How To Ask Why You Didn’t Get The Job In 4 Easy Steps

By Maddie Lloyd
Feb. 2, 2021
Articles In Job Application Guide

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Interviewing can be rough. You’ve got to do background research on the company, prepare to answer the most common interview questions, and try to make a good first impression — all while under the stress of hoping you get the job.

Sometimes, we don’t always get the response we’re hoping for. When you get a rejection letter after an interview, it only adds insult to injury and makes the job hunting process just seem that much worse.

Here’s the deal:

Believe it or not, even though you didn’t get the job, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, this could be a great opportunity to learn what you’re doing wrong and to improve yourself.

Use the following steps to ask why you didn’t get hired and turn this bummer of a situation into a fantastic learning experience!


Step 1: Reflect on How the Interview Went

After a few days have gone by since you got the news of your rejection, take a few steps back and try to think about how the interview actually went. You’re going to have to be brutally honest with yourself, so get ready to admit that you’re not the greatest person ever.

Reflect on things like:

  • Were you actually the perfect fit for the position, or were you lacking major job requirements?

  • Was there a specific qualification that you didn’t have, and could you gain this qualification in the future?

  • What interview questions did you answer well, and which ones could you improve upon?

  • Were there experiences that you could have mentioned, but forgot to bring up?

  • Did you use proper interview etiquette, and did you come off as confident?

Yes, it sucks to admit to ourselves that we’re not perfect — but if you can find what your strengths and weaknesses are during interviews, you can help yourself improve and apply that knowledge to your future job prospects.

Step 2: Send a Follow-up Email

Now that you’ve come to terms with the fact that your interview didn’t go as perfectly as you once thought, it’s time to swallow your pride and reach out to the interviewer. It’s going to be painful, but you’ll be able to improve yourself as a candidate in the future, and it may open the door to more job opportunities.

Send a follow-up email to your interviewer about a week after you received the bad news. In your email, thank them for their time and the opportunity, acknowledge their decision to hire another candidate, and request that they reach out to you for future job openings.

By sending this email, you’re letting the employer know that you’re not holding any grudges against their company and that you’re still interested in working with them in the future — and that’s much better than telling them that they’re a big dumb jerk who doesn’t recognize a good thing when they see it.

Step 3: Ask the Interviewer for Feedback

When you send your follow-up email, make sure to include questions that will give the interview a chance to give you some feedback — but make sure to avoid asking direct questions “Why the heck didn’t you hire me?” It’s important to be strategic in this situation.

Some questions you can ask are:

  • “Are there any key qualifications for this position that I was lacking in my experience?”

  • “Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how I might improve my resume and cover letter.”

  • “Was there anything that came up during the interview that I could improve upon?”

  • “What was the one thing that I did the best during the interview?”

  • “Please let me know if there are any concerns or questions regarding my candidacy.”

Asking these kinds of questions lets interviewers know that you’re looking to learn more about why you didn’t get the job, without coming off as defensive or bitter. It’s important to know where you came up short during an interview so that you can address your interview mistakes and weaknesses.

Step 4: Request to Keep in Touch for Future Opportunities

If you have a particular interest in the company and you think you could be a great fit for other job opportunities, don’t be shy about asking to stay in touch with the recruiter.

A few months after your catastrophic interview has passed, send an email to your interviewer to check in and see if there are any new positions within the company available, while listing any new experiences or qualifications you’ve gained in the meantime.

Showing that you’re invested in working with the company and staying in touch with them will keep you fresh on their radar when new job openings arise and potentially land you a job in the future.

Example Emails Asking Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Let’s pull all our steps together and write the perfect “why didn’t I get the job” email. Show enthusiasm for the job, appreciation for being considered for the job, and your willingness to apply for any future opportunities.

It may not get you a different job offer right away, but you’ll be prepared for tough interview questions, resume/cover letter clean up, and more successful job applications overall moving forward.

  1. Example 1: Feedback Request

    Subject: Junior Copywriter Position,

    Dear Michael Scott,

    Thank you for taking the time to interview me for the Junior Copywriter position with Dunder Mifflin on January 1st, 2018. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the position, and I appreciate your informing me that I was not chosen for the position.

    As I have great respect for your professionalism and your expertise, I was wondering if I could possibly get some feedback on my interview performance, and discuss how I could improve my candidacy for employment in the future.

    If there are any key qualifications I am lacking, or if there is anything I can improve upon, I would welcome your input and advice. If there are any openings within your company in the future that you feel I would be better suited for, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss them with you.

    Again, thank you for your time and for the opportunity.


    Michael Scarn
    (555) 555-5555

  2. Example 2: Phone Call Request

    Subject: Joe Buck – Data Analyst applicant

    Dear Helen Carter,

    I’m writing to thank you for taking the time to consider me for the Data Analyst position. I enjoyed discussing the role and what makes XYZ Corp. special. While I was disappointed that I wasn’t selected for the position, I also want to thank you for letting me know so quickly.

    I respect your human resources expertise and knowledge of the hiring process and would like to ask which key job qualifications my professional background is missing. If you have time for a quick phone call, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss some ways I can improve my candidacy.

    Thank you again for considering me for the position.


    Joe Buck

  3. Example 3: Further Interest

    Subject: Dana Johnson – Marketing Position

    Dear Ms. Besby,

    I received your email informing me that I wasn’t selected for the Marketing Manager position. Thank you for sharing your decision with me promptly. I appreciated the chance to talk with you more about the role and your company’s exciting new marketing developments.

    Your professionalism spoke of great experience with the hiring process, so I was hoping to gain some insight into my interview performance. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you could give me in this regard.

    Additionally, if you feel my talents are better suited to another position at ABC Inc., I would be very interested to learn more. Please feel free to call or email me any time.

    Once more, thank you for taking the time to meet with me.

    With gratitude,

    Dana Johnson

One last thing – if the hiring manager or recruiter reaches out to you with feedback, you should thank them again for taking the time. They have no obligation to provide their input besides telling you that you didn’t get the job.

If you fail to respond to their feedback, they’re less likely to keep you on file for future job opportunities, so don’t leave this part out.

Response to Feedback Email

Dear Ms. Besby,

I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to provide such thoughtful feedback. I struggle with interviews, but your tip about slowing down and saying a little less is quite helpful. By reflecting on your advice, I think I can be a stronger candidate moving forward.

Thank you again for considering me for the Marketing Manager position. If any opportunities to work with your marketing team come up, I’d be delighted to apply.

All the best,

Dana Johnson

Final Thoughts

It sucks to hear that you were turned down for a job opportunity, particularly one that you were really excited about — but asking for advice or input is a great way to improve your interview skills and learn how to upgrade your candidacy.

Remember to acknowledge the company’s decision and not come off as bitter or defensive. If you show genuine interest, your interviewer will surely be happy to give you some guidance. Plus, if you keep in touch and really show that you’re interested in the company, you may open doors to future job opportunities.

Now that you know just what to say, ask for some feedback and discover how you can be a better candidate, and your future job prospects are in the bag!

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Articles In Job Application Guide
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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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