How to Challenge a Job Rejection and Come Out on Top

You thought your skill set was a perfect match for the job requirements. You thought you effectively conveyed your qualifications during the job interview. And yet you open your inbox to find a rejection letter from a job you really, really wanted.

On the surface, that rejection seems like a mistake. Should you ask the hiring manager to reconsider their decision? And if so, what’s the best way to go about it?

How you respond to rejection may lead an employer to reconsider you for the same position or another role. Here are some appropriate (and professional) ways to ask an employer to reconsider a rejection.

Get Out in Front

The best strategy for dealing with rejection is to keep it from happening in the first place, explained David Perry, managing partner of executive search and recruiting firm Perry-Martel International and author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters.”

If you think the interview went badly or that you didn’t get the chance to emphasize your most valuable experiences and skills, don’t wait—address the issues head on. Clarify and expand upon those points in your thank-you email, Perry continued.

For instance, after expressing thanks and your interest in the position, say something like: “While I believe that my experience and knowledge of multiple back-end languages, databases and web security relate well to the requirements for a Python Full Stack Developer, I wanted to further explain my experience working with microservices and advanced testing methods.” Follow that with a (brief) description of the relevant skills and experience.

Pick Your Battles

If the worst happens and you’re turned down, the key to making an effective appeal is to find out why you were passed over for the job.

“Pick your battles,” advised Biron Clark, former tech recruiter and founder of Career Sidekick. For instance, if you were rejected for subjective reasons like the manager didn’t think you were a cultural fit or that your style or work ethic wouldn’t mesh with the team, your chances of winning an appeal are slim.

Also, you don’t want to go back to the hiring manager with a list of 10 things you failed to explain in the interview, Clark added. Pick one or two points that can be refuted with facts to make your case.

State Your Case for Reconsideration

Begin your letter, email or phone call with an honest and sincere message about your disappointment in not being selected for the job:

“I was disappointed to learn I wasn’t selected for this position. Based on the job description, I felt that I met the major requirements and would complement the team and development environment.”

Then, if you think the hiring manager or recruiter truly misunderstood your qualifications, value or goals, use a phrase like:

“I wanted to make sure that my direct experience with microservices architecture wasn’t overlooked, since I do possess that experience.”

Then expand:

“In my recent role with [ABC Company], I was responsible for deploying microservices and was one of the key people involved in helping the team achieve improved productivity, increased scalability, faster deployment as well as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).”

If you were rejected for something like being overqualified (meaning the hiring manager fears that the job won’t be challenging enough for someone of your caliber), try this approach:

“Your letter indicated your concern that I’m overqualified for a junior developer position. I recently completed an introductory A.I. course and want to work for a forward-thinking company like [ABC] with an in-house capacity building program. I can assure you that my advanced skillset and drive will allow me to exceed your productivity standards and still be ready to take on A.I. projects within three to four months, delivering additional value to the organization.”

Think about your communication strengths and who you are appealing to. For instance, if you need to explain technical qualifications to someone in HR, it’s probably best to request an appointment for a phone or video meeting. Alternatively, if you’ve developed a relationship with the hiring manager, you may want to schedule a conversation to figure out what’s getting in the way and how you can work around it.

Make the Ask

Once you’ve made your case for why you’re the ideal candidate, it’s time to ask for reconsideration. Keep in mind that the company may have offered the job to someone else, so your request should give the company some latitude to consider you for a similar role, perhaps with a different hiring manager. For example, after respectfully requesting that they reconsider you for the position, briefly summarize your reasoning and ask to be considered for other roles, as well.

Stay Connected

Ultimately, your goal is to gauge the hiring manager’s interest and build a reason to stay in touch with them. How you respond to rejection can move you to the top of the list the next time around. “The reality is that a job rejection doesn’t mean ‘no,’ it just means ‘not today,’” Perry noted.

3 Responses to “How to Challenge a Job Rejection and Come Out on Top”

  1. Wayne McKinney

    In my experience, the only explanation (rarely happens) that I might ever get as to why I wasn’t hired was that I’m “overqualified”. I understand what the article said about responding to that, but if a potential employer actually does tell you “why” you weren’t hired, wouldn’t that expose them to possible lawsuits?

    What I get all too often is that I’m “ghosted” by the recruiter or the hiring manager. If I get an “I’m sorry, but we decided to go with someone else” response, that still doesn’t tell me the reason I wasn’t chosen. If I don’t know the reason, how can I mount an effective argument that might put me in line for a position later.

    Companies seem so phobic over possible lawsuits that vagueness is the best way to go – thus you never know where you went wrong. Again, i understand and agree with what the author of this article says, but not having knowledge of “why” I wasn’t chosen makes any counter-argument extremely difficult to do.

    • Leslie Stevens-Huffman


      I agree that getting feedback from a hiring manager or in-house recruiter can be difficult, but it never hurts to ask.

      The good news is there has been a movement to educate employers and show them how communication throughout the hiring process – including post-interview feedback – can improve the candidate experience and give them a competitive edge.

      As a job seeker, you can encourage feedback by asking after every round. For instance, after a phone screen or first interview ask, “Based on our conversation, how do you think my skills and experience match what’s needed for the job?” Or “Is there anything I should focus on for the next interview or do to improve my interviewing technique?”

      Here are some tips for asking for feedback after a job rejection.
      Good luck!

  2. So let me get this straight –
    You think, that me going back and trying to reason with a bunch of people who:
    1. Have no interview skills to give an interview
    2. Have no management skills to make a reasonable decision
    3. Have no relationship skills to know how to treat people during an interview
    4. Have no social skills to have a conversation in the first place

    And you honestly think there’s a second chance or even a way in? There is no way to challenge a job rejection and “come out on top”. HA!

    Most of these places that have these interviews can’t keep talent because the workplace is such a disaster and total dump, nobody wants to stay there. Management is a total wreck, the people that work there are angry, unhappy and are so clueless to how to interview someone, that they’re clueless on how to do their job in the first place. It amazes me how these people climb the ladder in the first place.

    Generally, they don’t want someone who’s smart, articulate, and nice to work with, because then that makes them look bad. Management doesn’t want them either because it’ll expose how bad they run the business. If you want to get the job, you need to:
    1. Act stupid (or spelled stupidd if you really want the job)
    2. Remove all certifications and college from your resume.
    3. Remove most skills from your resume.
    4. Backstab everyone during the interview.
    5. Show you can be part of their “click”, just like in middle school and high school.

    If you think this is a joke, this is the real world. You’d be surprised on how true this is.

    Even Wayne (above) said, his main excuse is that he’s over-qualified. I get that excuse too. You have to start with #1 listed above. But seriously, there’s been talk about removing all bonus points from your resume. They literally, don’t want smart people working at these companies. It’s just like being bullied at high school. They are too afraid. They can’t humble themselves by having someone that works there that’s better than them, from the little computer people at the bottom to the management and tarnished brass at the top.