How to Respond to a Job Rejection E-mail

How do you send a thank-you note when all you feel is anger?

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Suzanne Lucas

Just about an hour or two ago, I received a rejection E-mail for a job I was very excited about. The entire process lasted a month (maybe a little longer) and I had felt I performed very strongly during my interview, test, and phone screen. I'm very disheartened right now and after a month of riding a high, the crash I'm experiencing now is difficult to deal with. Part of me is in shock (because I felt I had done very well in the interview), the other half is utterly depressed. What makes this all the more distressing is I'm chasing a dream -- in an industry (video games) that's extremely hard to break into. I have a Master's degree in English and had passed up a handful of good opportunities to chase this dream by taking a foot-in-the-door, one-year contract job at $12/hr and no benefits and it seems my sacrifice isn't paying dividends.

I'm feeling very frustrated and angry, and I have no idea how to respond to this E-mail. I know the decision to pass on me wasn't the HR person's call, but it's hard for me to write back a 'thank you' letter right now. How would you suggest I approach the task of responding to a rejection e-mail?

Ah, another person with an English Degree. Not to stomp on you even more, but in grad school I shared a house with three English PhD students. One, when she applied to a particular school, received a letter that said, essentially, "If you are applying because you want to enrich yourself, great. If you are applying because you want a job, you should know that you won't get one." Ha! Ha! Ha! OK, not so funny. But the reason I tell you this is because if you, with an MA in English, are passing up opportunities, you must be a strong candidate in many areas.

So take a deep breath. It's not personal. It's business. I don't know why they didn't hire you, and quite frankly, neither do you. This doesn't make the rejection any easier, of course. It just puts it in perspective. There are a million and one reasons not to hire someone, especially in a hard-to-crack industry.

But, this doesn't answer your question. First of all, do not whine about how you were a great candidate and you just can't understand why they were so stupid as to have rejected you! This will not win you any points. Second, a nice E-mail saying, "I really enjoyed working with you on this position and I hope we cross paths again," is all you need to send to the recruiter. Since the process was long, and you feel you did well, there is a possibility that your name will come up again.

But if your name comes up again, it's more likely to come up from the hiring manager than from the recruiter. And that's where you need to focus your efforts. If you are not ready to forget about this particular industry (and I can't judge whether or not you should from here), it's that relationship that will matter. Send a thank you note to the hiring manager. Thank her for her time. If you are both attending a conference, invite her to lunch. (And yes, you should pay.) In order to get a job, you need to network. You need to build bridges with people who have the potential to hire you. Just because you didn't get this job, doesn't mean there isn't another that will open up in a year or two.

And yes, I said year or two. Jobs that are hard to get are hard to get. Only you can decide if the continued sacrifices are worth the expected payout. If it is, keep on plowing. Build relationships. Attend conferences. And if you do get the job, please make nice video games with no bad words, naked people, or heads being blown up. We HR types are sensitive.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resources Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.

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