How to Deal

Responding to the Dreaded Rejection Letter

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By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, July 31, 2008; 4:18 PM

I recently interviewed at a dream company. Unfortunately the next day I was turned down: "Although your credentials are impressive we have decided to continue our search." What does this mean? Typically I suck it up and move on, however this is a dream job at a dream organization and I really want this position or a lower position by which I can potentially move up in the organization. Is there anything I can do to engage this company once more? My immediate thoughts are to solicit feedback as to what would make me a stronger candidate and ask for consideration for other positions restating my desire to work there.

"Although your credentials are impressive we have decided to continue our search." Ah, the fine art of rejection. This deliberately ambiguous statement simply means that, for some reason that they are unable or unwilling to share, the company decided not to hire you. They could have met someone they liked better, who made a better impression on the interviewers. They might have found someone who has greater or more relevant education or experience, or they could have decided that your salary requirements are too high. From this statement, we simply cannot tell.

It is a waste of your time to try to analyze the rejection note. If you are determined to work there, I think that following up with a request for feedback is an excellent idea. Focus on interviewers who provided their business card and offered to be available for questions and those with whom you felt a special rapport. Ask not only about their view of why you were not the top choice for the job, but also whether they can think of any other jobs for which you would be well-suited. Also ask them how they got hired and what advice they have for someone, like you, who might be willing to accept a more junior role in order to make it into the organization. You might come across someone who really liked you and would be willing to get more information for you from the HR department. He or she might even be willing to meet you over coffee to talk about how to work your way into the company.

Some organizations follow a strict order of business when it comes to hiring. With only rare exceptions, they will only consider candidates who have come through established channels, for instance, their Web site or their recruiter. Others take more of a networking approach to hiring and allow for a broad range of entry points to the application process. And I have never heard of an organization that does not accept internal referrals from their own employees.

The trick is figuring out what type of organization you are dealing with and then planning your approach accordingly. Even as you are reaching out to your contacts, keep your eye on the company Web site and continue to apply for jobs. And make sure that your cover letter reflects your strong desire to work for this employer. I can tell you from personal experience as an internal recruiter that persistence pays, and so does loyalty. You will find that a company is more willing to invest in hiring someone who is dying to work for them than someone who might be easily lured away by a more attractive offer.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live. Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for more than 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail HRadvice@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.


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