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Job Rejection 101: What NOT to Do, When You Don’t Get the Job

Topics: Career Advice

Rejection is tough to take in any area of life, but when you’re turned down for a job you were really excited about, it can be particularly devastating. Most of us need to work for a living – getting a job rejection has a real impact on our bottom line.

Also, there’s the self-esteem aspect. To a certain extent, we are what we do. We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, so it’s only natural to look to our jobs for a sense of identity and purpose.

job rejection

(Image Credit: David Blackwell/Flickr)

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All that said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with getting bad news during your job search. These are definitely some of the worst choices.

  1. Getting snarky.

Do you have a tendency to lash out when hurt? If so, back away from the computer before you respond to that email from the hiring manager. There is something worse than not getting the job, and if you send a sarcastic, demanding, or just plain unprofessional email in response, you’ll find out what that is. (OK, we won’t make you work for the answer, when you’ve had a rough day: it’s burning your bridges.)

Here’s an example of a really bad response from a job applicant, courtesy of Alison Green of Ask a Manager:

I’ve reviewed this email. It’s pretty clearly a form letter. I can appreciate that you’ve got a lot of applicants, and need to skim the fat, so to speak, but I require honest communication from a potential employer, not form letters.

“Yeah, it is a form letter — a friendly and polite form letter, but a form letter,” Green writes. “When you need to communicate the same information to hundreds of people, a form letter is the most efficient way to do it. I’m not sure why that makes it less ‘honest.’”

Bottom line, it wouldn’t matter if the form letter was dishonest; writing to the hiring manager and demanding a different type of communication isn’t going to change the outcome. The person who wrote this response forgot the most important fact about their situation: they’re not in a position to demand anything.

  1. Doing nothing.

The less said about the rejection, the better, right? Wrong.

Job rejections are an opportunity. Sure, you missed out on that job, but if you behave in a gracious manner, you might be able to expand your network.

“If you sincerely liked the people and the organization and would want to be considered when another opportunity opens there, the biggest mistake you can make is giving up on the employer and the people you liked,” writes Susan P. Joyce at LinkedIn. “Instead, send a nice thank you note to the hiring manager, the recruiter, and everyone else who was in the interview process.”

In doing so, you leave a positive impression on the hiring manager or managers. In other words, you’re not making our next mistake….

  1. Assuming the door is closed.

The main purpose of the thank-you letter is to leave the interviewers with a good feeling about you and your candidacy for future roles … but if you play your cards right, you might also get another shot at this job. Not every hire works out. Behave professionally, and you might get a call sooner than you think.

You can also use your note as a way of asking for feedback on your qualifications and interview experience, which might help you upskill yourself more quickly for the next spot on the team.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the worst response to a job rejection that you’ve ever seen? Let us know in the comments, or talk to us on Twitter.



Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Don Park
Don Park

More often than not, if you have been rejected for a job, you haven’t just been rejected from this one – you have been placed in a permanent reject file. Because of this, if you don’t get the job, by all means get pissed off and write back the recruiter and everyone else about how angry you are.

They clearly don’t give a rat’s behind about you, so why should you hold back?

I am very serious here.


And let’s not forget this is America. “Not in a position to demand anything”. Don’t make me puke. I CAN AND I WILL demand anything because this is a free country. Don’t like it? To bad! GET OVER IT! If you don’t like it, get the hell out of America!

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