How to respond to a rejection email to further your career, according to a professional

You did it: You applied for a job, completed all the interviews and assignments, and waited patiently until the company made their decision. Then, you checked your email and realized the company decided to go with another candidate. And while a wave of defeat washed over you, you couldn’t help but wonder how you should reply to this rejection email after being told you didn’t get the job.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, research from career coach and author Orville Pierson indicated that the average job-seeker is rejected by 24 decision-makers before they get a “yes.” While the idea of getting rejected this many times sound exhausting, it’s important to stay positive and see every “no” as an opportunity to learn more—and, hopefully, a chance to further your career.

Luckily, there’s a way to make a rejection letter work in your favor. We spoke with career coach Nicola Simpson to get her perspective on how to approach a rejection letter and what questions you should ask to get the feedback you’re looking for. Because even though it might be a “no” right now, it doesn’t mean that it’s a “no” forever.

HelloGiggles (HG): How important do you believe it is for people to respond thoughtfully to a rejection email?

Nicola Simpson (NS): While no one enjoys the feelings that come with rejection, it is important to respond to the email in order to formally acknowledge the outcome. Your communication not only demonstrates your professionalism but also provides you with an important opportunity to request feedback, which will help you to achieve a successful outcome in the future. Further, your response will show the company that you take your self-development seriously and that you value their feedback, all of which speaks very positively about your character, your attitude, and work ethic.

Finally, responding to the email enables you to re-emphasize your desire to work for the company in the future. Ask the hiring manager to actively refer you to others in the business and/or recommend you for alternative roles that may be a good fit with your skills and experience. Remember, once your reply has been sent, reach out and connect via LinkedIn so you can benefit from a longer-term network connection with the company and those you met during the recruitment process.

HG: Do you consider it a bad move not to respond to a rejection email?

NS: Feelings of disappointment and frustration are to be expected; however, you must not miss this important communication opportunity. It is important to dial down your emotion and dial up your curiosity. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” and “How can I improve the outcome for next time?” Responding positively to a rejection email gives you the chance to receive feedback in order to understand your gaps and any blind spots that might be silently sabotaging your efforts. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by responding and, in doing so, you will unlock the opportunity to learn how to achieve success next time.

HG: How would you suggest someone respond to a rejection email when they still want to be considered for future opportunities at that company?

NS: Respond promptly. Be positive and grateful for the opportunity and any feedback shared thus far. You should communicate that while you’re naturally disappointed, you accept the outcome and decision. Next, kindly ask for any feedback that will help you achieve success next time. Make sure you close your communication with a strong call to action and provide your request to be referred to other hiring managers in the organization. Next, send a connection invitation via LinkedIn to the hiring manager and be sure to “follow” the company to keep in touch.

HG: How would you suggest someone ask for feedback?

NS: Simply ask for clarity regarding the reasons why you were not hired. Be clear that you respect the decision and the outcome of the recruitment process. You are writing to seek feedback in order to learn from the experience and improve your chances of a successful outcome for next time.

HG: Why is asking for feedback important?

NS: It’s important to understand how others perceive you and the standards that are expected by the employer versus how you perceive yourself and your current level of expertise. Ask yourself, “What are my gaps, and are the gaps real?” and “Do I have any blind spots?” If so, what will you do to address these? While blind spots are real, feedback brings them to light. And coaching can help you fix the issue fast so you can get a new job and move on with the rest of your life.

HG: How can feedback help further someone’s career?

NS: After receiving feedback, your next task is to create a plan of action. Begin by defining your development objective(s)—what, specifically, do you need to learn or do to address your gaps? Finally, hold yourself accountable. Consider working with a coach and know that next time you apply for a job, you’ll be fully prepared and your dream job will become a reality.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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