Job rejection? Ask for feedback and optimize your CV and your cover letter.

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So, you applied for a job (or a few, or maybe many) but you were rejected. Use this to your advantage. Ask for feedback on your job rejections! Whether you’re newly graduated or have been on the job hunt for some time, you probably know about job rejections. Maybe you have even received a few yourself. But are you taking advantage of them? 

A job rejection (usually) means that someone has looked at your resume, read your cover letter, and considered these and you as a potential candidate. This person then has, for some reason or another, chosen that you were not the ideal candidate for him or his company. This might not even have been about you per se, but rather about another candidate – the right candidate? Find out how you can become the right candidate by asking for feedback on your job rejections.


job rejection feedback visual

Do I really have to ask for feedback on my job rejections?

Hint, the answer is “YES!”

According to the consulting firm Ballisager, over 90% of all applicants never reach out to a company and ask for feedback or reasoning for their rejection. As such, they miss out on a golden opportunity to optimize their professional profile, their resume and their cover letter. But how exactly do you ask someone for feedback when they rejected you?

Regard it as an important part of your job search

Understandably, it might be a soft spot to get rejected for a position you applied for. No one likes to feel less than or like all the energy spent on resumes and cover letters was a waste. But you have to remember that this is an important part of your job search. You will in all probability be rejected for positions. And this rejection could be based on your resume, your cover letter, a lack of relevant experience or competencies. To improve upon these, you need to know exactly what you are missing when compared to companies’ wishes or expectations. 

Following up on job rejections:

By now, you’ve hopefully been convinced that asking for feedback on your job rejections is an invaluable opportunity for the future of your job search and career. As such, I’ll share a few tips and tricks to exactly how you might go about actually asking for feedback. Down below, you will find a simple Dos and Don’ts list for asking for feedback on your job rejections.


Do’s and Don’ts: How to ask for feedback on your cover letter, your resume or your professional profile.

First and foremost, I would like to offer up a bit of a hard point. From a recruiter’s point of view, you are somewhat redundant as soon as you have been rejected. That is not to say that they wouldn’t be happy to talk with you or give you feedback, but rather that they have continued with their process and are now using all their resources and time on the candidate they actually hired. Because of this, you should do yourself, and them, a favor and be very cordial and concrete in your request for feedback. 

Don’t: Ask why you didn’t get the job.

The framing of this question is hard to relate to as a recruiter, and you will probably end up with an arbitrary answer copying your rejection mail word for word like “Dear X, thank you for your interest in the position for XX. We are sad to inform you that the position has been filled”. Now, worst-case scenario, this particular framing might even come off as bitter. Please, remember that you are looking for constructive feedback!

Do: Ask for concrete feedback.

Most people will happily give you feedback, if they have the time. So make it easier for them, and you, by asking for feedback for something specific and concrete. For example, you might ask what qualities or experiences they based their choice of candidate on. Or you might ask for concrete advice on your resume, your professional profile, your interview or your cover letter. 

Here are three examples of questions you can ask in your request for feedback:

  1. “What did you base your choice of candidate on?”
  2. “Are there any specific experiences or qualifications that you were particularly interested in during the recruitment process?”
  3. If you have had an interview with them, feel free to ask about the interview: “You met me at the job interview. Is there anything specific you can think of that I could improve upon?”

Don’t: Keep yourself from asking for feedback

Obviously, it isn’t a given that they have the time or the resources to find your specific resume or cover letter, but there is no harm in asking. Worst-case scenario is that you come off as ambitious and proactive, which is not a bad thing. You just need to realize that they might not even remember your resume or cover letter at all. In that case, have some other concrete questions prepared. Focus on their interest in the candidate they chose. 

Do: Focus on what they were specifically looking for.

It might not be that you were the wrong candidate. It might just be that someone else was the right one. The candidate they chose might have had:

specific technical competencies

– experience with particular digital programs

– other relevant experience

Use this information about their newly hired candidate to consider your own professional profile and resume. Maybe you can take a course and gain the same skills as their chosen candidate. Or maybe they had some experience written on your resume that you didn’t even realize was relevant. 


What you can do before receiving a job rejection:

What can you do proactively? Here is a little checklist with everything you need to have perfected before sending off your application:

CV: Make sure your resume is great

If you’re just starting out, look at our resume guide on CareerToGo. Here you’ll find templates for resumes and plenty of tips and tricks.

If you already have a resume, then check whether you have any of these 6 common mistakes! These simple mistakes can be the thing that keeps you from getting the job!

A strong cover letter

Make sure to write a very strong and motivated cover letter. Check out our guide here to make sure you don’t make any of the 4 most common mistakes in your cover letter. 


Key Takeaways on job rejections and feedback: 

Here is a short summary of why and how you should ask for feedback after a job rejection.

logoTake advantage of your job rejections to improve upon yourself – your resume, your cover letter and your professional profile.

logoReach out to the given company but be cordial and concrete. Be aware of the fact that they are busy, but will happily help.

logoAsk for concrete feedback.

logoAsk about their interest in the candidate they chose – what made this candidate the right candidate for them?

logoBe proactive. Before you send off your resume and cover letter, make sure each of these is adapted to the specific business and position. 

logoDon’t lose hope! Take advantage of your rejections and become a better candidate!