Career

How to Ask Why You Didn’t Get the Job (With Email Samples)

We asked career experts to share some helpful tips and email samples on how to ask for feedback on why you did not get the job.

Here are their insights.

Kevin Huhn

Kevin Huhn

Author | Business Growth Strategist

“What was it about my experience and skillset that had you decide to go with another candidate?”

There comes a time in your job hunting when you just want to know why you were not selected for the position. You believe you were the ideal candidate. In your opinion, the job description was a perfect match. Yet you are not the candidate that gets to hear the words, “You’re hired!”

So how do you find out? How do you inquire? What do you even say that can get an answer to your burning question?

Over my 30 years in business working at Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses, I have found the fundamental answer to be clarity and a direct approach. As a hiring manager, I would appreciate it when someone would ask me what it was that had them not be selected.

It revealed a bit more about their character. I also got to see if they were truly interested and did not take applying to our position lightly. They were serious.

So what is it that got my attention and want to reveal the reason why? And what was it that got the hiring manager to want to share with me why I did not get the role?

There are two pieces:

  • the question
  • the timing when to ask

An ideal question should do a few things:

  • For the hiring manager
    • Let them know you are serious
    • Position you as the one that got away OR an ideal person to future considerations (even outside of the company)
    • Get you the answer to “why not you?”
    • Keep the door open and start a relationship for possible future opportunities to be considered

Before I give you a question that has worked for me, let me share the impact of why it is important to find out why not you.

On a few occasions, I had been shortlisted for positions in pro sports. I had a couple of interviews with the hiring manager. I shared all I could that would differentiate me from others. But in the end, I was not selected. I was puzzled. I could not understand.

So I reached out and asked, “Why not me?”

The result is why I am sharing this piece because what happened next was the most important thing you can do in business: Build relationships.

It is not what you know, but who you know that will make the difference.

On two occasions, the hiring managers spoke to other people about me. It led me to have them be my spokesperson. Why? Because they interviewed me, they did the homework, and now it was more about them showing their power to other people. Thinking a little guilty for not hiring me; they could be doing me a favor talking about me to others.

Do you see the next level of importance of asking, “why not you?”

Now, as I promised, here are a couple of questions that should help you:

  • “What was it about my experience and skillset that had you decide to go with another candidate?”
  • “What are 2 or 3 things that I need to work on and improve that would have you consider me in the future?”

What is important is: Do you truly want to know? Do you care enough to find out why you were not selected?

If you value yourself and the kind of work you do, then it would be in your best interest to ask.

And if you ask, I find it best to be upfront. The truth may be tough to hear, but if you can look beyond the truth and think about building relationships, you will strengthen yourself in the eyes of the hiring manager for the future.

Remember, they may not always be at that company. But they will most likely be in a position to hire or at the least know someone.

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson

Founder, MoneyNerd

I think it is key to highlight the importance of timing, format, formality, and structure of your request as the recruiter doesn’t feel as though they owe you any feedback. As a result, you must engage them with something they actually want to read.

Firstly, the timing. You should reply swiftly to your rejection email in order to catch the recruiter with their mind still on your application. Your email should then be polite with a level of formality but using a human and friendly tone rather than speaking from a template.

Sample email content

By this point, you should know the recruiter’s name or the person you interviewed with, so you can be personal, referring to specific occurrences within your recruitment process.

Introductory example

“Dear X,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview with you. I enjoyed the process, and I feel as though I learned a lot/gained a lot of experience.

I found your question/explanation/comment on Y interesting…”

The email’s content:

In terms of the content of the request, I think in order to get a reply you have to mention that you will be on the lookout for other opportunities within the company and ask if they have any advice or guidance not as to how you might improve but what you did well.

Again, be specific and emphasize points from your interview. Then you should feel free to provide feedback on the interview process if it’s positive, as again, this provides value for the company that may want your opinion to be promoted.

Content example

“Having experienced this interview process and gaining some insight into the company culture, I am even more motivated to continue to try and attain a role within this company.

I would be grateful if you could point in the direction of any upcoming openings. Also, if I could receive any feedback on my application, that would be fantastic as I could work on amending any flaws.

The interview section/question on Z was challenging, and I feel as though I could have produced a much better answer. Having completed the interview, I now understand what I could improve on, but it would be great to get your opinion.”

Summary/sign off

Then all you have to do is sign off, thank them for their time (make it personal) and say what a pleasure it was to meet them, and they hope they will be interviewing with the company in the future.

“I look forward to hearing back from you.”

It’s all about writing a polite, personal, and specific message to gauge their attention.

Marcus Clarke

Marcus Clarke

Founder, Searchant.co

There are times when we feel like we did well on a job interview, but we were still not able to get the job. As a lot goes on in the decision-making process, we are often curious why we weren’t selected. Employers typically won’t share feedback, but it will not hurt to ask.

Steps to professionally ask an employer why you didn’t get the job

Follow these steps to professionally ask an employer why you didn’t get the job.

1. Think over how the interview went

It sucks to admit that you did not do well, but help yourself grow and figure out what aspects you can improve. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you think you are qualified for the job, or you did not meet all of the requirements? Could you do something about it?
  • Were there any experiences or skills that you could’ve mentioned in the interview, but you forgot to bring up?
  • Did you answer the interview questions to the best of your ability?

2. Send a follow-up email and ask for feedback

It might be embarrassing to reach out to your interviewer, but swallowing your pride and asking him/her to give honest feedback could help you more than you think it would.

Use this as an opportunity to learn about your weaknesses and figure out a way to turn those weaknesses into strengths. It might leave a positive impression that may open a door with the company should there be a vacancy in the future.

Here’s an example email:

“Dear Ms./ Mr. Last Name,

Thank you for taking the time to interview me for the (insert job role). Although I was eager to have an opportunity for this position, I do appreciate you letting me know that I was not chosen for the position.

As I have great respect for your expertise and professionalism, I would appreciate the chance to get some feedback on why I wasn’t able to land the job. I wanted to know how I can improve upon my candidacy for employment.

Thank you for your time and for the opportunity.

Regards,
Your Name
Phone Number
Email Address”

3. Apply the feedback and improve yourself

Even if you might disagree with some of the feedback given, it’s important to take those things into consideration. Use this setback as an advantage, as this will be beneficial to you in your future applications.

4. Request to keep in touch for future opportunities

If you wish to work in the company and you think that you would fit for other opportunities, politely ask to keep in touch with the interviewer.

After months from your last interview, check-in with the interviewer for new positions available in the company. Tell him/her your qualifications and don’t forget to include new skills you’ve gained.

By doing this, you are letting the interviewer know that you are really determined to work for the company.

Roxi Bahar Hewertson

Roxi Hewertson

Organizational Development Expert | CEO, Highland Consulting Group, Inc. | Author, “Hire Right, Fire Right: A Leader’s Guide to Finding and Keeping Your Best People

“If you were me, what would you pay more attention to for a position like this one?”

Always thank them for their time and willingness to help you learn. Then choose something like this with the sole purpose of understanding what you could do differently in a job search.

There is no mileage in having an argument about why you think they made a mistake – in fact, doing that will guarantee you never get another interview with that organization for any job. The higher and smarter road is to focus on learning from the experience.

Every interview is a learning opportunity and when you don’t get a job – be grateful!

That means it wasn’t a good fit for you for any number of reasons, and you wouldn’t have been happy there anyway. Count your lucky stars because it would be a nightmare to be working where you were the last choice or just a warm body.

Far better to work where you are valued for all you bring to the table, warts and all.

In the spirit of self-improvement, self-awareness, and self-management – the following questions can jump-start a bigger conversation. For instance, you may learn that you were overqualified for this job, but in six months, a better fit job will be opening up, and they hope you’ll apply for that one.

It might be that they really had an internal promotion preference, and you were equally qualified to that person, so they hired within. You just never know what will come, but you won’t know anything unless you ask and then be open to hear the answer or even the non-answer.

Both will tell you more than you know right now. Never justify, argue about, or defend yourself in these conversations unless you want the door to shut hard behind you.

  • “Learning matters to me, particularly where I may have blind spots. I would appreciate knowing any blind spots you noticed in me that influenced your decision.”
  • “What do you believe I could and should do in the future to make me an ideal candidate for your organization?”
  • “What questions could I have asked you to help me understand better why I wasn’t the best candidate for this position?”
  • “What questions should I be asking you now to help me understand better why I wasn’t the best candidate for this position?”
  • “If you were me, what would you pay more attention to for a position like this one?”
  • “As I focus on my own development, what advice can you share that might help me focus in the right direction?”
  • “If this had been you applying for this position, what would you have done differently than I did?”

Damian Birkel

Damian Birkel

Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition

“What more could I have done to make my interview better?”

I’ve lost my job a number of times, and in all the times I asked, I only got one straight answer. When I have asked (other times), HR Managers have cited company policy, but their reluctance centers around legal concerns.

An effective way to request feedback is via phone or in person — never voice-mail or e-mail.

Position it this way:

“I really appreciate the ability to interview at the ABC Company. The position is such a great opportunity, and I was disappointed when another candidate was chosen.

For my personal growth, what more could I have done to make my interview better?”

Although it took two weeks to get back in touch with the pyramid head, she told me that although they were impressed with me and that I had a great series of interviews, that there was absolutely nothing I could’ve done to get the position.

That’s because she said someone who had worked for her before and gone to a competitor, saw the position, applied for the position and got the job.

She said to me, “We know all about this person and their potential because they worked for us before. We really don’t know you, so making the hiring decision was easy for us and is no reflection on you.”

I was still disappointed, but relieved to know the answer.

Tess Eby

Tess Eby

Managing Director, Avenica

“Would you mind giving me some details into why I wasn’t the best fit?”

After finishing an interview with a company, you expect to hear from them on whether or not you got the job after a couple of days; however, that doesn’t always happen. So the first tip that I will give is to reach out to the company contact or the hiring manager you interviewed with.

The thing that we hear most within the recruiting world is the extended periods of time before candidates hear back. Keep in mind that even though they are hiring for a role, that is not their only responsibility, and it is important to approach the situation with grace.

Now that you have someone that you can talk to about your interview feedback, the next question is, what do you say?

Listed below, you will find usual responses to why you didn’t get the job and some great professional ways to respond.

“We filled the role with a more qualified candidate.”

“Thank you for making me aware the role has been filled. Do you or the hiring manager have any feedback on how I can improve my interview for further opportunities?”

Never fully close the door with a company. It is also okay to let them know you still have an interest in the company and will continue to apply for roles you think you would be a great fit.

“We didn’t believe that you were the best fit for the role.”

“Thank you for following up and letting me know you are looking for a different candidate to fill your role. Would you mind giving me some details into why I wasn’t the best fit? I’d like to continue to improve for other similar roles I’ve been applying to.”

“We really loved meeting with you, and your background is great. It was a tough decision between you and another candidate, but we ultimately decided to go with the other candidate.”

“Thank you for taking the time to reach out and provide me with that information. I know that decision probably took a long time to land on. What was the deciding factor between us?”

The biggest thing to take away from the examples above is first to acknowledge that they reached out to you to let you know. As mentioned above, a lot of companies don’t take that time and especially don’t always go in-depth as to why they selected another candidate for the role.

You never want to fully disqualify yourself from the company. Just because you weren’t a fit for one role with them doesn’t mean you aren’t a fit for the company or a different team!

Michael AnnMarie Sherlock

Michael Sherlock

CEO, Shock Your Potential

“Would you be willing to give me advice on how I can improve my interviewing skills?”

The best example of someone requesting feedback from me came decades ago, in my first management position.

I was interviewing a candidate for an unpaid marketing internship. I interviewed about a dozen candidates — yet only one person, when given the news that she was not selected, asked for feedback. I will never forget it.

She called me directly but had been sent to my voicemail when I was on the other line. Although I do not remember verbatim, the following is how I recall it.

“Ms. Sherlock, this is Jane Smith.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview for the internship.

I appreciate that you called to tell me directly that I was not selected. After my initial disappointment, I realized I have a learning opportunity here, and I don’t want to waste it.

Would you be willing to have a call with me to give me advice on how I can improve my interviewing skills?”

She impressed me so much with this message.

I did really consider a top candidate, but the one I chose was too good to pass up. So good, in fact, that the unpaid intern soon became an employee, whom I trained to take my position when I moved on.

Still, “Jane Smith” stood out. A few weeks after this incident, I was at a networking meeting, and someone said they were looking for an intro marketing person. I wholeheartedly recommended “Jane,” who, instead of 6 months unpaid with my company, landed a full-time paying position weeks later.

What surprises me the most is that, from all the interviews I have conducted, I can only count on one hand the number of candidates who did this kind of follow-up.

Some don’t even reply when you turn them down. Yet nearly 30 years later, “Jane Smith” still dominates my standard of excellence.

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill

Finance Professional | Creator, Bizness Professionals

When it comes to job applications, you win some, and you lose some. The key is to keep moving forward when you are rejected.

Once you receive the email or call that you were not chosen for a position, the ship has sailed for that opportunity of employment. However, there is still value you can extract out of the situation.

Sure, you may not have been chosen for the position, but do you know why they didn’t choose you? If you did know why, do you think that information could be useful to you? I’d emphatically say yes!

On your quest to landing that dream job, you’ll interview for countless positions. Don’t be discouraged if you are receiving rejection letters. This is part of the process.

With each application and interview, you will gain experience and hone your skills. You can amplify and expedite your learning by asking each employer why you didn’t get the job. You would be surprised how willing people are to help others, especially those that go the extra mile to improve.

Imagine that you interview with a company and receive an email one week later that you were not selected to move forward. The person who sent that email was one of the current employees you interviewed with.

Asking why you didn’t get the job can be simplified into three steps:

  1. Kindly thank the interviewer for their consideration.
  2. Request to know why you weren’t chosen.
  3. Explain why you want to know.

Here is an example:

“Hi [Name],

Thank you for your consideration for the position. It was great to interview with you and your team.

May I please ask why I was not chosen or why someone else was chosen over me? This feedback will help me identify the areas I need to improve on to become a better professional.

Anything will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Warm regards,
[Your Name]”

I like to add the information in step three because it allows you to show the employer that you are a go-getter that wants to improve.

This could be enough to grab their attention and consider you for a different position in the future. Or, the employee may be moved enough to put in a recommendation for you with a different company. You never know!

To summarize, you will surely be rejected from a few job applications throughout your career. Find value in those rejections by asking the employer why you didn’t get the job. What they come back with can be insightful to help you improve.

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Former Executive Recruiter | Founder, CareerSidekick

Why employers are hesitant to give negative job interview feedback

Many employers fear discrimination lawsuits. To avoid any possible risk, their legal team and/or HR department create a policy of telling candidates, “Sorry, we chose someone who was a slightly better fit.” Or something to that effect.

However, in some cases, you can still convince a hiring manager or recruiter to give you a bit of helpful feedback if you ask in the right way, and not every company has a strict, no-feedback policy.

The best way to ask why you were turned down for a job is to position your request in an attempt to improve and get better in your job hunt.

Employers are wary of job seekers trying to convince them to change their mind (which isn’t going to happen if they’ve already made a final decision and informed you of their decision).

So if you make it clear that you’re not attempting to persuade them and that you’re simply trying to gather helpful information to improve your career, you’ll give yourself the best chance of receiving a meaningful reply.

Example email script of what to say

“Thank you for informing me of your decision. While it’s not what I was hoping to hear, I certainly understand.

I do have a quick question. I’m always looking for ways to improve my job search skills and also continue to build a skill set that’s attractive to employers.

Was there a key area where my experience, or the way I presented it in the interview, fell a bit short?

Anything you can share would be a big help as I look to keep improving in my career.

Thanks for your time,
Your Name”

If you use the approach above and make a personal appeal that the hiring manager or recruiter can relate to (we’ve all been rejected for jobs and felt the pain of not knowing why), you’ll get more meaningful feedback after job rejections.

Susan Norton

Susan Norton

Senior Director of Human Resources, LiveCareer

Show that you value feedback

As a hiring manager, I appreciate it when applicants are open to feedback and want to use it as an opportunity to learn. I’ll always say “yes” to a candidate’s request for feedback when I see that they’re genuinely interested in things that they lacked to get a job offer.

The key in formulating such a question lies in focusing on your skills and experience rather than external factors. As an applicant, you need to understand that we won’t be able to share with you why a different candidate got a job. It’s confidential information.

However, don’t be afraid to ask how you can improve and which skills you need to reapply for a similar position in the future. Such behavior shows us that you care about your professional development and have the courage to face constructive criticism.

Here is an example of an email you can write to a recruiter when asking why you didn’t get the job:

“Dear [Recruiter’s name],

Thank you for your email regarding the status of my application for the position of [job’s position] at [company’s name].

As I’m always looking for learning opportunities in my career, I’d love to hear your feedback on my application and interview skills. Would you be so kind as to share with me how I could improve?

Any suggestions you could share would help me to improve in my job search.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
[Your name]”

Akram Assaf

Akram Assaf

Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Bayt.com

Always be polite when asking for honest feedback

The number one rule here is to always be polite. Start by reflecting on your interview, acknowledging your mistakes, and getting over them. Your next step should be to write a follow-up message or an email, asking for honest feedback about your interview.

Tell them how you felt, tell them you’re fine with their decision, but ask them for honest feedback.

When you get your answers, reply kindly to their feedback and thank them for their time. This is your chance to reflect on what they say and to use it to improve yourself. Keep in mind that you can use this opportunity to build somewhat of a connection with the employer.

If everything goes well, you can try applying for the job again in a few weeks, months, or even years. Everyone will remember how kind you are, and you will be back stronger and smarter. It’s a win-win.

Keep it simple and don’t overcomplicate.

Another thing worth mentioning is simplicity. None of this should be or feel complicated. It is completely normal to ask why you got declined, so don’t stress too much about it.

This approach works for both sides, and it leaves an overall better impression. Introduce yourself, explain the situation, ask for honest feedback, and say thanks. That’s it.

Your goal with all of this is to get some feedback and ensure that you have another shot at this at some point in the future. Keep that in mind, and it will come to your naturally.

Benjamin Farber

Benjamin Farber

President, Bristol Associates, Inc.

Don’t ask “why,” instead, ask “how.”

Asking hiring authorities why they didn’t give you the position may come off too strong. Hiring authorities can feel apprehensive about answering this question, not wanting to be perceived as biased and have a lawsuit in their hands.

“How can I improve in case another opportunity arises?”

Instead, try posing the question as, “How can I improve in case another opportunity arises?”

That way, it gives you valuable information on what areas to work on when considered for a future job opportunity (i.e., cleaning up your resume, improving interviewing skills, etc.).

Don’t burn bridges; build them.

Not getting the job offer doesn’t necessarily mean that a future opportunity won’t be a good fit for your skills and expertise.

Connect with the hiring authority or recruiter on LinkedIn and form a professional connection with them. Even if you couldn’t get the job this time around, it’s still possible for them to keep you in mind for a relevant opportunity in the future.

Max Woolf

Max Woolf

Career Expert, ResumeLab

There only a few things in life that hurt as much as getting a rejection from a promising employer.

But if you find the strength to ask the company for feedback on why you didn’t get the job, you’ll get an invaluable insight into your core strengths and, most importantly, weaknesses.

That gained awareness in itself can propel your interviewing skills and potentially help you land a job further down the line. To ask why you didn’t get the job, you can follow a simple formula:

  1. Thank the interviewer for their time while keeping your tone upbeat and polite.
  2. Explain your motivation for getting in touch.
  3. Ask for feedback on your interview performance.

Below is a real-life example of how to ask for feedback after a less-than-stellar interview:

“Dear [recruiter’s first name],

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me for the position of [position name] at [company name]. While I’m disappointed you won’t move forward with my application, I wanted to ask if you have a spare minute to share any feedback you may have based on my performance at the job interview.

I strongly believe your feedback will help me pinpoint areas of improvement and generally provide some insight into my potential shortcomings as a candidate.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Best regards,
Max”

Rebeca Sena

Rebeca Sena

Architectural Marketing Consultant, Getpace.digital

Consider the recruiter’s perspective

It’s crucial to bear in mind that recruiters are often bound by company policies regulating how they should communicate and use their time.

Their talent sourcing processes might also be organized in a way not allowing for anything more than just a generic rejection email. If you notice such clauses present in the job listing, it may not be worth asking for feedback.

You would likely just receive a generic statement about better-suited candidates being found.

Share (positive) comments on the recruitment process

Reciprocity fosters more honest and insightful conversations. Complement your recruiter on speedy reply or well-crafted technical skills test. They will become more likely to provide feedback after that.

Accommodate subjective feedback

Expectations towards candidates may significantly vary across companies. Even if you nailed every interview for a similar role, it doesn’t guarantee that your skillset will be a perfect match for the next role.

Recruiters may reject you based on surprising criteria such as unsuitable personality or cognitive abilities test results, or even poor cultural fit. Don’t undermine their authority, but rather look for constructive feedback. Ask how you can improve your skills in that dimension.

Direct feedback conversation to areas of your interest

If you are aware that computational tests are your weakness, ask how you performed against other candidates. Learning whether you scored within the top 5% or bottom 50% can steer your future recruitment preparation in the right direction.

If your career history is not a typical one, you may also ask what other roles the recruiter would find suitable for you. In turn, you may get to participate in more suitable recruitment.

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