How to stay on good terms with a recruiter when you didn’t get the job

4 tips to stay in touch with a recruiter after a refusal

Not getting a job you were after is never easy––especially if you invested a lot of time and effort into the application and then sweated your way through a number of interviews. It feels even worse if your hopes were high because you were one of a handful of candidates who made it through to the last round to get your dream job. Then there was the call from the HR manager telling you that they had chosen another applicant. After the initial disappointment, you’re now wondering how to respond and how to stay on good terms with the recruiter who turned you down. This is worth thinking about because––we can’t say it enough––professional life is full of surprises.


1. Deal with the rejection

You have the right to react: scream, cry, vent your frustration. Just remember it is best to do it in private. Don’t take it out on the recruiter, or you will surely regret it in future. Take some time to absorb the news. Remember that the fact that someone else was selected doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough.

Have you responded to other job offers and maybe scheduled some interviews? Don’t let any opportunities pass you by, focus on those.

2. Thank the recruiter for their time

An email, a letter, a phone call…however you do it, thank the recruiter for keeping you informed of your progress during the recruitment process. Show them you’re grateful for the time they’ve given you. This shows your maturity and you’ll be able to stay on good terms with them.

Tell them that you appreciated being able to get to know the company better and that you would be happy for them to keep your CV on file for other possible opportunities, either within the company or with their contacts.

If you want to, you can share your disappointment. This would be an opportunity to explain that you like the company and to assure the recruiter of your interest in case a similar position becomes available. Be careful to strike the right balance: you don’t want to come over as very intense or insistent.

So wish the company and the recruiter good luck for the future. Keep in mind that life will surprise you and you never know what might happen. In the near future:

  • A new position could open up or get created
  • Someone there could change companies and think of bringing you on to their new team
  • The competitor who won the employer’s favour might drop out at the last minute in favour of a juicier offer, or prove disappointing and not make it past the trial period.

In fact, more than one in five employees have left their new posts during their probation period, often because the role was “not as they had expected”. Another 12% have been dismissed during the trial period. There’s no lack of possibilities. Especially if you are on the recruiter’s short-list.

3. Follow up with the recruiter to find out why you weren’t chosen

Asking for feedback could turn out to be useful in the next steps of your job search. This might help you:

  • Analyse the recruitment process
  • Understand what’s important in the decision
  • Get advice
  • Find out what you need to do to improve

What wasn’t up to scratch? Was it your CV, the cover letter, or the interview itself? See this feedback as a professional development tool that will help you to understand why you were not chosen, to quell any self-doubt and to gain self-confidence. It will allow you to transform the feeling of failure into a learning experience. You will come off as a team player, always ready to learn, and happy to use rejection as an opportunity to better bounce back and make progress. This will leave the recruiter with a good impression of you.

And if you feel it necessary, this can be an opportunity to make sure that there hasn’t been a misunderstanding about your skills. You could try to argue or justify why you were not able to demonstrate your skills at the interview or on tests. However, do not request a new interview.

4. Stay in professional contact

Add the recruiter to your professional contacts. Don’t hesitate to add them on LinkedIn, for example. Especially if they’ve hinted that there could be other opportunities:

  • Other positions to be filled within the company
  • Other projects for which you should try your luck

Then send an email a little later on suggesting another meeting.

If the reason you weren’t selected is a lack of experience, it’s in your best interests to contact the recruiter again to apply once more after you’ve acquired the skills that you lack. In the meantime, keep in touch with the company and the people you dealt with there. Continue to follow their news feeds. Show them that this shortcoming is largely made up for by your passion for the job.

Don’t give up, but if you’ve already contacted the recruiter several times without any response, there’s no point in insisting. Wait and see if a position becomes available in the future, and this time you might even be tempted to turn it down.

Kalin Linsberg

Photo: WTTJ

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Ingrid Dupichot

    Freelance Content Writer

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