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When You're Turned Down for a Job

When you are denied a position you thought you earned, turn your rejection into a positive by taking the right steps, using appropriate follow-up and continuing to build your relationship with the hiring manager.

Chances are you have more experience job hunting than the average job seeker, due to your mobile military life, but hearing or reading the words, "we've selected another candidate", is never easy. Consider taking the following steps to keep the door open for future employment opportunities with the organization as you move ahead with your job search.

Understand Possible Reasons for Not Being Selected

Organizations may not hire you for a number of reasons. Perhaps the company hired or promoted an internal candidate, implemented a hiring freeze or decided to hire through a temporary agency. You may never know the reason you weren't selected, but understanding typical concerns of managers and human resources staff and addressing them in your interview might improve your results. Possible concerns might include the following:

  • Job-hopping (having too many jobs or careers). Too many jobs within a career area are better than too many careers, but as a military spouse, you may have changed direction (and career paths) to gain employment when you relocated. During your interview, discuss the strengths you will bring to the organization and the successes you've achieved. The hiring manager may be concerned that you will be transferred quickly, so if you anticipate being in your location for several years, make sure to let them know.
  • Unrealistic salary expectations. Although you may have made $50,000 at your position in the Washington, D.C. area, when you move to Jacksonville, Florida, the salary range for the same job may be considerably lower. Use the Research Occupations tool to find the salary range for your occupation and location so you don't ask for or expect too high of a salary.
  • Background. You may not have the exact background the employer is seeking, but you can overcome this by showing how the education and training you possess may have advantages over the typical background for the position.
  • Being unprepared or lacking confidence. If you are not prepared, seem disinterested or have a lack of confidence, you may send false signals to the interviewer. Do your research on the company, make a list of questions and practice your responses to common interview questions to make a great impression.
  • Personality conflicts. Personality conflicts may arise in follow-on interviews or during reference checks. You may never be aware of these issues, but the best way to avoid them is to be honest, polite and positive throughout the interview process and at every company where you work.

Send a Thank-you Letter or Phone Call

Sending a thank-you letter after a rejection to the decision-maker or the human resources representative can help you stand out from other job seekers. Keep the letter short and positive; thank them for their consideration and mention what impressed you about the company, the department or your discussion. Express your disappointment, but make sure to wish them success. Mention you'd like to stay in touch and ask them to keep you in mind for future openings.

If you decide to make a phone call instead, wait two to three days after you receive your letter to make your thank-you call. Jot down the points you want to make before your call. Try to call early in the morning or toward the end of the workday to have a better chance of reaching the contact. If you don't reach them, it's appropriate to leave a message on their voicemail.

Know the "Don'ts"

  • Don't let the rejection throw you off and halt your job search. Review your resume, cover letter and other paperwork, and think about your interviews and other contact you had with the organization. If you discover areas you should improve, work on those.
  • Don't burn bridges by calling and asking too many questions about why you didn't get the job. If you developed a good rapport with the hiring manager or human resources representative, you may call to request a phone or in-person meeting for feedback. Realize they are busy and often can't discuss why you weren't chosen. Be grateful for their time and feedback.
  • Don't speak negatively about the organization or the people you interviewed with to friends, family or on social media. Stay positive about your experience.

Try to avoid frustration and disappointment when you don't get a job offer and focus on taking the right steps to open the door to a future position. Take any feedback you receive as a learning opportunity to make yourself a better-prepared candidate for future interviews. Remember, even if you had a stellar interview, another candidate may be more qualified, made a better connection or had a personal recommendation for the position.

For additional information on interviewing skills, review the Job Search section of the Employment Readiness lifecycle stage of MySECO. Consider visiting your installation employment readiness office to practice interviewing with a counselor or call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach about any additional questions you might have with your job search.

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