Catherine's Career Corner
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Turned down for that job you had your heart set on? Can it help to ask why, wonders Laura Marcus, or will that only make you feel worse? Application rejected: Is interview feedback helpful?

Job application rejected
Photograph: Getty/Janis Christie

It’s bad enough being turned down for a job you really wanted and for which you felt sure you were ideally suited. So how can you face asking why, when all you want to do is scream and yell at them for being such idiots for not seeing how wonderful you are?

It takes guts, I reckon, to ask an employer for feedback. Let’s face it, no matter how you dress it up – right job, wrong time, right person, wrong job – being rejected is a hateful, horrible, experience; one out of which it is impossible to get a good feeling. Or is it?

Surely asking for feedback, now that so many firms offer it, is the wise, mature thing to do? Companies are not obliged to give feedback so if your rejection letter offers it, I’d be inclined to take a deep breath and say, yes please. After all, you’ve already been turned down. What’s to lose?

I recently applied for a council job and when asked how I would build team spirit I gave what I thought was the required response. “Well, I wouldn’t go paintballing or on any other kind of outward-bound, corporate bonding exercise,” I huffed, continuing (I was on a roll now), “that isn’t what hard-pressed council tax payers want their money spent on, is it?”

I smiled smugly, sure I’d given the expected reply. I hadn’t. I later found out via feedback that paintballing, or similar, was exactly what I should have suggested. Plenty of offices love their little away-days and don’t take kindly to someone pointing out it’s a waste of money. My feedback lesson? Don’t knock the office world when you’re trying to join it!

Harder to take is being told you were perfect at interview, but that someone with more relevant experience got the job. This has happened several times now to me and other job hunters I know. When a job lists essential and desired attributes the chances are, in this market, that unless you tick all the desireds as well as essentials, someone else will. And they’ll get the job.

Even so, I still advise asking for feedback. It might set a marker against your name that you’re not one to passively accept rejection, but instead try to turn a negative into a positive. And that might help if you reapply sometime.

So, have you asked for feedback? And if you have, what’s the worst thing you were told? Did you regret asking – or did it determine you to one day prove them wrong?

Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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