6 Ways to Find Out Why You Didn’t Get the Job Offer


Rejection never feels good, and oftentimes the sting of being passed over is exacerbated by the not-knowing, especially if you feel you nailed the application and interview process. After being rejected, you probably have a lot of questions: Why didn’t you get the job offer? What was missing in your resume or interview that cost you the job? What did the interviewers really think of you? What could or should you have done differently? What can you do going forward to be a better candidate? 

While it’s unlikely that you’ll get the answers you want to all of these questions, there are still appropriate ways to approach your interviewers or the employer and find out as much as you can about their decision. Here are a few of the best ways to do just that:

1. Be strategic with your thank you note

Of course, you should always send a thank you note to everyone who interviewed you no more than one or two days after the interview took place. If you’re savvy in your wording, you can actually open the door for further conversation with your interviewer.

For example, perhaps you had a great discussion a new study that just came out or a new breakthrough recently announced. Find an interesting article on the subject and include a link in the note, along with a follow-up question about the interviewer’s own take on a particular aspect or finding. If what you include is really of interest and value to your contact at the company, they may very well respond back and continue the conversation.

If you’re able to establish this kind of a dialogue outside of the formal interview process, you’re in a good position in a few days or few weeks to -- when you don’t receive the offer -- casually and politely inquire about any constructive feedback they can give you around your rejection. If they have a more personal rapport already established with you, they may be more inclined to divulge the information.

2. Check out who they did hire

Check back on the company’s website or LinkedIn page a few weeks or even months after you get your rejection to find out who they hired instead. Look at this person’s own profile and do a little digging online to find out more -- do they have certain skills or experiences that you don’t? Have they been in the field longer? Do they have a higher level of education or certification? Have they published more or held more senior positions than you?

Use what you find as a learning experience to see how you can become a stronger candidate for that role going forward.

3. Request feedback

This is perhaps the best way to solicit information from your interviewers on why you didn’t receive the offer. But, remember, it’s all in the way you approach the subject. You certainly don’t want to come across as demanding, angry, or bitter in your inquiry. Here’s how to handle it:

Be very very clear that you’re framing your request as a personal growth exercise for your own sake and that you’re asking for the information as a favor from them so that you can become the best professional you can be in the future.

Make it about you and your professional development, so to speak, (i.e. “how can I become a stronger candidate?” or “What can I do to improve my candidacy or resume/CV?”) and not about them (as in, why didn’t you hire me?).

Your tone here (likely this will be in an email) should be grateful, thanking them for their attention and the opportunity to learn more about the role, happy to hear any kind of feedback they can give you -- good or bad -- and eager to learn how you can keep growing as a professional. Keep your note brief, positive, and friendly.

And don’t badger. Send this type of communication once, and if you don’t hear back, just leave it at that and move on.

4. Let them know you’re open for future opportunities

This is a more subtle way to keep your foot in the door and your candidacy in the mind of your interviewer. Let them know that, although you didn’t get hired this time around, you’re still interested in the mission of the organization and you feel that you can bring value to them. Thank them for taking the time to consider your application and be very clear that you’d like to be considered for any future opportunities they feel you might be more suited for.

5. Stay in touch

Being able to stay in touch with an interviewer, either by email or on professional networking sites, is completely dependent on the type of rapport or relationship you established during the interview process. In short, if you didn’t really hit it off with your interviewer, this probably isn’t the best option for you.

However, if you seemed to make a genuine connection and enjoyed a nice back-and-forth, you can certainly reach out to them at some point in the future with an interesting article around something happening in your field.

Keep in mind, this kind of interaction should not be about the position you interviewed for or for the explicit purpose of asking for employment opportunities. Instead, this is about building a genuine, authentic, mutually-beneficial professional relationship with the interviewer based on shared interests or ideas. This can only come naturally, so don’t force it, and certainly don’t pester the interviewer for weeks or months on end with several emails where you’re having a one-sided conversation.

Rely on your emotional intelligence to gauge their interest in engaging with you, and follow their cue. But, if you’re lucky and you do have a real connection with the interviewer and they become a valuable member of your professional network, it may be ok at some point to casually ask them what they think you can do to become a stronger candidate for the role to which you previously applied.

6. Make peace with not knowing

Sometimes it really isn’t you, it’s them. There are many reasons that a person may not receive a job offer that has absolutely nothing to do with the strength of their application or their performance in the job interview.

Perhaps another candidate has a personal connection that gave them an advantage. Maybe there have been budget cuts or a hiring freeze that invalidated your candidacy. Or the organization could have chosen to adapt the role and now requires someone with a different profile than what you interviewed for. Or, it’s even quite possible that they considered you to be overqualified for the position.

In many instances, no matter how tactful and earnest you are in trying to find out why it’s a no-go, you’ll just never know the reason(s) you weren’t extended an offer. Make peace with that, don’t take it personally, and move on to your next opportunity with focus, confidence, and determination.

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