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How to Transform “No Thank You” Into A Productive Good-bye


There are times when “no” or “not interested” are positive words. If we contact a supplier and we find out that “no, we don’t owe money”, a “no” can sound lyrically poetic. If we are getting robo-called and the company finally understands that “do not call” means “not interested,” life is good and these words have served our purpose well. 

However, “no” or “not interested” are not our favorite words during a job search. Even if we decide that “this is not for me” and we don’t like the job, the team or the company, those words smart when we find out that the feeling is mutual.


Author: Julienne B. Ryan, Principal at J. Ryan Partners

Editor’s note: This article is part of the MyPurchasingCenter content archive. It was originally published in 2015 and appears here without revision.

However, a savvy candidate should view the “no” as an opportunity to continue to self-market and sustain a positive relationship with the organization or recruiter or anyone else they came in contact during the interview process.

Here a couple of suggestions on what you can do following a “no.”

Do a verbal or written “download,” preferably to yourself. Write notes to yourself about the recruiter’s lack of good judgement, the hiring manager’s team short sightedness. Don’t edit, don’t censor, but most of all don’t send or call. Next, delete and tear up what you wrote or recorded. Then check to make sure all your negative comments have been banished to your trash bin or your delete file. Follow up with a workout or something that allows you to reboot.

When you’ve completed those tasks, follow the guidance I’ve shared in sections below.  

Call the recruiter or manager and ask for feedback. There is an art and a science to accomplishing this step. First of all, don’t call the minute you hear that you have not been selected. Wait a day or two, so you can get some distance and perspective.

You may want to make this a two- step process. Call and leave a message saying thank you and indicate that you will be circling back to them for some input. Your tone and word choice put the person at ease. “I heard that the other dude got my job. Seriously?” will not garner the rapport you seek.

Instead, consider stating in a calm, sincere manner that you enjoyed your experience (hopefully this is true!) and that this will help you develop and aid your search. Ask “What skills or insights, would you have wanted to see more of?” or  “What skills you need to add to your technical or management toolkit at this stage?”

If you ask for feedback with a genuinely, positive tone, you will be surprised how much you can learn (i.e., communication style). Bear in mind that you may never get the complete story about why you weren’t the final candidate, but you will learn something of value even if the hiring manager chooses to address only your positive attributes.

Asking for feedback shows that you are not a poor loser and have not personalized the rejection. Remember the time-honored saying “You can judge a man’s (or woman’s) character by how they behave when things don’t go well.”

Your query will also show that your interest in this company is genuine and your application does not represent a “one off” situation. 

Why should I make this call at all? Why can’t I just write a thank you note and leave it at that? Recruiters and hiring managers are happy to refer positive candidates to other positions. While you were not the right person for this search, it doesn’t mean that they don’t consider you a good candidate for another opportunity.  In addition, you may have other skills that you didn’t emphasis during this interview process. Look at this as an opportunity to match yourself to other opportunities.

Recruiters want to make good matches and they will circle back to prior candidates when new opportunities present themselves. If you’ve presented yourself in a positive manner after receiving “bad news” they will make a note of it. Talk to any recruiter and they will tell you that they’ve not only recommended former candidates but they became advocates.

Offer to help the recruiter or the executive search person network by recommending candidates.  If you have received a “no thank you” early in the recruitment process, consider reaching out to the recruiter and forwarding referrals. At this point you might be thinking to yourself “Are you kidding me? You want me to help them find someone for the job that I want?”

Yes, I am. Not only will you set yourself apart from your competition, you will have established a positive networking relationship. People talk and people remember how you made them felt. 

Recruiters and hiring managers change jobs too. They also receive calls requesting candidate referrals. You never can tell where your next job referral is going to come from. 

So never underestimate the power of ending your recruitment experience on a high note!

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