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How to ask why you didn't get the job

It’s a phone call or email we all dread: “Sorry, your application for the position at our company was not successful at this time.”

It’s never easy to hear that you didn’t get the job or apprenticeship you applied for.

And while we know that feeling of disappointment is very real, there is a silver lining. Hold your head high and use this as a learning opportunity: how can you use the setback to your advantage? The answer is by requesting feedback from the company on your application and interview. If you approach it in the right way, you’ll come away with lots of useful info that you can use in the future.

'Job rejections come with a silver lining. Use the opportunity to ask for feedback and develop your skills' 

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So here is our 5-step guide on how to ask why you didn’t get the job.

1. Think it over first

First things first. After your application or job interview, it’s important to take some time to reflect on why you may not have been given the position.

Ask yourself:

  • Did I meet all of the requirements (ie skills and experience) listed in the job posting?
  • Does my cover letter or CV need some work?
  • Did I answer the interview questions to the best of your ability?
  • Did I show enthusiasm for the company and the role?
  • If I could go back in time, what would I do differently?

2. Say thanks

Write a polite email saying thanks and ask why you didn't 
get the job — but using the right questions!

Once you’ve done some reflection on the interview and you’re ready to receive some constructive criticism, the first step is to send an email to the employer. You should already have the contact details of the person who arranged your interview, or who you sent your job application form to.

It’s very common for job applicants to request feedback – employers usually take this as a sign you’re interested and keen to improve on your abilities – so don’t be nervous. But it is very important to be polite. First of all, thank the employer for their time in reviewing your application or carrying out the interview. Say that you’re grateful for the opportunity to interview for the role. You could perhaps mention something specific you learned from the experience.

3. Ask for feedback

Once you’ve said thanks, you can then politely ask for feedback on your application. You should send an email requesting a short phone call with the employer. If they decide not to do a phone call, they might consider answering a few questions by email.

Here is a sample email you could adapt and send:

Subject: {Job role position}

Dear Ms/Mr LastName,

Thank you for taking the time to interview me for the {insert job role} position on {insert date}. I also appreciate you letting me know that I wasn't selected for this position.

While I'm disappointed I wasn't chosen, I would appreciate the chance to get some honest feedback as I am still very interested to work with you in the future. Would you be available for a brief telephone call to discuss how I could improve upon my candidacy for employment? Any detailed feedback you could share would be much appreciated and would help me improve in future interviews.

Again, thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

FirstName LastName

4. Make sure to ask the right questions

A common problem when it comes to how to ask why you didn’t get the job is that some employers will give vague feedback. Part of the reason for that is they don’t want to knock your confidence. Another reason is that some employers worry that you might take the feedback badly and become argumentative.

But unspecific advice won’t be very helpful for your future job hunting! So a good way to avoid that happening is by clearly stating your intentions (ie “I’d like the opportunity to develop my skills”) and then asking the right questions. For example:

  • Is there anything specific I can work on?
  • How could I come across better in future interviews?
  • Is there a particular soft skill I need to improve?
  • What area of my CV needs to be improved?
  • What was the thing I did best?
  • Were there any key qualifications for this role that were missing in my CV?
  • Did you conclude that my job references could have been stronger?
  • Do you have any tips on how I could have better researched your company before the interview?
  • Do you have any other suggestions for me?

5. Listen and apply the feedback

It’s important to listen carefully to the feedback, even if you might disagree with some of it. Again, be polite and enthusiastic to learn. While it is disappointing not to get the job, think about the setback as a process, a chance to learn and apply the advice in your future applications. Plus, asking for feedback can be seen as a good networking opportunity as you’ll make a good impression on the employer.

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