How to Respond to Negative Communication After a Job Interview

Maybe you generally consider “the glass” to be half-empty or half-full. After you've had a job interview, your attention may turn to “the door,” which can remain partially open or mostly closed. The choice is yours, but there are good reasons to remain as gracious and appreciative as possible – even if you've heard negative feedback from the interview. Keeping the door open may be easier for you if you regard the feedback as a networking opportunity – a glass-half-full attitude if there ever was one.

Why It Pays to Get Feedback

If you believe that every interaction reflects on you personally and professionally, responding even to a job rejection should trigger your best manners and most polite tendencies. Elevating the feedback to a networking session with the employer could benefit you in several different scenarios, Indeed explains:

  • The person who was hired decides not to take the position, leaving an opening that could be offered to you.
  • The person who was hired stays on the job only a short time, leaving a vacancy you could fill.
  • The employer has an upcoming opening for which you are qualified and reaches out to you to see if you're interested.

Admittedly, these are best-case scenarios, and they're unlikely to occur after you receive a standard rejection email after an interview. Though professional, these types of letters are intentionally vague, informing a candidate that the company is moving in a different direction or proceeding with candidates whose qualifications more closely match the job description. If you stand any chance of understanding why you were turned down for a job, you have to call the hiring manager and ask.

Gather Interview Feedback Like a Pro

If you're intimidated, give the feeling time to pass. Wait until you're calm to make the phone call, but don't wait too long. Job placement experts recommend following up on the rejection letter within 24 hours so that the memory of you and your interview is still fresh in the hiring manager's mind. Indeed recommends following a series of common-sense steps to guide you to a successful conversation:

  • Thank the hiring manager for taking your phone call.
  • Reiterate your gratitude for having the interview.
  • Express some disappointment over not getting the job (if you want to), but explain that you're calling to learn from the experience. Say that you would appreciate some feedback that would help you in future interviews.

Since the hiring manager may be hesitant to share an honest opinion, all you can do is assure them politely that you're interested in any insights they could share. Being upbeat and friendly might be the final push the hiring manager needs to hear from you. Such a tone should convey that you are mature and sensible and aren't upset about being turned down for the job, Career Addict says. Your pitch could be as simple.


I was calling to thank you for an interesting, informative interview. I enjoyed learning about your company. Although I could see myself in the position I interviewed for, I would appreciate any feedback you could share with me that could help me in the future.

How to Respond to Negative Feedback

Once you're sure you're being sincere, polite and positive, there's probably little else you can do to elicit feedback from the hiring manager – besides crossing your fingers. Employers typically don't behave like open books; they don't tell candidates all the reasons why they were bypassed for a job.

They're more likely to say something obtuse like, “We found someone who presented a better fit.” Moreover, if they detected something in your personality or attitude, or something that signaled a cultural clash, you'll probably never know their rationale for selecting someone else, Express to Impress says. Employers tend to avoid such awkward topics.

In all cases, your response should be nearly automatic: You should be gracious and appreciative of the hiring manager's time. If the manager suggests that you keep an eye on the company's job postings, by all means, take the hint. Remember that this conversation is a networking opportunity, and the manager has just left the door open for you. By now, you've had another chance to make a positive impression – more than you would have had without making the follow-up phone call.

Just be sure to maintain a glass-half-full attitude. Yes, the employer has turned you down for one position, but now you're a known entity who has conducted yourself superbly. A second round of interviews with the company could be exactly what you need to walk through the company's front door as an employee.