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Rejected for a job? Find out why using these tactics

be strategic in your job search, strategic job search, learn why you were rejected for a job,
Determine why you might have been
rejected and resolve to overcome the
reason the next time.
Being rejected for a job hurts. And it’s confusing. You wonder why the company didn’t want you. And you worry that you are unknowingly doing something wrong that is causing you to lose out on opportunities.

The good news … if there is any good news in being rejected … is that you can often learn why you didn’t get the job and receive helpful advice from companies that didn’t hire you. Here’s how:

If you’ve been rejected at the resume stage ... 
You can often chalk it up to your resume not matching the keywords the company sought when it did a keyword search of submitted resumes.

For example, if you are an accountant, the company recruiter will type in words like “reconciliation,” “general ledger,” and “profit and loss statements” to see if they show up on your resume. If you used different words to explain the same duties or neglected to include the key words at all, your resume will likely be rejected before a human being ever really looks at it.

use Wordle.net to learn job keywords, determine job description keywords, job description key words, Wordle.net keywords,
Left: Job description text | Right: Resume text

Improve your chances: Use Wordle.net to compare keywords

  • Paste the job description text into the free Wordle.net template and print
  • Paste your resume into the template and print
  • Compare the two pictures. The biggest words in the job description word picture are the words the company used most often. This tells you that these words could very well be the words they will look for in your resume
  • Adjust your resume to better reflect the job description keywords
  • Include a skills summary near the top of your resume that includes relevant keywords (including the same key words used elsewhere in your resume)
summary section of resume, resume summary section, add keyword summary to resume, add key word summary to resume,
Add a skills summary to your resume.

Here’s another big reason you may have been rejected at the resume stage:
You may have way more experience than the job description calls for … if that’s the case for you, take these steps to improve your chances:

  • For these lower positions, max out your experience to no more than 15 years on your resume (any more than that and you sound too old and expensive). You may event want to list less than 15 years of jobs.
  • Delete irrelevant past duties and even entire past jobs if they don’t relate to the position.
  • Explain in your cover letter (and on interviews) that you are only seeking a position where you can do exactly what they ask for and reinforce that you are not striving for a higher level job.
  • Add a bold statement near the top of your resume to reinforce that you are specifically qualified for the opening. For example, if applying for an accounting coordinator position at an international corporation, write:

Proven accounting coordinator experienced in
international corporations.

If you’ve been rejected after being interviewed, take these steps to figure out why:

Think through the interview. Did the interviewer dwell negatively on specific aspects of your experience or show excessive concern about how you answered certain questions? If so, you can pretty well figure that those were the reasons that you were rejected. For example, I can recall an interviewer who commented that it appeared as if I had had too many jobs over a relatively short period of time. Even though the rest of the interview went really well, I could tell my response to her questions on that topic … or even my attempt to follow up with an explanatory email … did not sway her away from her original concern.

Be honest with yourself. Were you really qualified for the job as well as a good match for the company and position? Interviewers can often see through such attempts. In these situations, accept that you weren’t really the best candidate and resolve to a) Apply for jobs more suitable for your experience and personality b) Improve yourself so you are fully qualified for the positions you want.

If you still can figure out why you were rejected …

Email the interviewer and ask for ways you can improve. Note that I say to send an email rather than call the person. Why? Calling can make the person unnecessarily uncomfortable and resistant to responding. Emailing allows them to respond to you when they have time to think through their responses and give you the most thorough input they can.

 Rejection message example:

I enjoyed meeting with you about your ABC position. While I’m disappointed I was not selected for the position, I want you to know that I am still very interested in working for XYZ should another opportunity arise.

OPTION 1: "I'd really appreciate knowing why I was not selected for the position. Would you mind sharing the reasons so that I can improve myself?"

OPTION 2: Could you please share with me ways that I can improve? I really appreciate your input.

Thank you again for the opportunity. Please keep me in mind if another position becomes available.


Not all people will respond, but some will and their answers can be very revealing and helpful. If they do respond and tell you things that are hard to hear, graciously thank them for their input and state that you will carefully consider what they have shared and make improvements as soon as possible.

DO NOT respond to their comments with arguments about why the company’s perceptions of you were wrong. Learn from the experience and vow to be more hirable in the future.

Other ways to improve your chances

  • Share your resume and cover letter with professionals or friends and ask for their input.
  • Conduct mock interviews so you can work out any kinks before they could count against you.
  • Take action on deficiencies and update your resume and cover letter to better impress hiring companies. As singer Joan Baez wrote, "Action is the antidote to despair." And taking strong, positive action can do another thing it can help you land a job or get a better one!

Have you tried without success to get feedback from a company? Or, do you have ideas for how to get valuable input from interviewers that could help other job seekers? Please share!


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  1. You could also very frankly ask. It's worth a shot.

  2. You could also very frankly ask. It's worth a shot.


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