Response to Rejection: A Networking Opportunity

by Veda Darby Soberman, former Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
previously published 8/7/13

Response to Rejection: A Networking Opportunity

veda.darby.sobermanAll job seekers will have been rejected for a position or two…or many.  Those letters, phone calls or emails can each feel like a stab in the heart of to one’s hopes and dreams, but it doesn’t need to be the end.  Rather than looking at those employment rejections (or even internship and volunteering rejections) as proverbial “Dear John” letters signaling a permanent parting of ways, I prefer to look at them as break ups of the “Hey, let’s still be friends.  Maybe one day…you never know”-type.  I won’t delve into the psychological aspects of coping with rejection here (read Rejection Letter to the Rejection Letter, or Dealing with Rejection for more of that take), but let’s talk about how to actually formulate correspondence in response to a job rejection.  Responding well to rejection can be a great way to build a relationship with an organization and to network.  Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t respond to all rejections.  In general, I would say to reserve your response efforts for the positions for which you were interviewed.  If you haven’t made it past the initial screening your efforts to network may fall on deaf ears.  Of course, there may be exceptions such as when it was for a volunteer inquiry, or if you have had some sort of contact beyond a simple submission of an application, such as you conducted an informational interview at the organization.
  2. Convey your appreciation and professionalism.  This is easy to do in a formal business letter or email.  Just remember to keep negative emotions out of your correspondence.  However, it can be tricky if you are put on the spot by a rejection phone call.  So, be sure to have a canned verbal response to a rejection that has a positive tone, and keeps any feelings of anger or major disappointment in check.
  3. Take advantage of a rejection letter’s generosity.  Often rejections are full of phrases that seem to be inserted to help the rejected feel better (i.e. “There were many wonderful candidates, you among them.”; “Please apply for any other positions in your field at our organization in the future.”; or “If our budget allowed, we would have loved to have you be a part of our team.”).  Maybe they are just trying to break it to you gently that they just aren’t that into you, but maybe not.  They may be leading you on, but you can still hold them to their kind words and say that you are glad to hear that they liked you even if they won’t be hiring you this time around.
  4. Remain future-oriented.  Express that you’re looking forward to any other available opportunities for which you may qualify for in the future.  This is very important.  I know we hear this al the time, and sometimes it may feel like it is a delusion when rejections come one after another, but often one may have been rejected because it just wasn’t the right fit for the position, or the right time for the organization or you.  More often than you think, they would genuinely love to have you be a part of their team in the future.
  5. Keep rejection letters and maintain correspondence.  Add rejections to a file you maintain on the organization you have applied to.  The rejection correspondence will have important contact information, and will be helpful to reference for any future contact with the organization.  After your initial response to rejection is made, don’t be afraid to contact past interviewers later down the road when a new position is posted or simply to inquire of openings. 

There are many stories of repeat applicants finally being hired by an organization after multiple tries.  Keep plugging away (read Failing to Succeed for some inspiration).  Be fearless in your job search, and don’t let those rejections seal your fate.  You are actually just another step closer to that job you are meant to have.

Good luck!

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