The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

March 30, 2012

How to Turn a Job Rejection into a Learning Opportunity

A February article from The Ladders by John Batteiger provides valuable advice about an often difficult and daunting task for professionals: obtaining critical feedback from an employer after being turned down for a position. Typically, hiring managers will merely inform the unsuccessful candidate that someone else has been chosen for the role, without delving into the specific reasons for their rejection. Likewise, most candidates will accept the bad news without much further inquiry. While this submissive routine may seem like the most respectful and least painful approach to ending the application process, it certainly won’t help you improve your interview skills for the future. Although a discussion of what went wrong may seem challenging or even uncomfortable for you, it’s the most practical and beneficial way to conclude your application attempt. Considering that you made it far enough in the candidate selection process to interview with the organization, you undoubtedly deserve the opportunity to know where you fell short so you can learn from your mistakes. Taken from Batteiger’s insightful article, here are some suggestions for requesting constructive criticism after a turndown:

1. Be professional and polite
Hostility would certainly be the worst way to approach the request for feedback, so use a friendly tone to be clear about your motivations.  Thank the employer for the opportunity for the interview with the organization, and then ask if there was anything you could have done differently.

2. Make it clear that you aren’t looking for a “second chance”
The purpose of your inquiry is to find out how you can improve your interview skills in the future, not to request further consideration.

3. Speak directly with someone within the organization who you expect will be honest and informed about your rejection
This suggestion may not always be feasible, but if you were referred to the organization by a friend or acquaintance, it may be best to ask them, rather than the hiring manager. Alternatively, if you feel that you made an especially strong connection with any of the individuals with whom you interviewed, you may benefit from reaching out to them directly.

4. Talk to recruiters (if applicable)
If you’re working with a recruiter for your job search, don’t hesitate to ask him or her for more detailed feedback regarding your rejection. Since the recruiter serves as your direct representative to the hiring manager, he or she has likely been given thorough reasons why you were not chosen, and will be happy to share those with you so you.

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