Unless the rejection email explicitly says ‘we are unable to provide feedback’, you have nothing to lose by asking.
Many candidates don’t ask for feedback after a job rejection – and no wonder. Who wants to be told why they weren’t right for the job? But asking for candid thoughts on how you could improve for other recruitment processes could make all the difference to your chances of being offered a job in the future. The key is to focus your questions on what you can do better the next time around, not what happened in the past.
This article explains how to ask for feedback after an unsuccessful application or interview; our article on coping with rejection covers how you can act upon this feedback after you have received it.
Some large graduate employers only offer feedback to those who have reached the final stages of the recruitment process, such as an interview or assessment centre. The large volume of applications they receive may make it impossible for them to give individual feedback to every unsuccessful candidate.
Other recruiters that have online application forms and/or online tests might use their technology to provide you with the results of your tests. Or an employer might indicate which broad aspect of the process you could improve on (for example, that while you demonstrated a good range of the required competencies, you did not demonstrate a strong motivation for applying or understanding of the role) but be unable to go through your application line by line with you. However, every employer is different so, unless the rejection email explicitly says ‘we are unable to provide feedback’, you have nothing to lose by asking.
While some recruiters may choose to phone unsuccessful candidates, it’s more usual to be rejected from a job via email, even if you have reached the final stages. Some recruiters will give you feedback immediately after saying you have been unsuccessful, while others will state that they are happy to talk through your performance – you should take them up on this. They may give you the chance to book a call rather than sending the feedback over email.
If the rejection doesn’t mention the possibility of feedback, it’s still worth requesting it by emailing the recruiter or interviewer. Don’t expect feedback immediately as it may take a few days for the recruitment team to compile it for you; however, if you don’t hear from them after a week or so, follow up with a phone call. If you still don’t hear anything after that, it’s best to cut your losses and assume that the employer is not able to provide feedback.
How to ask an interviewer for feedback – email sample:
Subject line: Interview feedback request – [your name]
Dear [recruiter’s name],
Thank you for considering me for the role of [job title]. I got to [stage] in the recruitment process and really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about [employer name]. I wonder if you would be able to provide any feedback on how I could improve for future applications.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to do this.
Listen carefully to the feedback and make notes if it is provided over the phone so that you can refer back to it in the future. Remember to say thank you for the feedback and, if appropriate, for the interview or assessment centre day as well.
Being rejected from a job doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong; it’s possible that the recruiters just thought that another candidate was a better fit for the job in a particular competency area on the day. If you’re still interested in the company, let them know, especially if the feedback was mostly positive and you built a good rapport with your interviewers. The employer may well keep your details on file and offer to contact you if a suitable position becomes available. This may seem like scant reward at the time, but it is never a good idea to close the door on possible future opportunities.
An employer may provide a reason that you find unsatisfying or even, on the face of it, unhelpful: that another candidate met their requirements more closely or that other candidates had more relevant experience, for example. If so, you can politely ask them in what ways other candidates better met their requirements or what kind of experience the candidates had – or you could ask them for their suggestions on how you could further develop and showcase your skills or gain more work experience. However, if they seem reluctant to give more detailed information, it’s best to accept whatever you've been told with good grace.
It’s possible that you’ll disagree with the feedback. Don’t challenge the recruiter or be defensive – they’ve already made the decision, whether or not you think it’s right, and their decision is not going to change. And don’t just dismiss their comments. Try to think about them objectively and imagine how the recruiter or interviewer could have come to those conclusions. See our article on coping with rejection for more on how to put the feedback you receive into practice.
However, if you believe that you have been discriminated against due to one or more of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, you can take the employer to a tribunal. The Acas service will tell you more about your rights.
Recruiters won’t always give feedback even if you ask them, particularly if you were rejected at an early stage of the process – but there are other sources of feedback available to you. You can reach out to your careers service, a recruitment agency or people in your network: for example, your professional and recruiter connections on LinkedIn. Save the job description and any work you completed for an application and note down some things you said during an interview, so that they can offer you a second opinion.
Even better, you can ask your careers service for a CV review or mock interview before you apply or attend an interview for a job; careers services also run employability workshops on different aspects of the recruitment processes. Taking up these opportunities will enable you to improve your performance before an employer sees it. You can also practise psychometric and aptitude tests and get feedback from your results with AssessmentDay.