What to do if you are rejected from a job after a recruiter reviews your resume…

So you applied to a job and a recruiter just reviewed your resume and you just recieved feedback via e-mail that you are not a fit.  Move onto the next job right?  Wrong!  If you don’t bother to find out what you were missing, then you’re bound to make the same mistake the next time you apply to a job.  The application process should not be a static process, but a dynamic one, where you are recieving feedback on why you were not a fit.  This is the only way to improve.  One of my professors,  John Sullivan used to tell us that criticism is the best way to make things better.  We’d do presentations in class and the other students would be rewarded for poking holes in our presentations.  Point is – Take some criticism and act differently next time.  If you keep applyingn for the same job and keep getting rejected, then you MUST do something differently!  The other potential benefit of asking is that there is the potential that you might actually be able to demonstrate to the recruiter something that wasn’t apparant on your resume as to why you are actually a fit!  I have had 1 extraordinary situation in my career where I had dispo’d a candidate and that candidate responded and fought his way to the top of the candidate resume pile and eventually got the job.  He had spent the last 6 years as a day trader and I immediately dismissed him, but I had failed to look more in depth and consider his very relevant experience he had in previous years. 

There are a couple key pointers that you need to follow though, in order to successfully get feedback. 

  1. Evaluate whether the position you applied for is REALLY a fit on the surface.  One way to very easily determine this is to carefully look at the 1st 3 bullet points and see if you match those requirements exactly word for word.  Did you just apply to fulfill your unemployment benefits quota?  Or did you do some careful research on the company, products/services, history, culture, etc before determining that the position was actually a good fit?  See my prevous posts on concentrating on a core group of 10-12 jobs that you are really interested in vs spamming your resume to 300 different jobs.  If you really did your research, the jobs that you applied for should indeed be a good fit.  If it is indeed a great fit, then you need to use the following guidelines to get feedback from the recruiter or company that you were working with. 
  2. ASK!  You won’t get feedback unless you ask for it.  Most job applications will send you an automated e-mail after your application.  Then a recruiter will review that resume/application and if it is not a fit, they will do what is called “disposition” you.  That is basically a fancy word to say put you in the reject pile.  When they disposition you, typically some time of automated e-mail is generated that will be sent to that candidate.  Sometimes it will be a very plain vanilla “Thanks, but no thanks”.  Sometimes it might be specific and more tactful about why you were rejected on a high level.  However VERY RARELY will you recieve a customized explanation as to why your specific application was not a fit.  There are some exceptions to this.  ie: If you were referred by an internal employee, those are many times handled with the utmost care and recruiters strive to provide referrals with a positive candidate experience whether they are a fit or not.  At Novotus, for our clients, we make it a point to personally call everyone who is referred for a position.  But even if you were referred, most companies don’t have a formal way to track employee referrals, so you might not even get any response via that route.  So, you MUST ASK for feedback!
  3. Ask nicely!  There are very few things that annoy me more than someone who takes their job searching frusterations out on me, just because I sent them a “Thanks but no thanks” e-mail.  If I had the time, I’d call each candidate back, but since the Account Coordinator job just got 160 applications in the last week, that’s not possible!  On the flip side, yes sometimes recruiters make mistakes.  Sometimes it is not apparant when we read a resume that you might actually be a fit for the position you just applied for, so it might take some persuasion on your part to convince us of that.  That’s why the best way to engage a recruiter in a conversation is to ASK, and ask nicely.  Notice I didn’t tell you to tell.  The recruiter is in the drivers seat on this one and telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that they’re wrong is essentially telling them that they are incompetent.  Notice that in both my fake response letter and the actual response letter the approach is quite passive vs reactive.  The e-mails start by THANKING the recruiter vs going into a tirade about how I must be incompetent!  Even though the recruiter might be dead wrong, they are still in the drivers seat and are the gateway to getting you considered for the opportunity.  (Unless the candidate is really agressive and bypasses the recruiter directly to the hiring manager).  You need to get the recruiter on your side first before you’ll get anywhere. 
  4. Explain to me why you are a fit.  Many applicant tracking systems will not allow you to submit a cover letter along with your resume so when you have a captive audience with a real live recruiter, that is your chance to say what you couldn’t during the application process, which is so many times a faceless, technology driven process.  So if I’m wrong, tell me why.  If you find yourself having to explain to recruiters constantly why you are a fit for a certain job, perhaps your resume is not a doing a good job of relaying that experience.  See previous blogs for tailoring your resume to the job description. 
  5. Call.  Another effective way to get feedback is to call.  If you manage to get a recruiter on the phone, they will have no choice but to look at your resume and provide a reason to you, as to why you are not a fit.  Again, you need to be prepared to hear the truth.  And if you are not a fit, you need to accept the truth then and there.  You may not move forward with that particular position, but you’ve gained valuable knowledge that will help you in your job search.  As a recruiter, providing this feedback and taking time out to provide this information to candidates does not really add any value to our jobs.  It is for the most part something that we will choose to do as a favor to candidates who ask nicely and have a compelling business case as to why he/she deserves a second look.  To be quite honest, many candidates ask me for further clarifying feedback but I probably answer 1/10 of those e-mails simply because 1) the e-mail is rude or 2) the candidate doesn’t give me any reason to take a 2nd look (supporting evidence) as to why they should be re-considered.  If the candidate doesn’t bother to do any work and is simply “curious”, they’re not going to get a response from me.   

Here are 2 examples of response to “disposition” emails.  the 1st one is an actual e-mail chain between me and a candidate I hired about 6 months ago.  The 2nd is just a generic template that might work for you.  Of course it depends on the position and in some regards, your personalilty, but even if you are a blunt type who gets offended easily over being rejected by a job, you will definitely need to tune that down if you are going to get a response from a recruiter.




Thanks very much for your response.  I think it’d definitely be worth chatting about, as I did overlook some of the content of your resume during a quick resume screen.  Let me know when you’d be available or contact my recruiting coordinator, Michelle Stark at 512-904-1020 or mstark@novotus.com to set up some time to speak with me. 


—– Original Message —-

Johnny –

Thanks so much for your response to my application for West Coast Sales Representative.

Perhaps my resume did not sufficiently highlight the time I spent selling enterprise-wide deals into the Life Sciences industry.  With Consensys Software, I spearheaded the company’s shift to focus, personally selling 16 enterprise-wide PDM deals in the process.  It was during this time that I became quite familiar with the government regulations overseeing the development and production of medical products (although previous experience selling to government agencies and to the medical community with Nuclear Data and Anatel helped).  With CA’s ERP division, I participated, as overseer or sales lead, in numerous ERP sales into the Life Sciences arena, including ICN Pharmaceuticals, Bio-Rad, Baxter, Abbott, Imatron and others.  Most of those deals put me in the position of key negotiator for pricing and terms.


For your convenience, I’ve attached a copy of my resume.  Please let me know if this information might be helpful to your process.







—– Original Message —-
From: Johnny Chang <jchang@novotus.com>
To: rmXXXXXk@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 10:08:34 AM
Subject: Feedback from Novotus…




Novotus is committed to placing candidates in positions that are perfectly suited for their skill sets. While your talents may be vital for other positions that will likely become available soon, the West Coast Sales Representative position you recently applied for requires experience selling enterprise deals into the Life Sciences industry.=

Keep in mind that things happen fast here at Novotus, and the relationships and trust we enjoy with our clients works in your favor. By keeping our “Talent Acquisition” process streamlined, we are able to keep our fees low and provide our clients with top-notch, pre-qualified candidates at an incredibly fast rate.

We will continue to notify you as new opportunities become available. Please continue to visit www.novotus.com and apply for jobs that match your particular skill set.

Thank you for trusting Novotus with your job search. We pride ourselves in our service to you! Please feel free to contact our chat operators at any time if we can provide you with any assistance.



Johnny Chang

Senior Recruiter

6500 River Place Blvd, Bldg 1 Suite 250, Austin, TX 78730

[w] 512.904.1011 – [m] 512.470.9990 – [f] 866.540.1074


Generic “Follow up to Disposition” E-mail Template:

Hey <Insert Recruiter Name>,

Thank you very much for the feedback.  It’s refreshing in this day in age to actually get feedback from a real live person!

I was really interested in the <Job title> position with your company and thought that it was a great fit.  The requirements state that you all were looking for someone with <requirements A, B, C>.  I have <match requirement A, B, C>.  (BE SPECIFIC and if you have a hard time specifically matching the requirements to your skills, then you can probably start to understand why you were dispositioned!!)

Could you possibly offer some guidance on where my skills fell short with regards to the <job title>?  I would greatly appreciate any guidance you would be able to provide.  I’d also love to meet with you sometime just to network as my interest level in working for your company remains very high. 

Let me know! 




5 Responses to What to do if you are rejected from a job after a recruiter reviews your resume…

  1. BrianV says:

    Good read!!!

  2. Josh says:

    And sometimes (oftentimes) it is the recruiter’s fault. From your post above “… I had failed to look more in depth…”. You’ve done that more than once.

    Many recruiters fail to inform potential candidates who their *real* client is (that would be the one paying the bills, not the individual person).

    Recruiters and Realtors share more than the first two letters in their title – they do well when the economy is good, and struggle to find personal income when the economy is bad.

    • johnnychang says:

      You’re absolutely right, it’s oftentimes the recruiter’s fault, and I’m sure I’ve overlooked things a lot more than just once, if not hundreds of times! I wish I could be a perfect recruiter. Maybe you’re perfect, but I’m not. In regards to your personal experience with me though, you phone interviewed with a hiring manager at a client of mine for a job and were declined based off that phone screen, so it wasn’t me failing to look more in depth into your resume, it was a hiring manager speaking with you on the phone and coming to that decision himself. So, your experience with my client, and perhaps what triggered your memory of this experience really has nothing to do with my blog entry. If I recall, I was the one that actively sought you out, so if anything, I absolutely knew the value that you potentially brought to the table. My hiring manager did not. Who knows, you might’ve been a great fit for something, but just not that job.

      I would agree that your suggestion that many recruiters “fail” to inform…..” is absolutely correct. The recruiting industry is flawed in this way and tilted in favor of large fees, hidden agendas, and candidates who are kept in the dark. That’s why I don’t work with that recruiting model. It’s not right for the candidates and it’s not right for the clients. You must understand WHY recruiters hide the *real* client names to understand where they’re coming from – which gives me a good idea for my next blog entry. Thanks for the idea!

      As for your last statement about “struggling to find personal income”, point taken. If I were to categorize 09′ as hard or easier to find personal income compared to 08′, I’d choose harder. With that said, I get the sense that your generalization is more of a personal attack towards me, stemming from your bitterness at being rejected by a hiring manager rather than a well thought out statement backed by data (and relevent to my blog post).

      So you were rejected from a job, MOVE ON.

  3. Jayaswy Kota says:

    Another very useful post. Even though i used to reply, I often tried to restrict myself from doing so, as many recruiters do not reply me back. But after reading this post, i am sure that i do not restrict anymore. Thanks…

  4. Resume says:


    […]What to do if you are rejected from a job after a recruiter reviews your resume… « Johnny's Blog[…]…

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