The rejection letter, as a learning experience

“Thank you for taking the time to interview with us […] we are unable to offer you employment at this time”

Just received this message yesterday. I got two interviews in, so they must have fine-tooth combed my portfolio. I’d love to learn as much as I can from my interviewer, and am drafting up a post-selection email.

  1. Could I trouble you for a bit of advice on where I can amend and add to my portfolio?
  2. What changes could I make to be a definite “yes” as a new hire?
  3. What part of the process should I include/what would you like to see to make myself a surefire candidate?

What would you ask in this follow up email without sounding petty?

I wouldn’t followup.

Move on.

…Been there before. Hang in there. I wouldn’t compose questions until some time has passed. Also, since you made it to the second round, it probably sounds like your work was great but didn’t fit the company model. Sometimes, they need an exact fit to hit the ground running fast, and don’t have enough time/resources to mold you into the position. It happens.

If you’re really adamant to work there, stay on the radar. take 3 months off, learn more about the company and brand experience, and model an assignment for them. Remember to sell your process and demonstrate what potential they could have if they hire you.

Nose to the grindstone, keep going, play it smart, and persistence will pay off.

The answers to this questions that would make you a yes for that job might not be the same answer for your next prospective employer. I agree with jab, don’t send a follow up, other than maybe thank you for your time and considering me type thing. Do some self reflection but don’t ask them to invest more time.

You might eventually be able to find out who they did hire via LinkedIn, research that person, make some comparisons, might gain you some insight without having to bother them.

iab is spot on. You are assuming it is portfolio related. Maybe you just got flat out beat by the competition. Put that frustration to use and continue to develop. There will be other interviews.

The things that I’ve found that got me jobs or lost me jobs have often been insignificant: my experience working with sheet metal, that I did a shoe project in Uni, lack of experience in hiking, lack of experience in fiber glass molding. As an occasional “hiring manager” and designer, I think I try to keep my mind open to good designers rather than people that have experience in my companies product category, but not everyone thinks that way.

Lastly, there is just the routine not fitting with the organizational culture. Looking back, I’m glad that I got so many "no"s. It kept me from being unhappy.

However, if you are hopelessly in love with the org., I recommend Greenman’s approach.

Thanks for the advice everyone! I won’t follow up (aside from thanks). Moving forward and putting more into my folio.

I would move on, it may have been something as simple as their was another candidate who had a better fit, even at a personality level. I’ve been to places where you could immediately tell the personalities in the room were very different, and no matter how good your portfolio or interviews may have been it could just be that someone came in with a vibe everyone loved and they got hired.

I can tell you having interviewed many candidates there were many candidates that were awesome, great skills, personality, but just may not have had the exact blend that the hiring manager was looking for. Likewise I can tell you about candidates who gave me a bad taste in my mouth, got hired and left shortly thereafter. Employers are non-perfect beings, just keep doing you and improving yourself as much as you think you can and you’ll find something.

I think we are in the same boat Carl. I’ve been searching for something since graduating in August. I did send a follow up to one of my second interviews after being rejected asking where I could improve, and got a “due to the high number of applicants we cannot respond.” So it really didn’t make any difference anyway.

I’m pretty sure the career services people at SCAD recommended the follow up email and to ask for a reason for the rejection. Sounds like that isn’t good advice. I’m not going to do it again.

Truthfully unless you had a connection to the person you were applying to it’s unlikely to expect a response. Keep in mind there may be dozens of other applicants and it would be opening up more interpretation and conversation than many places want to have, or even have the time to have.

It would be ideal and wishful if you got an email back saying “your sketches were not good enough” or “we want someone with more years of experience in injection molding” as very pragmatic answers, but rarely are hiring decisions that simple. And often times the real reason may be “we cant afford you” “we found someone local” or “the manager found someone from their alma matter”. And those are not things that can be disclosed.

I’ve also found out that no one was hired at some posts that I interviewed for. Don’t assume it was your fault!

Be careful with this practice though as it can do more harm than good!

A personal example of a recent gig I thought I had in the bag but didn’t get, turned out I was connected to someone they hired for the the same role so when I saw “John Doe is now Industrial Designer at Dream Job Design” I had to give him a quick Google and within seconds I was on his Coroflot portfolio.

Personally, theres not a lot between us, he shines a little bit more at sketching whereas his CAD was pretty weak and very simple shapes/revolves - I also have a little more experience. Needless to say I spent a Saturday afternoon brooding and feeling sorry for myself rather than being productive and getting on with some personal projects I’d intended to do.

Anyway, as much as its human nature to snoop out the competition it might not help your current mood. In regards to responding I have to say it’s a double edged sword - from your point of view you’re thinking you got so far with them the least they could do is send a quick email saying it was X, Y, Z but then from their point of view you’re already out the window.

I also recently read some employers don’t like to give criticism incase something they say can be interpreted as discrimination, ending up in a lawsuit - or so an article on Linkedin says! Onwards and upwards though, good luck with the search and if you haven’t already then post up your portfolio to get some feedback!

I don’t think it hurts to follow up. If the tables were turned and you rejected their offer, I’m sure they would follow up. It’s very likely you won’t get a response, but in my book, if that’s the case it’s unprofessional on their end. You both invested time and resources pursuing a connection, it could be beneficial for both to know why the connection was missed. Not that you want to be trying to win them back, but to learn and move on.

If you were dating, you’d at least get the the “it’s not you, it’s me” speach :wink:


I agree with jab, don’t send a follow up, other than maybe thank you for your time and considering me type thing. Do some self reflection but don’t ask them to invest more time.

Well, this sure isn’t 1973 Toto.

In the spring of 1973 I interviewed with the Truck Division of Dodge. I submitted a portfolio and was invited to Detroit (expenses paid) and spent the better part of the day with the Department Manager. It seemed like the interview went pretty well, but I didn’t get the job, What I did get, that thoroughly astonished me, was an ongoing, back and forth, critique of my sketching and rendering skills that lasted the entire summer, and affected my entire career. An early example of paying forward perhaps?

A trip to Zeeland, Michigan, that same spring, to interview with Robert Blaich, of Herman Miller, also ended with being told, on the spot during lunch, that, “you really aren’t a good fit for the organization, at this time, and that these are areas we would like to see more expertise in.” Tough to enjoy the moment of having lunch with the VP of HM Design, but I certainly followed his recommendations. Or personal professionalism?

Personal interest in prospective employees? Dunno, maybe it was because there just weren’t that many industrial design students at the time?

We’ve had some job searches in the last few years that garnered over 1000 applicants. Little old me is the one that has to go through each and every one. So, while I try to respond to everyone, and I will give a critique after the fact if asked, some patience is required. Don’t stop asking just because some don’t respond. Some of us do. Some of us do because we’ve been in your shoes.

Wow. I am suddenly much more grateful to have landed 2 interviews this past application.

Lots of times, the best way to get interviews is by going internally. Build that network. I would 90% of my interviews had been because of someone recommending me internally. I can’t imagine cold calling or going through the traditional blind email and pray process.

It always helps to have someone fighting for you internally, even if they are the newest person on the team.

I can definitely confirm this. This is a great way to get a foot in.
Lots of firms won’t even advertise openings as they practically staff their whole team this way.

But cold calling isn’t impossible. As long as the portfolio has some bite to it, it will get the attention it deserves.
I would say it’s been about 40% recommendation and 60% cold call for me.

Hiring managers and directors want to look at good, inspiring work and if they see something that is impressive, it won’t get forgotten or overlooked.
As a fresh grad, it might feel like there are so few positions and so many applicants and in numbers, this is true.
But once you look a little closer, you realise that it is just as hard to find good people for those positions.
Armed with a great portfolio the pool of serious competition shrinks dramatically and then it is great to have someone good in the organisation recommending you.