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Turning Rejection into Opportunity

By Susan P. Joyce

Rats! You've received the dreaded "thank-you-for-your-interest-but..." letter, and you really wanted that job. Maybe you were the number 2 or number 3 candidate.

Close, but no cigar. Dang!

What now? Move on to the next opportunity, right? Of course. But first...

If you really liked the people, the location, and the organization, try turning that rejection letter on its head! Convert it into an opportunity. Maybe.

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Send a Thank You Note

Hopefully you wrote thank you notes to the interviewers after the job interviews. (Right?)

So, IF you really liked the people and the organization and would want to be considered when another opportunity opens there, send a nice thank you note to the hiring manager, the recruiter, and everyone else who was in the interview process.

If you did not like them, and don't really want to work there, don't bother.

A Thank You for a Rejection? Seriously? Yes!

At this point, what do you really have to lose?

They've already offered the job to someone else and probably gotten an acceptance. But that person may change their mind and never start the job. Or that person may take the job but prove to be unsatisfactory. It happens more often than you think.

So, what does the employer do when they face this situation? They groan, roll their eyes, and take another look at the applicants who almost got the job. Why? Because they really don't want to start from scratch, post the job, review the resumes, schedule interviews, spend time in meetings discussing the job and the candidates, etc.

Filling a job takes an employer a lot of time and energy. Staff time for interviews plus the cost of posting the job, etc. is expensive for most employers. So, if the new employee failed quickly, they may reach back to the almost-hired list to see who is available. If the new employee stayed a while before they failed (or left), a new job may be posted, but you might have an "inside track" IF they have a positive impression of you.

What to Write

This is where your thank you notes come in handy. It reminds them of you (nicely) because you included the following elements in your note:

  • Thank you for letting you know the outcome of the search, even though they didn't choose you.
  • Thank you for the time, courtesy, and consideration shown you during the interview process. (Hopefully true!)
  • Express your disappointment in not getting the job.
  • Express your appreciation for the opportunity to learn about the organization and meet the people working there.
  • Reiterate of your continued interest in working in their organization.
  • Request that they get in touch with you for the next time a job is opened.

Thank you notes are rare. And, a thank you for a rejection is so unusual that they can be very effective, possibly bumping you up from number two or number three to number one on the almost-hired list.

In 2014, I posted this article on LinkedIn with this headline: The Biggest Mistake After a Job Rejection. If you think the thank-you-for-rejecting-me note is a crazy idea, read all the comments from people for whom this strategy worked!

Bottom Line

A thank you note after a rejection will really stand out. The probability that it will pay off may be less than 5%, but that probability may show a higher return on the investment of your time than any other job search action you take that day, and it won't take much time to do.


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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