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After the Recruiter Says No

After the Recruiter Says No

Charles Purdy | HotJobs

You had high hopes for this job: The job requirements matched your skill set perfectly. You aced your interviews. And you imagined hearing those sweet words so many of us long to hear:

“You’re hired.”

Instead, you got another rejection letter. According to recent U.S. Labor Department data, 5.5 unemployed Americans, on average, are vying for each job opening—so most interviews will end in rejection.

And that can be a crushing blow—but it can also be a career-making moment. When you don’t get the job, what should your next steps be?

Don’t beat yourself up about it.
John Kador, the author of “301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview,” second edition (McGraw-Hill), recommends that you try to learn from each rejection—while understanding that it may not be your fault. “Sometimes you didn’t do anything wrong,” he says. “Someone else was more qualified or more connected. Companies sometimes go through the motions of interviewing applicants when they’ve already selected a candidate.”

While the experience is still fresh in your mind, writing down what you’ve learned may help you put a positive spin on the experience—and give you something to refer to later, according to Lewis Lin, of

Be gracious in defeat.
How you conduct yourself after a rejection letter can determine whether that recruiter will consider you again—or perhaps refer you to another recruiter. Liz Lynch, the author of “Smart Networking” (McGraw-Hill), says, “Send a handwritten card thanking them again for their time, reiterating your interest in the company, and expressing your hope that they’ll keep you in mind for future positions. And whatever you do, do not diss them on your blog!”

Ask for feedback.
Kador advises saying that you accept the recruiter’s decision before you ask for feedback: “No one will talk to you if they think you’re going to argue or appeal.”

If you don’t trust yourself to keep your cool, you may want to skip asking for feedback. If you do ask, email is the best medium. “Telephoning is probably too intrusive,” says Lynch. “And whatever feedback you hear, don’t be defensive.”

Lin cautions that “you’ll get canned responses most of the time” due to fears about legal issues, but he recommends phrasing your request for feedback like this: “If you don’t mind me asking, do you have any feedback on how I can improve for future interviews?”

He adds, “You want to keep the conversation as professional as possible. Who knows? You could be their backup candidate.”

Keep trying.
In most cases, you should actively pursue new openings at the company. The phrase “we’ll keep your resume on file” is usually an attempt to soften the rejection, according to Kador, who says you should keep applying for relevant jobs and staying in touch with the recruiters you’ve met. “If a posting says no calls,’ I wouldn’t call,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t write.”

Bring the recruiter into your professional network.
If, down the road, you can help the interviewer or recruiter by recommending a candidate, for instance, or forwarding a relevant article, Kador says you should “go for it—make yourself known as a resource.”

Lynch, too, recommends keeping in touch with the hiring manager in a “low-key way” and says that, when you do land a position, you should write him or her a note and include your new business card. Then you can send the manager an invitation to connect on LinkedIn so you can easily stay in touch.

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