We've all (unfortunately) experienced the pit-in-your-stomach feeling that accompanies the bad news of a rejection email, or even a voicemail rejection. It's totally normal to be bummed about a job rejection — you worked hard on your resume and application, and you knew you'd be a good fit. But more often than not, rejections leave the door open for you to find the right opportunity and hopefully even your dream job. Knowing how to respond to a rejection email will help you turn this experience into something helpful moving forward.
When you open a rejection email and see those infamous words (“We've moved forward with another candidate”), it really feels like your heart drops into your stomach. There's so much vulnerability in the job search process, and often, a “no” feels like a “you're not good enough.” But that's not the case, trust us.
The last thing you probably feel like doing when you receive a rejection is writing a polite, friendly, and confident email to the company or recruiter. You may be upset, but you don't want to sound upset and unprofessional in your job rejection email response. But taking the time to respond to a job rejection email can help you gain clarity on why you weren't chosen, as well as keep your name top-of-mind for future opportunities.
To help break things down, we spoke with Chloe Belangia, who is an Executive Recruiter, career coach, and Founder of the Young Professional Career Connects group on LinkedIn. Her group helps over 10,000 members support each other in the job search and hiring process. Chloe has incredible insights to share from the recruiting side of the hiring process on how to respond to a rejection email and even how to ask for feedback after a job rejection.
Chloe recommends responding to job rejections when “you are 99% confident in your ability to take on the responsibilities of the role, and/or genuinely interested in furthering your relationship with the company.”
If you're still interested in working at a particular company, responding to a job rejection email can keep the door open and help you build a solid relationship. In your response, you'll be able to leave a good impression and wow the potential employer by reiterating your interest. And often, rejections happen because you weren't the best fit for the job role, not the company as a whole.
Make sure to share some of the specific reasons why you're interested in this company. What values are you aligned with? Do you really admire a particular team's work or a specific project? Why do you believe you'd be a good fit for this company, even if the original role you applied for wasn't a good match?
To help determine if your values are aligned with the company's, we have a template, the Teal Values Workbook. It is meant to help you discern and document your values.
We'll talk about this more in-depth in a minute, but a rejection response email is a rare opportunity to seek out feedback on things like your resume, interview skills, and overall job application by someone who's on the other side of the coin making the hiring decision.
Sometimes, companies won't respond to interview feedback requests. But often, recruiters and hiring managers are more than willing to take a few minutes to give you a bit of feedback.
As an Executive Recruiter and Career Coach, Chloe feels like a rejection response email is a good idea. She shares that “it's your opportunity to bet on yourself, demonstrate respect for the hiring team's time and attention, and leave a graceful impression.”
Leaving a situation on a positive, friendly note is always a good idea. Sending this type of email and expressing gratitude (even if it's not what you're primarily feeling right at the moment of a rejection) will make it easier for you to land future interviews or a job opportunity with that company in the future.
Preparing now to write an interview rejection email response like this will make it sting a bit less if the time comes. Luckily, a rejection response doesn't have to be overly complicated!
As always, your email's subject line matters. This little string of text is what really determines whether the hiring manager is going to open and read your email.
A strong subject line should be clear and concise. Include the original job title you applied for, and your name.
Example: Senior Product Manager Role Decision Follow-Up (Kaitlin Marks)
The point of this email is to facilitate a positive relationship with the hiring manager and, hopefully, open the door to future job opportunities. Gratitude helps you create those positive “warm and fuzzy” feelings.
Chloe says, “First and foremost, thank the team for their time. Demonstrate that you understand and respect their hiring decision. If you really believe you'd be the right choice and want to work with them, briefly offer a positive comment of your professional opinion with one or two counterpoints as to why you'd be open to continuing if they would reconsider their decision.”
And we know, we know — after the sting of a rejection, you probably want to cuddle up in bed with Netflix, not thank the company for rejecting you. But as much as it stings, sending a thoughtful response and saying thank you can unlock a relationship or opportunities you never imagined. It'll help create positive rapport and a memorable impression…and it shows potential employers that you handle obstacles with grace.
So, what are you thanking them for, exactly?
Again, this email offers you a beautiful window to build relationships and set yourself up for future success as other positions become available. Even though this particular job wasn't right for you, if this is your dream company, it's totally okay (and a good idea) to share your passion with the hiring manager.
Start by sharing your genuine disappointment at not being chosen for the role and provided with a job offer. Now, keep this brief, and no need to act desperate or sound bitter! You can quickly capture how you're feeling without a Grey's Anatomy-level, Meredith Grey-style monologue (no, you shouldn't pull out the “Pick me, choose me, love me language here, as enticing as it may be).
After briefly sharing your disappointment, outline how passionate you are about this company and any future openings…and more importantly, why you're passionate about it.
What company values do you admire? Where do you see yourself fitting in and contributing? You can also remind them of the skills and value you bring.
Mention your continued interest in working for the company, and kindly ask if the recruiter or hiring manager would keep you in mind and stay in touch as future roles become available. You can even leverage this as a networking opportunity and mention to the hiring manager that you plan to send over a connection request on LinkedIn so you can stay in touch. When sending a request, you might want to include a LinkedIn message to remind the hiring manager who you are and how you're connected.
If you plan on creating professional connections on a platform like LinkedIn, you'll want to make sure your profile is strong. A great way to check your LinkedIn profile is to download Teal’s Free Chrome Extension which includes an automated LinkedIn Review. Once you install the extension, just go to your profile page and click on the Teal logo. You’ll see a list of recommendations on how best to optimize your profile and can make updates as needed.
Chloe recommends always asking for feedback if it isn't proactively offered to you. She says, “Even if you might feel sensitive to what's shared, see feedback as a gift and accept it graciously. Hearing what you could've been better prepared for, what you might be missing in your experience, or anything related to why you weren't the right fit for this position is priceless.”
At the end of your email, you can politely ask for the hiring manager/interview team to share feedback and constructive criticism. Chloe recommends “suggesting several times you'd be open to connect if they have a few moments to chat through feedback live.” Receiving in person feedback may cause some discomfort if agreed upon, but it can help you stand out from other applicants and open a door to discuss future opportunities.
Be respectful when requesting feedback, and more importantly, be open to it. More often than not, any feedback is useful feedback for job seekers to utilize moving forward throughout a future interview process.
Even if you fully believe you did everything perfectly in the process, we all have room to grow. And besides — if it really was an internal reason and you did have a stellar interview and application, you'll feel better knowing it wasn't your fault.
Customize this template to fit your unique needs and personality. This template should give you a good starting point for your rejection response email!
Thank you for letting me know about your decision regarding the [INSERT JOB TITLE] role.
Although I'm very disappointed I won't be able to join the [COMPANY NAME] [TEAM] team, it was lovely to meet you and discover more about the impactful work your team is doing. Thank you so much for considering me for this role and for your time.
I'm still such a fan of your team's work and would love to work with [COMPANY NAME] in the future. I'm excited to keep following your work, and would so appreciate it if you could keep me in mind for any future job openings you feel may be a better fit for my experience and skills, including [LIST SOME EXAMPLES IF YOU'D LIKE].
Also, it would be so helpful for me to hear any constructive feedback you have for me about the application or job interview process. If you have a few minutes to chat about this feedback over Zoom or over the phone, I'm available [INSERT A FEW DATES AND TIMES HERE]. Alternatively, if you would send over the feedback via email, that would still be very helpful as I continue my job hunt.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to stay in touch in the future, and plan to send over a connection request on LinkedIn so we can keep communication open and stay connected.
Located within Teal's Job Tracker are additional templates to use as a starting point when crafting a follow up email, with a specific one for following up after a rejection email.
Although a rejection is never a good feeling, it's always better when you feel prepared. Knowing how to respond to a job rejection email will help you process the rejection and, hopefully, turn it into something actionable and positive to further your job search.
Don't feel paralyzed by a rejection! There are so many companies and opportunities out there, and the right one is waiting for you. Go back to the drawing board confident — and use Teal's Job Tracker tool to keep your job search more organized than ever.