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The Right Questions to Ask a Recruiter if You Didn’t Get the Job

If you didn’t get the job you want, asking the right questions can help change your job search strategy. Here are tips for reaching out to the recruiter and questions to ask if you didn’t land the job.

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If you didn’t get the job you want, asking the right questions can help change your job search strategy. Here are tips for reaching out to the recruiter and questions to ask if you didn’t land the job.

Photo credit: DCStudio

Failing to get a job after a lengthy job interview process can be painful. You may be unclear as to why you were passed up. This lack of clarity can lead to repeating the same mistakes in subsequent interviews. But there’s hope if you ask for feedback on how you performed compared to the candidate that was chosen. Asking for feedback, however, can sometimes feel uncomfortable or awkward. In this article, you will learn the right questions to ask a recruiter if you weren’t selected for the job. These questions may help you identify areas to improve upon to perform better in the future.

Set up an appointment or phone call

The first step is to get over the initial disappointment. Then, you can reach out to the recruiter to find out why they passed on your application. Start by sending a quick email that says something along the lines of: 

"I'm glad that you had a chance to review my CV and I would really appreciate your feedback on my performance during the interview process."

If you don't get a response immediately, don't fret! Oftentimes, recruiters are so busy with other tasks that they may not be able to get back to you right away. You can follow up in about a week's time if you still haven't heard back.


Examples of questions to ask a recruiter

Once you hear back, set up a time for your phone call then start preparing for the conversation. In addition to asking general questions about what they were looking for in an ideal candidate and how they came to their decision, here are some of the right questions to ask.

1. What can I do to be a better candidate?

Being rejected for a job can be tough to handle, but you don’t have to leave it at that. You can use the interview process to your advantage and make more informed career decisions in the future. This gives you a chance to see what the hiring manager thought was the weakest part of your application and adjust accordingly for next time.

2. What made the person who got the job stand out?

You may be tempted to ask the recruiter why you weren't selected for the position. Though that's not a very effective question as it might only evoke a vague response. It's best to ask for constructive feedback on how the person who got the job stood out. This will help you know what you can do better.

3. How did the hiring manager perceive my qualifications and strengths? What about my weaknesses?

This gets at whether they felt that your technical skills weren’t up to par or if they just weren’t sure you were a good fit for the team. The answer may help you figure out whether it was a skills issue or a cultural misalignment.

If it was a skills issue, maybe you could provide some additional references who could testify to your technical expertise. It might also mean you need to take some courses or certifications. 

If it was about cultural fit, you’ll want to focus on finding a company where you could potentially work well with the people there; one where your personality meshes with theirs.

4. Where did I rank compared to other candidates?

If you're rejected after an interview, ask where you stood compared to other candidates and what they liked about your competitors. That can help you improve your interviewing skills and identify opportunities to improve your CV or cover letter.

You shouldn't expect a long explanation, but some recruiters will be willing to give you feedback. Some might point out obvious weaknesses like a lack of experience with specific software or skills relevant to the position.

5. Which of my answers were impressive during the interview?

Sometimes, people are so shaken up by rejection that they forget about the good things they did. When thinking about questions to ask your recruiter, consider asking what specifically impressed them about your answers during the interview process. There’s a good chance you’ll be reminded of some great things you said and did, which is helpful when you’re down on yourself. More importantly, you can double down on these strengths in the future.

6. What skills were missing from my application or interview that might have led to this decision?

One of the important questions to ask the recruiter is what skills were missing from your application or interview that might have led to this decision. The recruiter may be able to point out specific skills or qualities you could work on, which will make you a better candidate for future job opportunities with the organization.

7. How did my CV and cover letter stack up against other candidates’ materials?

This is one of the right questions to ask especially helpful if you had a phone screen with the recruiter before getting into interviews with hiring managers. The recruiter can give a better perspective of how your application ranked in comparison to other candidates because they saw all of them and interacted with all the candidates.


In conclusion

Receiving a rejection letter from an employer is never fun, but it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can be a valuable learning experience for you, with your next interview.

It also doesn't have to be the end of your relationship with that company. In fact, asking a few follow-up questions can strengthen your professional relationship with the recruiter or hiring manager and help in positioning yourself for future openings.

You may not get answers to all the questions in this article, but asking them will lead you down a path of self-discovery and improvement.

You'll also like: 10 less obvious reasons why you didn't get the job

Written by

Muna Egu

Muna Egu is a content marketer and conversion copywriter with a knack for helping B2B, SaaS, Fintech and B2C brands attract traffic and generate leads. He is deeply passionate about using the power of high-quality content and copywriting to light hearts on fire for brands.

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