Receiving a job rejection email can be bitterly disappointing.
“Thank you for your interest in this role, but regretfully you have not been successful this time.”
It’s mightily tempting to delete the email and move on with your job search. But you shouldn’t.
Instead, let’s look at how to respond to a rejection email in the best possible way for your future benefit.
And really important:
Don’t miss the examples included at the end of this article. There are 5 in total so you are sure to find one that you can use.
Table of Contents
Why Did I Receive the Rejection Email?
You may feel that you were the perfect candidate for the job. And the interview couldn’t have gone any better.
Don’t feel too downhearted. The competition is tough, as you can see from this infographic (courtesy of Glassdoor):
So what went wrong?
There are a many possible reasons why you received that job rejection email.
- The company decided not to fill the role after all.
- The budget got cut.
- They promoted an internal candidate.
- The manager already had someone in mind but had to go through the HR process.
- You didn’t perform at your best in the interview (see 36 common interview mistakes).
- There was a better candidate for the role than you.
Just because you got that dreaded rejection email, it doesn’t mean the company or hiring manager doesn’t like you.
You already know they like your profile because they invited you to an interview.
It’s a difficult fact that companies sometimes have to reject incredible candidates because they only have one role to fill.
It’s very plausible that you just weren’t the right person for that role, at that time.
So get over your disappointment. Now turn your rejection email into a potential opportunity that will benefit your future career.
Why You Should Respond to a Job Rejection Email
There are so many positive reasons why you should respond to that rejection email!
Let’s explore them:
1. The Same Opportunity Becomes Live Again
You have received the rejection letter, which means the hiring manager has made an offer to another candidate.
But things can change.
- The selected candidate receives a better offer elsewhere and withdraws before starting.
- A change in personal circumstances leads the selected candidate to withdraw.
- The selected candidate starts the new position but decides quickly that it’s not right for them.
- The company decides that the selected candidate is not right for the job, once they have seen them in the role.
In any of these situations it is much easier for the company to make an offer to the next best candidate than to re-start the whole hiring process again.
Many candidates won’t respond to their rejection email. When you do, you make yourself stick in the hiring manager’s mind.
This increases your chances of being the first person they contact if the role becomes live again.
2. There Are Other Live Opportunities in The Company That You Could Be Well Suited To
Just because you didn’t get the role you interviewed for, doesn’t mean that you’re not a great candidate for the company.
If you send a well-crafted response to your rejection email you can reinforce the positive image the employer already has of you.
If there is already another live role being actively recruited for. The hiring manager can direct you to that role, and you’re starting with a good internal recommendation.
3. There Will Be New Opportunities in The Future That You Could Be Considered For
Similarly, when a new opportunity comes up in the same organisation in the future, you will be considered as a strong candidate already.
Some companies actively manage a database of candidates that they contact when a new, suitable role becomes available. They encourage candidates to apply if they believe they are a good fit.
But this pro-active approach from companies is relatively rare. It’s best that you keep an eye out for new vacancies arising and re-apply on your own initiative.
4. You Could Get Recommended to Opportunities in Another Company
Even if you didn’t secure this role, and there is nothing else suitable in the company, the hiring manager could recommend you to their contacts.
For example, a well-connected individual may know that a contact of theirs, in a different company, is looking to recruit someone for a role. And you would be a great match.
They have nothing to lose by introducing you to their contact. In fact, many people actively make these kind of introductions because they like to help others.
They also know that ‘what goes around, comes around’.
So suddenly, you could find yourself discussing a role in a different company than the one you applied for!
Related Article: Informal Interviews: How To Succeed And Secure That Job
5. You Should Always Actively Manage and Nurture Your Professional Network
When you finished your interview, you probably agreed with the interviewer about next steps. Although the dreaded rejection email was probably not one of the steps you discussed!
Now is your last chance to maintain contact with the people you met through the entire process.
This could include recruiters, HR staff, hiring managers, and other staff in the organisation. They are all useful business contacts in your industry field.
It’s a small world. In the future, they could be hiring for new roles in their existing organisation or department.
Or they could also move to another company or department and have new roles there.
They could also be your future boss, colleague, supplier, customer, partner, or even member of your staff!
As well as send the rejection email reply, you should also connect with them on LinkedIn (see more on that later).
6. It Allows You to Request Feedback
In most cases, rejection emails do not include specific reasons on why you didn’t get the job. Nor do they provide feedback on you as a candidate, your resume, or your interview performance.
By responding to the rejection email, you have the opportunity to ask for specific feedback that could help you succeed in the future.
Asking for interview feedback shows that you want to continuously improve. And that you welcome constructive criticism. Both are great qualities that many employers look for in employees.
It’s a delicate ask though. You don’t want to come across as bitter, and sound like you’re asking the interviewer to justify their decision.
You should construct the wording in such a way that it’s clear that you’re looking for constructive feedback for your own self-improvement.
7. It is The Right Thing to Do
Responding to the email is just common courtesy. Even if you have received another job offer and are no longer interested in this role, you should still be professional and send a polite response.
As a minimum, you should thank the individual(s) for their time in the selection process.
What to Include in Your Response to a Job Rejection Email
Your response doesn’t need to be long. In fact, short and concise is good.
Let’s break down the structure you should use, step by step:
1. Use a Clear Subject Line
You’re replying to the job rejection email that you’ve received, so normally the Subject line will generate automatically using the ‘RE:’ format.
In this example, you can see that the RE: Subject line doesn’t really say a lot to the recipient. Especially when it’s probably buried in an inbox full of emails.
So don’t simply hit the ‘Reply’ button.
Change the subject line to something much clearer. Something that will make the hiring manager know what it’s about and want to open the email.
2. Use a Formal Greeting
You know who you’re replying to, so you can address them by name. There is no need to write something like ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir / Madam’.
But you should keep things relatively formal. Use ‘Dear (name)’ instead of something more informal such as ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’.
This is true even if you developed great rapport with your interviewer when you spoke with them.
3. Say ‘Thank You’
The first sentence of your reply should include a ‘thank you’ for letting you know the outcome of the selection process.
Keep this short and sweet – it’s just a basic courtesy.
4. Express Your Gratitude
Then you can add an expression of gratitude.
Thank the person for their time, or the opportunity to interview, or the information people have given you through the process.
If there have been many people involved in the interview process you might want to mention them too.
5. Show Your Disappointment (but don’t overdo it)
Use your next sentence to briefly let the interviewer know of your disappointment to learn that you didn’t get the job.
But really important:
Note that you respect their decision.
You also want to keep this sentence short and brief to avoid the tone of the email becoming overly negative.
6. Emphasize Your Continued Interest
After expressing your disappointment, you should then emphasize your continued interest in the company. This way, the hiring manager knows you would still like to work there.
This shows maturity, and that you are not sulking about the rejection.
It also shows the hiring manager that your door is still open, should they have any other vacancies become available.
7. “Keep Me In Mind”
Go one step further and ask the hiring manager to ‘keep you in mind’ for other opportunities.
This is a polite prompt that might just get the hiring manager or recruiter to save your details, or to keep your resume at the top of the pile for future roles.
8. Reminder of Key Skills
Now’s the time to – very briefly – tell them why they should keep you in mind.
Note two or three (no more) of your key skills or experiences that you think your interviewer liked in you.
9. Request for Feedback
If your job rejection email includes feedback on why you were not offered the role, then clearly you don’t need to include this in your reply.
But more often than not, the rejection email does not include feedback, so you should use this opportunity to request it.
Being respectful is key here. You don’t want to sound like you’re challenging the decision, as that makes you look bitter.
You also need to be respectful of other peoples’ time. So you may want to include a sentence such as:
“Please don’t feel obligated to, but if you get the chance…”
Keep the request fairly broad. Ask for feedback on any aspect of the selection process, from your resume and cover letter to your final interview performance.
10. Note That You Want to Stay in Touch
Just before wrapping up, let the interviewer know that you would like to stay in touch.
Let them know that you have sent a LinkedIn connection request so they can expect to see it next time they check their account.
Related Article: Elevator Pitch: Three Things To Mention To Really Sell Yourself
11. Use a Formal Sign-Off
Just as you used a formal greeting, you should also use a relatively formal sign-off.
‘Yours Sincerely’ is on the more formal end, and a little too much. So best using either ‘Best regards’ or Kind regards’ instead.
Avoid sign-offs that are too informal, such as ‘Thanks’ or ‘Cheers’.
12. Include Your Contact Details
If your emails don’t include a signature block already, you should add your key contact details at the end of your email. Cell phone and email address is enough.
What Not to Say in Your Response to a Job Rejection Email
You should really keep the tone of your response positive and upbeat. Remember, you are actively managing your network here and this person could be the key to future opportunities.
Even if you really feel like they have made a poor decision in not hiring you, this is not the place to air those grievances.
You should not challenge the decision, on the rationale for how they arrived there. You will only come across as bitter and unprofessional.
The hiring manager will feel that their decision has been validated if they receive such a negative response, so best to avoid.
If you need to, wait some time before responding to the job rejection email so that can do so without being driven by emotion.
If you’re unsure, ask a trusted friend or colleague to proof-read your response before sending to make sure you’re getting the tone right.
Example Responses to A Job Rejection Email
Now let’s take a look at some examples:
Subject Line: Phil Millard – Sales Director
Thanks for letting me know your decision, and for your time through the interview process.
Following our discussions, my interest in Oracle grew seven stronger, and I am convinced this is where I want to build the next stage of my career.
As such I will be sure to apply for similar roles that become available in the future – keep an eye out for my resume coming across your desk again! And please do keep me in mind if you have any other similar roles opening up in the future.
Please do let me know (without pulling any punches) if there’s anything specific or glaring that you think I need to improve on my resume or with my interview technique – I would really value your feedback.
Thanks again for your time.
+1 112 354-502
Subject: Business Analyst – Sarah Thomas Application
Dear Mrs. Benson,
Thank you for informing me of your decision for the Business Analyst role at Bank of America. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interview and learn more about the role and the Bank.
Naturally I am disappointed that I’m not the best candidate for the role, but I understand your decision. I would really appreciate it if you could keep me in mind for any future roles with your company that you believe I may be a better fit for.
If you get a moment, I would also appreciate feedback you may be able to provide on my interview performance, or my application in general. This will help me greatly with future applications.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to interview. I wish you and the rest of your team the best of luck.
+1 587 345-619
Subject: Technical Analyst – Jess Keane
I recently received notification of your decision for the above role – thank you for confirming so quickly. Naturally it’s not the outcome I was hoping, but I fully respect your decision.
I really enjoyed the whole application process, and I managed to learn a lot about the company and the direction of travel.
I remain very interesting in working for Target, and would be very grateful if you could keep me in mind for other roles that come up in your department – I’m sure that my technical skills can add real value.
It would be great to stay in touch (I have sent a LinkedIn request) and I hope our paths cross again in the future.
Thanks again for your time and consideration.
+1 878 434-110
Subject: Chris Hamilton Application for Lead Project Manager
Thank you for letting me know of your decision. And thank you also for taking the time to meet with me – it really was a pleasure to learn more about the role and the company.
Of course it’s disappointing for me to see this opportunity pass. But following discussions with you and your colleagues, as well as my prior research, I remain convinced that AMTRAK is the company for me.
As your team continues to grow to meet the challenges ahead, I would be grateful if you would give consideration to my profile when looking to fill future roles. I will also keep a regular eye on your website for new vacancies.
Please don’t feel obliged (as I know you have a lot on your plate), but if you are able to share some brief thoughts on what I could do differently to secure a different outcome in my next application I would be most grateful.
It’s been great to meet you and the team, and I’d love to stay in touch (LinkedIn connection request is already in your inbox!).
Thanks again, and best wishes for you and your new hire.
+1 777 361 996
Subject: Product Manager Role Decision – Emma Davies
Thank you very much for your time recently to discuss the Product Manager role in your team. I recognise the time that you and others in your team spent.
Obviously I am disappointed to hear that I have not been chosen for this role, but I still have a very keen interest in working for Google. I believe my prior experience and skill set lends itself equally to similar roles in technical and delivery teams, as well as the to the Product Manager role.
If you are able to spare a couple of moments, I would be very grateful for some brief feedback on my overall application in order that I can address any weaknesses for future applications.
Thank you once again for the interview – I wish you and the team all the best.
+1 332 237-223
After Sending Your Response…
Now that you’ve responded, make sure to send a LinkedIn connection request. Also send one to other people with whom you had a decent amount of interaction with (see how to make connections on LinkedIn like an expert).
Bear in mind that they may have interacted with dozens of other candidates for the same role, plus other roles too.
You should add a brief note to your LinkedIn connection request to remind them of who you are and how they know you.
Thanks again for your time during our interview for the Designer role recently. I really enjoyed meeting you.
I thought it would be good to connect here so we can stay in touch.
Receiving that job rejection email is tough.
How you respond can make the difference between landing another job quickly or being forgotten about.
Take a moment to get over your initial disappointment, keep your emotions in check, and use our structure to craft a response that will:
- Show your professionalism
- Show your continued interest in the company
- Keep you front and centre in the hiring manager’s mind
- Get you feedback to improve next time around
- Grow your network; and
- Quite possibly get you a job offer.