Questions to Ask an Employer When They Don’t Hire You

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What are some questions to ask when a potential employer chooses not to move forward with the hiring process?

You’ve gone through the hiring process with a company you thought was a great fit, felt that you aced the interview, were timely in your correspondence with the hiring manager, and got along with the team members you met. But, while you expected a job offer, you were rejected instead. No doubt this is a discouraging outcome after all your hard work, but you can still put a spin on any rejection and learn from it.

If you’re ever in the unfortunate position where a company doesn’t move forward with hiring you, these eight business leaders and HR professionals suggest asking some of the following questions — and explain why they’re the best responses to rejection:

1. Were There Discrepancies in Your Application and Interview?

Ask if the company felt there was some level of discrepancy between your application and your in-person performance. Nervousness can be a big detractor in how you behave during an interview. This can make the credentials you put on an application look starkly different than what you bring to an interview. For example, if your application speaks to a history of public speaking, yet in your interview you come off as nervous and unable to maintain eye contact, it may make your recruiter think you were being disingenuous. By asking your potential employer about how they thought you appeared in your interview, you can improve your performance and overcome any nervous behaviors that you may not be aware of. This can be a big help in your future interviews.

Boye Fajinmi, Co-Founder & President, TheFutureParty

2. What Can You Do Better for the Future?

Rejection can be harsh, but there’s always a silver lining and an opportunity to grow. If you have the chance, ask the potential employer what you can do to make yourself a better candidate in the future. Not only will this offer valuable insight on how to improve, but it also lets them know that you are receptive to critique, which may keep the door open for another opportunity at the company if they feel you will take the initiative. Rejection can hurt, but find a way to learn something from it in order to better yourself for your next job interview.

Ann McFerran, CEO, Glamnetic

3. What Attributes Does Their Ideal Candidate Possess?

This is a key question that individuals should ask when they’ve been rejected by an employer. It can be difficult to not take rejection personally. This is why it’s important for candidates to perceive rejection as a professional learning experience. Rejection is a chance to gain insight on deficient areas where improvement would make you a more desirable candidate. If you weren’t right for the job, what are the skills and qualities of a person who is? This is a question that candidates should ask when they face rejection in the hiring process.

Liza Kirsh, Chief Marketing Officer, Dymapak

4. Are There Other Open Positions?

Inquire about any other available roles you may have a chance to fill at the same company. Just because you did not get one job, this is not to say that you wouldn’t be a good candidate for another one. Don’t assume that you don’t have a chance; after all, the employer may think that you’re only going for one kind of position. Furthermore, employers are often so busy dealing with other candidates that they don’t have time to consider rejected candidates for positions they didn’t apply outright for. It doesn’t hurt to find out if other options are available and open to you.

Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing & Communications, Carvaygo

5. Was There a Gap in Experience?

Ask if there were any areas in your experience that felt like a gap. You might discover that you need more experience in something you hadn’t thought of before. Of course, remember to open by thanking them for the opportunity. And know that, although you might be looking for more feedback, some questions could run the risk of going against the company’s HR policy or making you appear desperate. Ask the experience question, and accept the rejection gracefully.

Jeff Goodwin, Senior Director of Performance, Orgain

6. Could My Salary Requirements Be a Sticking Point?

If you’re already employed, there’s a good chance that you won’t want to take a pay cut to switch jobs. If the salary indicated on your application is higher than what the company had budgeted for the role, that could explain why they decided not to move forward. You might be able to negotiate if you’re willing to accept a lower salary, but it depends on the company and its hiring practices. In some cases, they may have found someone who was willing to take the position for less money.

Danielle Bedford, Head of Marketing, Coople

7. Was I Not a Fit for the Position, or the Culture?

Many employers will simply decline to honestly answer a question like, “What could I have done better?” or “Why wasn’t I hired?” Or they may not respond due to fear of counteraction and legal reasons. However, a more unexpected and enlightened line of questioning would be, “Did you feel I wasn’t a fit for the position or for the culture at large?” or “Do you think it would be a prudent use of my time to apply to future openings at your company?” These questions have a better chance at uncovering the nature of the decision — for instance, whether you were beat out by another qualified applicant or there was a difference in perceived working styles. Plus, these questions can show your interest in future openings and lay the foundation for future interviews.

Kate Duske, Editor in Chief, Escape Room Data

8. What Skills Can I Gain to Reapply in the Future?

It always grabs my attention when candidates I’ve rejected follow up with an email asking about specific skills or qualifications they could add in case they were to reapply in the future. I really like this approach because the candidate is not attempting to bully or change the hiring manager’s mind. Instead, it shows the hiring manager that the candidate is willing to be proactive and go above and beyond in order to improve their resume. It also shows that they’re serious about wanting to work for that specific company rather than simply treating it like any other job.

Alaina Ross, Co-Founder & Registered Nurse, Sleep Family

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