job rejections and vitriol

My organization emails rejection notes to all applicants we don’t offer a job to. It’s a pretty damn nice letter, and we send it within a few days of knowing that we’re not moving the applicant forward in the hiring process.

Sometimes we hear back from people thanking us for the notification since apparently more and more companies aren’t bothering to get back in touch with candidates, but every once in a while a candidate sends a nasty email back.

I’m not sure if these applicants are just venting or if they genuinely feel a sense of entitlement to the job, but here are three real-life emails I’ve received in response to rejection notices.

1. “I am a graduate of [school redacted] with an excellent academic record and a degree in political science. I have over 6 years experience working with nonprofits in a leadership role at [redacted]. I would like to know what is wrong with my qualifications and why they do not even warrant an interview to get to know me. I am sure that I will not hear a response to this, but you should know that you passed up a candidate who is qualified, with excellent references and who would work hard for this organization. I am insulted because I know that I would be a fine asset who would fit in well at your organization.”

I wrote back and explained that we were fortunate enough to be faced with a large number of qualified applicants for the position, and we interviewed only those in the top tier. (What I didn’t mention is that receiving an email like this one confirmed we made the correct decision.)

2. “How disappointing to realize that I spent time interviewing with you when you were more interested in another candidate.”

Does anyone really not know that the hiring process is competitive and someone else might end up getting the job?

3. “I’m not going to get into it now because it won’t do me any good to pester you about it, but this just sounds like some BS you tell someone because you can’t interview everyone. Perhaps you could have been honest with me instead of leaving me hanging these past few weeks.”

Well, it’s true that we can’t interview everyone. But no dishonesty involved, and it’s weirdly paranoid to assume there was.

I know it sucks to not get a job that you want. But we make a good faith effort to keep candidates informed about where we are in the process and let them know if they’re not in the running. I can’t figure out what these people think they’re accomplishing, other than burning bridges and making themselves look naive and entitled.

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Wally Bock*

    Nice post. Here’s something that could be a cause for some of what you’re experiencing. As I wrote in my blog entry “Addicted to Praise” we have a lot of young people coming into the workplace who have been told over and over and over again that “they can do anything they want” and “they’re special.” With parents who don’t reprimand and soccer leagues that don’t keep score and grade inflation (one public high school whose graduation I attended pronounced two thirds of the class “honors graduates”)the kids haven’t had to deal with much criticism, loss or failure.

  2. Rowan Manahan*

    Very illustrative post and nice points by Wally too.

    When I am talking to a bunch of kids in this bracket about career management and job-hunting, I ask a rhetorical question: “Who is this process all about?”

    It is extraordinary just how many different answers I get to that question, and even more extraordinary how many of those answers are myopic, self-centred twaddle.

    I stick up a clean and clear slide to answer my rhetorical question; it consists of two words and one piece of punctuation:

    NOT YOU!

    When I put this up, about half the class immediately nod their heads and the other half start nodding as I go into my riff about the selection process being entirely about the employer – their needs, their worries, their ulcers and migraines and phobias …

    And yet, in every selection process I have run at this level, I get the sense that 50% of the kids really think it IS in some way about them. Plus a noteworthy handful who talk or follow up in the tones you have so eloquently described.


  3. bruce*

    Wally, I’ll agree with you to a point. A lot of kids are like those you’ve discussed, and feel a real sense of entitlement every time they apply for a job. In their mind, the working world revolves around their wants and needs.

    However, I don’t think the candidate from example #1, with 6 years experience, can be lumped in the same boat. I’d be more inclined to believe this is a phenomenon across all generations, even if we tend to see it more often from those who are newest to the working world.

  4. class-factotum*

    I am so impressed that you send a note. It costs nothing to do by email and it relieves anxiety on the job-hunter’s part.

    I have been looking for a job off and on for the past 18 months. One company interviewed me by phone, then insisted I fly to their HQ immediately for further interviews, even though I had told them I had an obligation (a temp job) for the next two weeks that I had made before I ever spoke to them.

    After my interview, I never heard another word from them again. I don’t expect feedback on why they don’t want me — there are so many factors that go into it, but an email telling me that they are not interested would be nice just so I don’t wait in hopeful anticipation for the next several days.

  5. Evil HR Lady*

    Yes, you definitely made the right decision on candidate number 1.

    A recruiter once shared a cover letter with me that said, “I’m only interested in serious offers. If you are interviewing more than 3 people for the position, I’m NOT INTERESTED.”

    Umm, thanks for letting us know. That way we don’t waste our time with you.

  6. The Career Encourager*

    Everything you say is SO TRUE. I know it is disappointing to a candidate to not get the offer, but how they handle that moment of rejection is a test of how they will handle their entire career.

  7. Elisha Marshall*

    When I’m looking for a new job, I greatly appreciate it when I hear back from company, even if they’re going to go with someone else! It’s incredibly helpful. I cannot even imagine responding to an email letting me know that I’m no longer being considered with anything but “Thank you for your time and good luck in your search.”

  8. Ann*

    I agree with the career encourager regarding how a candidate handles rejection is a good predictor of future performance.

    HOWEVER, I think the dirty little secret that many HR managers and Hiring managers don’t know is how poorly some recruiters treat applicants during this process.

    In the past year,I have been stood up twice by two recruiters from the same company – a Fortune 500 company. They both contacted me for phone interviews, set the appointment, and never called. Ever. I emailed, left a voice message – no response, no rescheduling.

    Some of the frustration you may be hearing from candidates may be a result of the overall recruiting process where applicants are viewed as faceless individuals rather than potential employees.

  9. Beth*

    Interesting thread. At my place of employment, most internal applicants get only e-mail letters of rejection. (Not sure about external applicants). In my opinion, if you’ve spent that face-to-face time interviewing for a job, the least the hiring manager can do is give you a call or ask you to stop by their office to deliver the news. E-mail just seems so very impersonal and a little passive. Seems pretty tacky to me! What would Ann Landers say?!? :)

  10. Ask a Manager*

    Beth, I agree with you when you’re talking about internal applicants. They should be handled with real delicacy, since there are so many more issues at play when an applicant is a current employee.

  11. DD*

    No matter how upsetting and stressful the job hunt is, it is always better to conduct ourselves with professionalism at all times….you never know who you may run into in the future. If you send a nasty email in response to a rejection, it could literally bite you in the a**!
    I recently received another rejection email with a company that I interviewed with and was very appreciative that they were up front with me. I thanked them and let them know that if another position opened up or if they knew of anyone else who may be hiring to please keep me in mind….it never hurts:)

  12. Aravind Ramachandran*

    I believe it is extremely decent of a company to take the time to send out a note to candidates making it clear they aren’t moving forward with the hiring process. Job seekers should be grateful they aren’t left in the dark, even though it means they are not getting that job.

    I once attended an interview with Company A, and didn’t hear anything from them for quite some time despite an assurance from HR that they would let me know in two days (whether Yes or No). Two weeks later, I had given up hope and attended another job interview with Company B, got a decent offer and was considering it. The same afternoon, Company A called me back for a second round. Knowing you have other options makes a lot of difference to your confidence levels at an interview!

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