Following up after a job rejection--yes or no?
September 14, 2012 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Should I follow up after being rejected for a job?

Background: I found out about this job opening through an acquaintance, "Jane," who passed me on to the manager for the position, "Dan." Dan and I had a good phone conversation about the job, and he asked me to send him my resume if I was interested. I sent him my resume about a week later and he thanked me, then asked me to submit it through the online application form so he could "coordinate with HR." I did so. That was about a week ago. Today I got a form rejection letter from HR. I'm a little surprised that I didn't make it to an interview, since I thought I was a pretty good candidate (and it seemed that Dan did too, judging by our previous exchanges, although maybe he was just being polite.)

I'm considering writing Dan some kind of follow-up email, but I have a few questions about it:

1) Is it appropriate to write to Dan at all? Or would that just be irritating and inbox-cluttering? Is his sending me to HR an indication that he doesn't want to communicate with me anymore?

2) If I do write to him, should I stick to "thanks so much for the opportunity to be considered, best of luck finding the right candidate, if there are any other job openings in the future I would love to be thought of, etc." Or would it be ok to ask, tactfully, why I was rejected? Any good phrasing suggestions for that?

Note: I really don't want to come off as pushy or defensive or as if I'm questioning the rejection, which I'm not.

Any thoughts are much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Whether or not it's seen as annoying is going to be largely dependent on what kind of guy Dan is, but I would lean toward not doing it. The thing is, you weren't really "rejected," per se - it's just that they chose someone else. That person could have been an internal candidate who was promoted, it could be that they found someone with years of precisely the right experience in precisely the right industry, it could be they had to hire someone else because his dad is the CEO's friend.... you just don't know. But I would think that any information you do get from Dan is not going to be that helpful for you, because essentially he's just going to tell you, "We found someone else who is a better fit."
posted by something something at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's been a while since I've been through a traditional hiring process like this.


I might suggest writing a "Thanks so much for the opportunity!" sort of e-mail to him. Express that you loved meeting him and that the company seems wonderful and wish them the best on finding the right person for the job.

That way, you've reminded Dan of your existence. *And* if he thinks HR screwed up, it gives him the chance to write back with a "I don't know what those monkeys in HR were thinking letting you walk out the door -- I'll fix this" but also leaves him the chance for a graceful exit if, in fact, you weren't the right person for the job.

That's what I'd do, at least.
posted by chasing at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I vote for option 2, editing your quote as follows: "thanks so much for the opportunity to be considered, best of luck finding the right candidate, AND IF YOU HAVE ANY FEEDBACK FOR ME I WOULD APPRECIATE IT. Otherwise, if there are any other job openings in the future I would love to be thought of, etc."

obviously not in caps

don't necessarily expect anything because there are lots of potential awkward situations that could result from him actually offering advice beyond 'there were so many great candidates and they just chose someone else, I really liked you though. good luck'
posted by saraindc at 7:38 AM on September 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

Just a polite thank you is enough/ let me know if anything else comes along is good. No questions or anything that is going to make work for him.

I've hired people who I previously passed over for other positions, often because of how well and appropriately they maintained communications.
posted by French Fry at 7:39 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this company is large enough to have a HR department, they probably also have a policy as to how they communicate to job applicants in order to avoid law suits. Don't put Don on the spot in terms of asking why you weren't hired. A thank you is fine.
posted by HuronBob at 7:44 AM on September 14, 2012

Why not? I did this for a job that I didn't get -- I thanked them and asked if they wouldn't mind giving a little feedback -- was there anything lacking in my portfolio or anything that was missing? I got a very nice reply that helped allay my fears. And then they asked me back six months later for another hiring round. And I won't go into THAT because it made me a little bitter toward them (fuck this economy!!!).

But, here's the thing, I had met with them twice face-to-face. And we had great conversations. This guy might not know why you were not their choice but following up puts you in the mature colleague pool. "Hey Dan, really enjoyed talking with you and got a great impression of your company. Would love any feedback about the hiring process! But would really love to hear if anything else opens up. Take care!"
posted by amanda at 7:46 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Absolutely do #2. I don't know whether it's gotten worse in the past few years or that I'm just noticing it more as I'm older, but good follow-up seems to be a dying art, and I always really appreciate when someone takes even a few seconds to do it. The only advice I'd give is to keep it short and sweet, and keep it phrased so that a reply is not necessary.

FWIW, "Jane" may not have had all of the details about the job when she told you. Many companies have policies about posting and recruiting internally before going outside.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on September 14, 2012

I would go for the thank you without the request for feedback, because anyone with an ounce of sense knows that you are looking for that feedback and if you don't ask you don't run any risk of putting them in an awkward position. Because I'm a pretty direct guy (tell culture all the way!), I would have no problem if you asked if I had any feedback, because if I didn't want to give it to you, I'd be fine telling you that. But the "thanks for your help and please do keep me in mind should any other openings come up" email is classy and I don't think it would ever be wrong.

I get emails like that once in a while from candidates I interviewed but didn't select and I find it a bit unusual when I have no personal connection, but not offensive in the least. I will sometimes give them advice on what I think they should do to improve their marketability if I get the email early in the morning before the rest of the world pisses me off. Sometimes when I'm busy or feeling irritable I just blow the email off. I always forward it to HR to put in the applicants file for the next time they apply, which only works if they reapply from the same email address next time.
posted by Lame_username at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's possible the hr people cut you without even asking the hiring manager based on whatever voodoo of the week they're doing. Send letter 2 so he can follow up on his end if necessary.
posted by winna at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds to me that the waiting of one week was enough to fill the position before you even had a chance. I think the contact passing you off to HR knew this and was being polite and did not want to be the one to reject you directly.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:19 AM on September 14, 2012

I'd write a note to both Jane and Dan. Short and Sweet.

Dear Jane/Dan:

Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss the XXXX position with you. I understand that another candidate was selected and if any other positions come up in the future, I'd love to be considered.


posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I support the option of a brief thank you note. And, it should be a physical note or letter, not an email.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2012

Number 2, saraindc style.

However, in my experience (on both sides of hiring) there is little chance that you'll get a direct answer about why you are hired. It's possible that HR made this decision without Dan's input, and he doesn't know why, or the job changed, or any number of reasons, but likely you will get a stock answer.
posted by sm1tten at 10:30 AM on September 14, 2012

I think the "thanks for the opportunity" email is fine, but I wouldn't go beyond that. Given that you didn't even get an interview, you weren't really rejected. Sending an email asking why you weren't selected for an interview seems presumptuous and harassing, to me. If you had received an interview and were turned down for the role, politely asking why you didn't get the job would be OK, but this isn't the situation that you're in.

But, yes, I would send the "thanks for the opportunity" thing. It's possible the HR rejected your resume even though Dan wants to interview you. This email might remind him that, "Hey, I wanted that person to come in for an interview, formal HR processes be damned!" I mean, it might not, but it's worth a shot.
posted by asnider at 11:03 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to disagree with the advice to send it as an actual physical letter; email will get there faster, while you're still fresh in their memory. Alison Green, who writes the management blog Ask a Manager, concurs.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

On preview, saraindc's advice is excellent.
posted by asnider at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2012

Nth'ing advice to send a thank you, but not ask "why". I think there are two likely scenarios here:

1. HR screened you out and Dan is wondering why he didn't see your application in the pile. A thank you will send the signal for him to go investigate what happened. It could be something trivial like they are asking for 10 years of X experience and you have 8.

2. They found a stronger candidate. A thank you note lets them know "no hard feelings" and you may get another chance later. My record was interviewing the same candidate on three separate occasions over an 18 month period for the same role within a group (was helping a peer out with interviews, not my hire). On the third pass, the peer made the offer and hire, guy turned out to be a superstar.
posted by kovacs at 8:21 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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