejection stronger.

Most importantly, you need to have a healthy mindset about rejection. It’s a natural outcome of job searching.

Since it is going to happen, prepare yourself beforehand.

Employ a plan on how to obtain feedback from rejection, and use that feedback to strengthen yourself as a candidate. 

As long as you are focused on growing yourself as a candidate and learning new methods to improve your job search skills, you will find a job. That is also inevitable.

You got this!

Have you had to deal with a job rejection recently? Let me know how it went below.

Check out these other tips for your job search:

How to write an interview thank you email

The interview question you never want to answer

How to prepare for an interview

Questions to Ask at an Internship Interview

How to Answer "Are you Detail Oriented" in an Interview

How to Response to a Rejection Email on a Job Application

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