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The Thank You That Can Turn Rejection into Opportunity

By Susan P. Joyce

Turning Rejection into OpportunityRats! You've received the dreaded "thank-you-for-your-interest-but..." letter, and you are very disappointed.

The interviews went really well! You liked all (or most) of the people you met there, and you feel that they liked you, too.

But, in the end, they decided to hire someone else, not you.

You may have been 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...

View This as a Temporary Setback

NOTE! This is not a permanent rejection. They did NOT say go away -- we would never, ever hire you!

They did say -- we're not going to hire you for THIS job at this point in time. BIG DIFFERENCE!

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

Send a Thank You Note

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

Ask yourself: Would I want to be considered when another opportunity opens there? If the answer is "yes," proceed with this thank you.

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

In 2014, I posted a version of 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!

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A Thank You for a Rejection? Seriously? Yes!

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

Many employers decide not to hire a candidate and never let the candidate know. If you have been informed, the employer has shown you some courtesy. Reward their courtesy, and reinforce your professional image.

Why You Might Benefit

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.

"New hires" fail 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.

  • If the new employee failed quickly or didn't start at all, 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 based on receiving this thank you when they hired the other person.

Sending this message can move you higher up on the list of the almost-hired -- a great place to be for the next job opening or if the new employee doesn't work out.

What to Write

This thank you note 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.

Keep it brief, but clear and cordial. Disappointment is OK. Anger is not.

Sample Thank You Note After Being Rejected

As usual, sending your message as soon as you learn the outcome is the best strategy. If they let you know about the rejection via email, simply reply with this message. If you learned another way, you may -- or may not -- want to share how you found out.

An email is typically the best way to respond, particularly if that is how you have corresponded with this employer in the past.

Subject: [Job title of the job you didn't get]

[IF they notified you, use this first paragraph] Although I am truly disappointed to learn that you have selected someone else to fill this job, thank out for taking the time and effort to let me know.

-- OR --

[If you learned unofficially that someone else was hired, use this first paragraph] I understand that you have hired someone for this job, and I am disappointed that I am not that person.

I do greatly appreciate being considered for this opportunity. I enjoyed meeting with [names of the people who interviewed you] and learning more about your organization. I have been a [name of organization] fan of for quite a while and that won't change as a result of this outcome. [If they have a product or service that you really like, share a bit about that here.]

Working for [name of organization] is still a goal of mine, so I will continue to observe your activities and new developments in the hope that someday I will be able to become a contributor to [name of organization]'s continued success.

Please do keep me in mind for future opportunities. I would be very happy to hear from you.

Thank you,
[your name]

[your email address -- not work!]
[your phone number -- not work!]
[your LinkedIn Profile URL]

Send a different version of this to everyone who interviewed you, including the HR and/or recruiting staff members.

If you felt a "connection" with someone, make the note longer and a bit more personal. But, avoid anything that could be viewed as flirting. Be completely professional with this message!

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.