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Even when you’re passed over for a job, it’s still in your best interest to offer a sincere and gracious thank-you to the interviewer. This demonstrates that you respect the time she took getting to know you and that you recognize the significance of making it to the interview stage.
Not every applicant follows up with a thank-you note or phone call, so it will help you stand out if you do. The interviewer may be impressed with your professionalism and your ability to handle difficult situations and disappointment. She may remember your tact and poise and invite you to apply for future openings. She may also move to another company that does have a vacant position for which you’re qualified.
How to Reply
You can follow up by email, a handwritten note or a phone call. Take your cues from the corporate culture and the method the interviewer used to notify you she’d chosen someone else. If the workplace seems formal, send a handwritten thank-you note on high-quality stationery. Interviewers at a tech company or start-up might respond better to an email because they likely use digital communication more frequently than “snail mail.” To make a more memorable connection, call and thank the interviewer personally, especially if she contacted you by phone. This demonstrates you don’t shy away from awkward conversations and allows you to have a conversation with the interviewer.
What to Say
Thank the interviewer for the time she spent meeting with you. Maintain a positive tone and focus on how much you enjoyed learning about the job and the company, chatting with her and touring the facility or meeting other employees. It’s acceptable to express regret, but keep it simple and don’t suggest that you question the decision. Acknowledge the difficulty involved in choosing the most qualified applicant and wish her and the new employee success. For example: “While I’m disappointed I won’t be working with you, I know choosing the right candidate wasn’t easy. I’m happy you’ve found someone who’s a good fit for the team and I wish you both continued success.”
A well-crafted follow-up can enhance your job search and networking efforts. Close your letter or call by asking the interviewer to keep your application materials on file and telling her you hope she’ll consider you for future openings. If you hit it off with her during the interview, suggest meeting for coffee to discuss your shared industry or profession. If you belong to the same professional associations or community groups, or if there’s an industry conference coming up, ask to meet up with her there. Even if she can’t offer you a job, she may become a mentor or ally who can introduce you to power-players within the industry.