What to do when you disagree with being “unsuccessful”



We have all received a “thanks for your application however on this occasion unfortunately you have been unsuccessful” email, letter or phone call at some stage during our career. No doubt you felt disappointed getting this news. I remember receiving them myself at various stages during my career and I know I always felt a sense of disappoint at a missed opportunity, frustration that I’d invested the time applying and it had all been for nothing. Upon receiving that feedback you have two choices. You can accept the outcome, getting some feedback can be really valuable in helping you with future applications, and then you move on. Or you can question the outcome.

For the majority of positions I’ve recruited for in my career, I’d say most people accept the outcome and move on. Very few ask for feedback and I think this is a missed opportunity. Asking for feedback not only helps you in the future but it also shows us that you value and can handle feedback. And you just never know when another opportunity may arise.

Then there are candidates who decide to question the outcome.

Questioning the outcome is in no way bad or the wrong thing to do.

If you do it the right way.

I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of these situations. It’s ok to question the outcome but don’t destroy your chances of future employment with the particular business or recruitment agency.

Unfortunately, most people tend to handle the questioning of the outcome poorly. I’ve had people call and argue the outcome with me. I’ve had people directly contact the business that I’m representing and argue the point with them. I’ve heard from businesses, that have managed their own recruitment, that they have had people show up at the business, demanding to see the owner/manager to dispute the outcome.

How far should you go if you want to question the outcome? And how far is too far?

My first piece of advice if you are going to question an unsuccessful outcome is make sure you are in the right frame of mind and can manage your emotions. In most instances I’ve found people get upset, angry, frustrated and sometimes aggressive. In these situations, I’ve had the phone hung up on me mid conversation if the person doesn’t like the feedback I’m giving. What do you think that does for your future chances of employment? What lasting impression does that leave?

My next piece of advice is that if an agency is involved, start with the agency before you go direct to the business. I have no issues with candidates contacting a business directly and going around a recruiter; if you’ve tried to question it with the agency first. In all of the situations where I’ve had someone go to the business I’m representing the business has contacted me straight away and asked me to handle the situation. Hence why I think it’s important to go to the agency first. Most businesses take the approach that they engaged a recruiter for a reason – to handle the process – and that includes dealing with unsuccessful candidates.

My third piece of advice: Be prepared and have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve by questioning the outcome. The reality is that the chances of the decision being overturned are minimal, unless of course there has been an error in the process followed. If you are going to pick up the phone and question the outcome, start with trying to understand the circumstances. All too often people make these calls and instantly launch in to how they feel they are the best candidate for the job; reeling off all the skills and experience they have. Instead start by gathering feedback:

  • Why was your application unsuccessful?
  • What was the recruitment process?
  • Where was your application scored lower compared to the other candidates / the successful candidate?
  • How many people applied? Were you up against 5 candidates or 255 candidates?
  • Does your resume and application letter effectively highlight your skills and experience?
  • What could you have done differently or can you improve on?

Once you have this information you are better armed to question the decision and determine how you want to proceed. How you handle receiving the feedback and what you do with that feedback is the most important thing.

In all my years of recruiting, every candidate that has applied for a job thinks they are best candidate for that job or that they can do the job or that they have something to offer. We never know the calibre of the candidates we are up against and sometimes we are simply not the best candidate for the job. Never hesitate to question the outcome but in doing so make sure you build your brand and reputation not destroy it.


Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.



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