am I wrong to be insulted by this rejection letter?

A reader writes:

I received the following rejection:

Thank you for applying for our CRM position. We appreciate your interest in our work and enjoyed the chance to review your resume. Our committee has now reviewed all the applicants and you were not selected for the interview process. Their decision in no way reflects upon your excellent skills and abilities.

Again, thanks for your interest and we wish you all the best in your career.

I’m not surprised about the rejection, though nonetheless disappointed. They were looking for depth in a particular aspect of a field where I have great breadth, but not the specific depth that they probably really need; hiring me would’ve required some slight reconfiguration of the job responsibilities. All of which is to say that this isn’t really sour grapes.

I know that I should appreciate that they sent anything at all, but I know that they used a software tool to collect applications and generate these letters that made it pretty easy (the job was as a consultant implementing this tool). So knowing that it was easy, I’m left wondering why they couldn’t take a minute to reread it, and perhaps remove an absurdly false statement like, “Their decision in no way reflects upon your excellent skills and abilities.” Unless they literally drew resumes at random to select interviewees, it’s just not possible for that statement to be true, and it’s insultingly patronizing to suggest it.

Am I too greedy to not only want a rejection letter, but a reasonably well-written one?

Unrealistic, I’d say.

Look, rejection letters are sent by busy people who want to update you on the status of your candidacy, and who don’t have the time to customize their message to every candidate. That’s why they’re using an automated system.

You could analyze the wording of rejection letters to death, trying to read between the lines for some message other than “you’re not the one we’re hiring.” But they’re rarely intended to convey anything at all beyond “you’re not the one we’re hiring” (and ideally, “thanks for your time and interest”). You can parse the hell out of them, but that’s still all they’re intended to convey.

Some companies communicate this more gracefully than others. (In fact, the majority often don’t bother to communicate it at all.) But frankly, this is a pretty nice rejection letter.

Could they have picked a better phrase than one so close to “it’s not you, it’s me,” when by definition it’s at least partly you? Sure. But being insulted by it? Come on. It’s human nature for the person doing the rejecting to want to soften it; it always will be. And it’s not exactly an unkind impulse, even if you would rather hear the unvarnished truth.

There are better things to be insulted by.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Sabrina*

    Hmm. Is this your first rejection letter? I don’t even read them any more. I was somewhat insulted by the one that sent me a coupon.

  2. Joey*

    I’m not saying it’s right, but applicants like this are why companies don’t send out anything to rejected applicants. Some people just can’t accept rejection. And they typically voice their frustrations right back to the company. Like that’s not going to burn a bridge. And, yes I do send them out.

  3. Wilson Career Solutions*

    Amen, AAM. It reminds me of some of my students who treat rejection letters like they are “Dear John” letters. Every ounce of energy spent pining over a rejection letter is energy that could be put toward your job search. Move on.

  4. Jennifer*

    I once received a rejection e-mail from a summer theatre festival which was cc-ed to all the other rejects. That is, I could see the e-mail addresses of everyone who was rejected. The worst part was, it was clear that it had not only been sent to the technical theatre applicants, but also actors who had auditioned. It was even in the language of actors: “Unfortunately, as is the way of theatre, all cannot be cast. ”

    At the very least, they should have bcc-ed all of us.

  5. Lemon Meringue*

    Agree with AAM, but also wanted to point out that, in this case, there’s no reason to think that they don’t believe you have “excellent skills and abilities” – only that, as the OP said, your abilities don’t match up with what they were looking for.

  6. Hannah*

    I don’t find this letter insulting at all. Actually, it read pretty closely to the Harvard rejection letter I received years ago, and I thought that was the nicest rejection letter I had ever received. I was probably cushioned by the fact that I didn’t have much more than a passing interest in going to the school, but I thought it was friendly of them to mention that I don’t suck when letting me know that I didn’t make the cut.

  7. Sarah*

    The best/funniest rejection letter I ever received said something like “Unfortunately, we have selected another candidate but I hope your future successes cause us to regret this decision.”

    Definitely made me smile. :)

  8. Anonymous*

    OP here.
    1. I TOTALLY didn’t think my note to AAM was going to be deemed post-worthy. Slightly concerned that this will come back to bite me, but that’s water under the bridge. I’d un-send the email if I could.
    2. To split a hair, in saying that the offending sentence was “insultingly patronizing,” I meant in a general sense, not that I specifically was offended over and above my normal disappointment.
    3. The company I applied to is one that I have the highest regard for in terms of mission, product, people and ethics. 95-100% of my reaction was based on having my bubble of belief that this company is perfect in all that they do burst. And as an organization that does put out more effort than most to treat their candidates well, they’re still pretty close.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! I assume anything sent to me can be published, unless specifically stated otherwise (per the note on my Contact page). You want me to try to make the email slightly less identifying? Happy to.

    2. Carolyn*

      Just to be blunt, it sounds like you are a little spoiled, and want too much from companies than you deserve. I get the feeling you are not used to rejection. As many others have said, this letter was perfectly fine, and to expect a company to craft a rejection letter to each interviewee is a little ridiculous.

      Also, you did not expect this letter to be published? Why did you send it in in the first place? I am hoping you are new to the professional world, because this all reeks of immaturity.

  9. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

    To the OP’s response: So you’re upset that this company wouldn’t do better than sending you out the standard form letter? I wouldn’t want to work for a company that spends the time to write a personal letter to every person that applies. That to me reeks of an inefficient company.

    1. Anonymous*

      No – I just want their form letter to be free of statements which are false by definition.

      1. fposte*

        Did the letter start with “Dear —-“? Because I have to gently tell you that you’re not really dear to them, either.

        What they wrote is civilization lubricant, not a polygraph submission. What rejection letters say are “We didn’t pick you,” and the rest of it is all filler. This is pretty nice filler, actually, and I think that it’s just going to be a continuing cause of grief if you seek something beyond polite packing of the “Not you” message amid filler.

      2. Anonymous*

        So you would much rather they wrote:


        Thanks for wasting the electricity it took to process your application. Don’t bother applying again because our computer can see that you stink.”

        Seriously, they were polite. It is a generic form letter. While you may not have the skills they were looking for, it does not mean that you do not have excellent skills and abilities. You just do not have the skills and abilities they were looking for. Just be thankful they actually went what is now considered the extra mile by sending you a form rejection letter. That is better than 95% of companies.

      3. Kris*

        Its not by false by definition. Lots of really talented people get rejected from jobs for many reasons unrelated to their skillset.

  10. Brian*

    I’m not sure I even understand your issue. This is probably a generic letter and they change the job title each time. I’ve rarely gotten anything this nice when I was rejected. Usually it’s a quick phone call or two-sentence email saying thanks but you weren’t chosen.

    @Joey Your comment reminded me of some women I know who don’t write “no thanks” emails back to men on dating sites. I was surprised when they told me it’s not uncommon for some men to write nasty responses filled with insults.

  11. Charles*

    OP – what exactly is the problem? Did you want them to spell out, in detail, why they hired the other person and not you? Why would ANY employer give that out? That would just cause some (or perhaps it is many?) job seekers to argue with them; some might even file lawsuits? What employer wants that?

    Be thankful, VERY thankful that they let you know at all that they have chosen someone else. At least you can know that they treated you with some respect by communicating their plans to you.

    In the 2-plus years that I have been looking for work, even after multiple interviews with the same company, I could count on ONE hand the number of rejection notices (via email or snail mail) that I get. I assume that I dodged a bullet with those who don’t bother letting me know that I am NOT their final candidate.

    After reading your “complaint” about something like this I am begining to think that it isn’t laziness or inconsideration that causes most employers to not let non-finalists know that they weren’t selected; maybe it is because they have all dealt with too many candidates who cannot professionally take rejection and argue with them?

  12. esra*

    Wow. Honestly, I’d be thrilled to get a letter like that. Too often it’s no follow up at all.

    Yes the line in the letter doesn’t really work well in a very literal sense, but is it really the letter that’s bothering you, or the sting of not getting the job?

  13. Anonymous*

    I’m kind of shocked by how upset replies are to the OP. Frankly, as someone who had been job hunting for quite some time I can sympathize. The hands down, best company I ever interviewed for was gracious enough to contact me by e-mail and phone after our interview to tell me they chose another candidate. The entire interview process left such a strong and positive impression on me.

    And considering interviewees aren’t just potential bodies to fill your desks, but colleagues and feature clients or providers… wouldn’t you want to send them off impressed?

    1. Anonymous*

      OP wasn’t an interviewee, he or she never got past the computer review of the resume. How many companies have given you a personal call for turning down YOUR resume? Do you think HR would be doing anything besides calling people all the time with that policy? Telephone calls and personal emails are important with those interviewed, but when you never got an interview, there is NOTHING wrong with a form rejection letter.

    2. Kris*

      That would make sense if she made it to the interview portion. Typically the interviewers are fewer than 10. That is a totally different ball game when you are flooded with 100s maybe even 1000s of resumes to fill a position.

      1. Anonymous*

        Sorry, I skimmed through the entire posting and comments and made the assumption OP had received an interview. Made sense in my mind ’cause why else would anyone get nasty over the OP’s initial post?

        Hee! In a way the overblown response to this post kind of mirrors the reaction of the OP to the e-mail. There are worse things to get worked up over!

        1. Carolyn*

          I think people were worked up over this post because it’s more proof that there are some very entitled people in the world, and it just rankles. Besides, they need to be taken down a few pegs and get a reality check. Even if she was interviewed, this form response wouldn’t be enough to get offended over to send in a question to AAM. It wouldn’t be the best response, but it’s better than nothing.

  14. Michelle*

    Like Anon 6:40pm, I’ve been searching for a job long enough now that I can sympathize with the OP. I find myself becoming annoyed, angry and jaded with the whole process.

    At least they told you that they chose someone else. I would love it if every company that I interviewed with took this approach….at least I wouldn’t be left hanging (even after I’ve followed up, AAM style). For me, it’s better to know than to not know so I can move on.

  15. Anonymous*

    I’ll echo my agreement to AAM’s reply – they at least thought the OP worthy of the 100ms or so of their computer time it took to send that email. Lots of places don’t.

  16. Anonymous*

    I have an appreciation for what the OP is saying, but I also can see the other side. Let me explain…

    I received a rejection notice from a place I interviewed with, and the language was somewhat the same. However, I know the interviewer knew about my skills and knowledge of the company since there was a half hour interview involved. Fast forward to a while later when I got the chance to apply again. That time, there was no interview, and I got the same rejection letter – word-for-word. It just proves there’s a form letter involved, and the person just adds a name to the top.

    The wording just seems to be off. While they want to encourage you, it just does feel like adding salt to wound because you don’t fully understand where you missed.

  17. Calvin*

    I’d rather get a rejection letter than NOTHING. I sent so many resumes that just seem to get lost in the aether. It’s nice to that is was actually received.

  18. De Minimis*

    As someone who is long-term unemployed, I appreciate any response I get at all. The only times I have gotten personal responses were when I’ve interviewed at very small companies where the owners were a little older and probably had a more traditional [courteous] way of dealing with interviewees.

  19. SME*

    I work for a staffing company, and as a rule, we don’t send rejection letters. This is partly why. The verbally abusive emails and calls back that we receive when we do send those rejection letters is one of the others. In addition to that, I personally feel that if, for example, a hair stylist is applying for a staff accountant role, that I don’t owe that person a reply. If they can’t be bothered to read the requirements of the job, then I don’t see why I should be bothered to spend time saying no thank you to someone who is just spraying and praying, rather than putting actual thought into their job search.

    These are just some of the reasons many companies don’t bother with a no thank you. And they’re good reasons that I agree with. Which is why I think it’s above and beyond for someone to get a rejection letter, and such a nicely worded one at that.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t see why I should be bothered to spend time saying no thank you to someone who is just spraying and praying, rather than putting actual thought into their job search

      Why would you be spending time on it? The computer system sends out the form emails to the rejected applications when a candidate is selected. Assuming of course that the system has been set up by competent individuals.

    2. Ask a Manager*

      Woah. I can’t get behind that. There are plenty of people who don’t fit in the groups you described, and they deserve rejection letters, not to be just left waiting and wondering.

      1. Wilson Career Solutions*

        I agree. And on a practical level, wouldn’t sending a rejection letter cut down on the amount of phone calls received from candidates wondering what their status was?

        1. SME*

          Not in my experience, though that may vary depending on region and type of work. It actually seems to increase the angry calls and emails demanding reasons and arguing with the decision, no matter how nicely the letter is worded.

      2. SME*

        I didn’t mean that everyone fits into those groups, at all! I was running through some of the reasons that employers can get to the point where it just doesn’t seem worth it anymore, and why it seems like, if anything, that rejection letter was really nice.

    3. Phyr*

      Sometimes people try to drastically change careers and feel that a hiring or staffing company will be able to help them do this. Assuming that they *all* didn’t read what they were applying for is just silly. This just don’t strike me as being a good business practice.

  20. ant*

    Here’s another thought:

    I’m guessing that often the people tasked with sending out rejection letters are not the same people involved in the interview/hiring process. For instance, if HR guy reviews resumes and Manager A decides who to interview and does all the interviews then passes decisions back to HR guy, HR guy doesn’t know detailed real reasons for Manager A not hiring you.

    So don’t be offended. You will get many more rejection letters that are better and worse. Eventually someone will call and offer you a job. Manager A will probably ask his HR guy to do that in fact.

  21. Ask a Manager*

    I send a rejection letter to every candidate who applies for a job. And I definitely know the angry calls and emails that you’re talking about! (Have written about some of them — search for “vitriol” in the search box and you’ll find them!) But it’s less than 1% of all job applicants who respond that way, so employers who justify a decision to mistreat the other 99+% based on that tiny sliver of candidates are really just looking for an excuse, I’d guess.

    1. SME*

      In this one instance, I’m going to stand firm in disagreeing with you. (Yikes! Thunderbolts from heaven heading my way soon?) While in a perfect world I’d agree that yes, everyone should hear back, the unfortunate reality is that so many people disregard job descriptions entirely when they apply for our positions, that the sheer volume means that only qualified candidates get a response. From me, at least. I review hundreds of resumes every day, and approximately 80% of them clearly didn’t even read the job description or requirements before submitting, and have none of the skill sets mandatory for consideration. It’s one thing if applying to a position is a bit of a stretch, but still related to what you’ve done before. It’s another if the role requires an MBA and ten years of experience, and you don’t even have a GED. I just don’t feel guilty not replying to those people, because the reason they’re not being considered is laid out clearly in the job description that they couldn’t be bothered to read.

      Now that we’ve established that I’m a rotten person, I will say that if we had an automated method for handling rejection notifications, I’d happily do so. As it is, sending 300+ emails like that every day is pretty time consuming.

      1. Anonymous*

        Now that we’ve established that I’m a rotten person, I will say that if we had an automated method for handling rejection notifications, I’d happily do so. As it is, sending 300+ emails like that every day is pretty time consuming.

        Let me see…. writing a script to send the emails automatically takes all of…. half an hour (I think it was about that when I did something similar about 18 months ago). Might be a bit more if you don’t want the return address to get munged (which by your other comments is actually perfectly fine by you). And it can then be reused every single day. Really sends a message about how much you value applications.

        1. SME*

          I’m afraid I don’t understand anything you just said about writing scripts, as that’s not one of my skill sets. And, as I explained above, when totally unqualified people don’t value my time enough to limit their applications to appropriate openings, you’re right; I don’t much value those applications.

          1. Esra*

            Is there no IT or web team where you work? As Anonymous above said, it would not take much to come up with a quick script to let rejected applicants know they should move on.

          2. Anonymous*

            So… Do you care about the image of your company? Do you care about competent applicants being told “do not apply with XXX because they are jerks”? Because that is being said about you by people who are not unqualified applicants that you cannot be bothered with telling that they have not been selected to be interviewed.

            Seriously, you cannot figure out how to create a form email, here is an idea: call a staffing company and see if they can send you an IT guy for a day! But better make sure that you hire a nicer one than yours because otherwise they might not call you back.

    2. Burton*

      And if you personally write every rejected applicant a kind, gentle, diplomatic rejection letter, what percentage of them will write back to thank you for doing so?

      It’s a nice idea, but not a productive use of your time.

    1. M*

      I agree. It’s better to get one than to be kept wondering. Those people who complain about getting a rejection letter are probably also the ones who complain and whine about everything.

  22. Working Now*

    I completely understand and agree with the OP. If the candidates “excellent abilities and skills” really were excellent, the candidate should have been hired!

    It’s just a stupid sentence that should be left out.

    A couple of years ago, I could have wallpapered my living room with all the rejection letters I had. One of the happiest days of my life was shredding all of them when I got a job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “If the candidates “excellent abilities and skills” really were excellent, the candidate should have been hired!”

      Not necessarily. If an employer has 10 fantastically qualified applicants, all with excellent abilities, and only one slot, then 9 of those fantastic people are going to be rejected. Doesn’t mean they’re not excellent.

    2. Carolyn*

      Your first sentence is incredibly naive. There are many applicants to a job that have excellent skills, but the company found a person whose personality may fit better with the company, or has even better skills. With all the job searching you did, how can you not know this?

  23. Anonymous*

    I would make one suggestion for employers, though: don’t set up a time to phone me over email, just so you can do one of these “sorry we didn’t pick you, many qualified candidates” things. Email works perfectly well for those, and is much less distracting.

  24. Maddy*

    hmm.. I am not saying I want to receive any sort of rejection letters, but it is by far better than being left to wonder and wait for the call to schedule an interview. I wish every company would send out rejections letter so we, the candidates, are not left waiting and waiting for that one phone call or email. The waiting is painful!

  25. Anonymous*

    As an applicant I have never expected to receive a rejection letter. No answer IS an answer. That’s been the case for the 20 years or so that I’ve been in the work force. I think we collectively need stiffer spines.

  26. Kris*

    I think based on your reaction they probably just saved themselves a lot of trouble dealing with you as a candidate or employee.

  27. Burton*

    “I think we collectively need stiffer spines.”

    And thicker skins. One of the things I learned from “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is that the job-hunting process looks like this:


    You WILL get rejected. A lot. If this is news to you, I’m sorry, but it’s a part of the process and you’d better get used to it. Some of the rejections will be more considerate than others, but you need to learn how to just shrug it off and keep going, or you will fail.

    “Am I too greedy to not only want a rejection letter, but a reasonably well-written one?”

    No, not greedy. Just foolish. Obsessing about this indicates that you’ve lost sight of your goal, which is to FIND A JOB. Does a “reasonably well-written” rejection letter bring you any closer to that than a cold or brusque one? No, it does not. IT’S A REJECTION. Pasting smiley-face stickers all over it will not change that fact.

    If you’re actually going to find a job, your response to any rejection should be to cross that prospective employer off your list and move on. The time and mental energy that you’re spending on critiquing the rejection is wasted; what, exactly, do you hope to accomplish by doing that? You would be much better off to devote that time and energy to applying for the NEXT potential job.

  28. Burton*

    ” ‘Their decision in no way reflects upon your excellent skills and abilities.’ Unless they literally drew resumes at random to select interviewees, it’s just not possible for that statement to be true, and it’s insultingly patronizing to suggest it. ”

    You’re technically right, in that the decision to hire someone else instead of you was (hopefully) based on an analysis of your skills and abilities. What that sentence was trying to say, but perhaps could have said more clearly, was something like this: “Their decision in no way denigrates your excellent skills and abilities.”

    Not being hired should never be interpreted as a message that you suck. In any hiring situation, you are evaluated against two standards: (1) the minimum requirements for the job, and (2) your competition.

    If I apply for a job as a driver for tractor-trailer rigs, I will (and should) be rejected, because I’m a technical writer with a liberal-arts degree and no experience driving big trucks. I don’t even have a commercial driver’s license. Obviously, I’m not qualified for the job. I’ll be rejected because I don’t meet standard #1, the minimum requirements for the job.

    But if I apply for a job in the technical writing field, one for which I meet standard #1, I will still be measured against standard #2, the skills and experience of the other applicants. No matter how good my skills and experience are, it’s still possible that at least one other applicant is a better fit for this specific position. That doesn’t mean I’m no good, or even that I might not be able to perform the job if I were hired. But only one person can get the job, and it has to be the one who most closely matches the needs of the position. That won’t always be me.

    Coming in second is no disgrace. It doesn’t mean that you weren’t excellent. It just means you didn’t win this time. Don’t take it personally. You can’t win every race.

  29. Burton*

    “hmm.. I am not saying I want to receive any sort of rejection letters, but it is by far better than being left to wonder and wait for the call to schedule an interview.”

    Why would you do that? State in your cover letter that you will call next week to discuss scheduling an interview. And then do it.

    “I wish every company would send out rejections letter so we, the candidates, are not left waiting and waiting for that one phone call or email.”

    The fact that you are passively waiting for the company to come to you, rather than being assertive enough to follow up by contacting them, is itself an indication of what kind of employee you will be. It’s a test, and you’re failing it.

    1. Rana*

      Some companies explicitly state that they do not want candidates to make such contact; indeed, in some fields (like academia) calling to request an interview would brand you as both clueless and rude.

      In academia the “there were many qualified candidates, including you, but we could only pick one” rejection email or letter is also very common, because, bluntly, it’s usually true. Most jobs in the humanities, for example, have 100+ qualified applicants that somehow have to be winnowed down to ten, then three, then one.

      If you spend too much time brooding over rejection notes, you’ll never get anywhere, because it’s part of what happens. Just because it seems personal to you, doesn’t mean that the hiring team views it that way.

  30. Burton*

    “So… Do you care about the image of your company? Do you care about competent applicants being told ‘do not apply with XXX because they are jerks’? Because that is being said about you by people who are not unqualified applicants that you cannot be bothered with telling that they have not been selected to be interviewed.”

    I am not a manager . . . but if I were, this would be the least of my worries. If “do not apply with XXX because they are jerks” is what the self-centered crybaby community is saying about my company, I’m okay with that. It saves me the trouble of filtering those people out during the application and interview stages of the process.

    The hiring process is not about you. It’s about a position that needs to be filled, and a manager who has to sift through the pile of resumes, select some qualified applicants, interview them, and select someone. This process is already stressful for the manager, because it’s time-consuming, and every minute the manager spends on it is a minute that can’t be spent on doing actual productive work for the company.

    It’s also stressful because the manager can never forget that any new hire may turn out to be a colossal headache. If the new employee doesn’t perform well or even causes problems, who will be held responsible? Who gets to take more time away from his or her regular duties to counsel and/or get rid of the problem employee? The hiring manager. So he or she has to try REALLY hard not to hire that person in the first place. But some problem employees are really good at seeming normal and well-adjusted until after you hire them.

    Under these circumstances, do you REALLY think that the manager is worried about whether a few screened-out applicants get their panties in a bunch because they didn’t receive a rejection letter — or because they DID receive one, but they don’t like the way it was phrased?

    If the manager is aware of those people at all, I suspect that he or she is relieved to have gotten rid of them. If they expect the whole hiring process to revolve around them, what would working with them be like? Best not to find out.

    1. Anonymous*

      I am not a manager . . . but if I were, this would be the least of my worries. If “do not apply with XXX because they are jerks” is what the self-centered crybaby community is saying about my company, I’m okay with that. It saves me the trouble of filtering those people out during the application and interview stages of the process.

      Expecting a minimally polite response (which can be trivially sent by a computer) makes one a crybaby? As pointed out by others above, the effort involved in doing that is so minimal as to not be worth mentioning (I am assuming a basic level of competence on the part of the company here). Not doing so tells me a lot about what sort of a company it would be to work for.

      A rejection gets tossed on the pile with the rest of them. Being ignored….. note gets taken of that.

      1. Burton*

        “As pointed out by others above, the effort involved in doing that is so minimal as to not be worth mentioning.”

        They’re wrong. Very few companies today have IT people or programmers lounging around with nothing better to do than write, test, and maintain scripts to generate rejection e-mails for every job applicant. In many companies, the IT services have been outsourced entirely. The programmers are working overtime to develop and maintain the software that actually generates revenue for the company. They do not have time for side projects that earn no money and serve no purpose except to salve the hurt feelings of a few over-sensitive people that their company isn’t going to hire anyway.

        Believe me when I tell you this. My own company had exactly one IT person when I joined it, and after he left last year, they eliminated the position. And remember that I said I was a technical writer? Before my manuals are released to customers, they have to be reviewed by our software developers ensure that they are technically accurate. But it’s often hard to get them to do that because they’re so damn busy. I try to be understanding because I’m asking them to put aside their own work and help me with mine. But the reviews HAVE to be done, so I bug them until I get some feedback.

        Now, suppose someone were to pass on your demand that they put aside both their own programming work and the task of reviewing my books so that they can develop scripts to send you rejection notices, because otherwise you might feel slighted. They would, of course, say that it’s not up to them; their managers decide what they should work on. And if the managers were presented with your demand, they would just laugh and tell you that there’s no money in the budget for nonessential projects like that.

        “Not doing so tells me a lot about what sort of a company it would be to work for.”

        Yes, it tells you that it’s a company with sensible priorities. Serving the customer comes first. Companies that don’t prioritize in that way tend to go bankrupt and disappear.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Issues of automation aside, it takes a competent, efficient assistant all of five minutes a day to send a form letter to all rejected applicants, even when the process isn’t automated.

          There’s just no reason not to treat people courteously when they apply for a job — i.e., when they express an interest in helping your company meet its goals — and the time it takes to do it is negligible. Plenty of highly successful companies manage to do this without negatively impacting their operations, and the ones that don’t bother speak volumes about the regard in which they hold candidates.

  31. Anonymous*

    I very much agree with AAM’s last comment but here’s another thought. To everyone who is struggling to figure out how to send all the rejection notices, why not just do the following?

    On the job posting, mention a time frame in which qualified candidates can expect to be contacted for an interview. Same thing with the interviews. Just tell the candidate how soon they can expect to hear from you if you are interested.

    That way, the candidates can be sure of the status of their application, and you don’t have to waste time or effort on rejections. You won’t even have to worry about candidates checking on their applications.

    As a job seeker, I generally don’t expect any kind of rejection letter or call. But if it is a job that I really have my heart set on, I ask at the interview how soon I can expect to hear from them if they are interested. A note of warning with this though: I just asked that at an interview last month and they (hesitantly) said “two or maybe even three weeks” and insisted that they would contact me either way. I got a voice mail rejection five weeks later. So if it’s realistically going to be five weeks, it’s better to tell the candidate five (or six) weeks than three.

  32. Angela*

    Oh com’on! I’d be happy to just get a “Dude, get on! You’re not hired”. So I can get on my job hunt.

  33. mary*

    I applied for a job in cairns and got rejected for not meeting the criteria although I am more than qualified for the position and have over 10 years experience in the field. They even told me the reason I did not meet the criteria it is soley because i am not a citizen only a perm. residant.

  34. collegestudent*

    I received a very rude rejection letter from Macalester College back in 2008 and it is still in my mind to this day.

    So I wrote one or two not-so-good essays, one of them I bs’d on because I haven’t physically visited and toured the college and the essay question asked about my experience touring there that interested me (something like that). I was only there once for a non-college tour trip for an open mic so I wrote about that experience and the campus environment.

    Ok, so the letter was short and brief. It said “…we are not dumb…” and whatever else rejecting me. They are basically saying that I’M dumb based on my essays.

    (Sorry but I had a pretty good transcript and was awarded many local scholarships. I only sent in a lousy last minute application because I spent so much time applying for scholarships, playing school sports and devoting time to extra-curricular activitees.)

    In no way do they have the right to be this condescending to me. It is rude and I would prefer a NON PERSONALIZED rejection letter unlike this. If I could sue, I would. I was so embarrassed by the letter that I threw it away right after it and was still embarrassed by the thought of it. Pretty arrogant college, I say.

  35. ann*

    I received a rejection letter this morning and it ruined my day (almost). The guy told me that my email contained only 3 sentences and had a lot of mistakes. I did not know what he was talking about until I looked at my sent mail and I saw I made a typo on 1 spelling only. How can we make spelling errors on purpose if we have all these auto correct stuff already? It was my fault but I wish some people could see the difference between an obvious mistake and just a typo. I don’t know I just felt insulted and felt like my morale was pushed deeper into the abyss that I was in.


    I regret that I am not able to take this further.

    There are two spelling mistakes, or rather typos, in your email. This is quite an achievement for only three sentences in total. Your email name in front of the Gmail domain is pretty absurd for what is mean to be a professional application. If this is how you present yourself, then I have to tell you that it is not a good first impression. Hence, you are unlikely to be the A-player being sought.

    I wish you every success in your other applications.”

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Yep…that’s an unnecessarily harsh way of presenting what could have been constructive advice if given with compassion. Please don’t let it hurt your morale; that person was being intentionally rude.

      If you think that the criticisms they gave might be valid, at least you can address those for future applications, so try to see the positive in that part, at least.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, that’s an incredibly rude letter, and I’d assume that you dodged a bullet, because that guy sounds like an incredible jerk.

  36. Frank Knight*

    sorry, letters like that are just the epitome of laziness from hr managers. I would literally rather receive nothing and utter silence than some poorly crafted form letter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Most people would rather hear an answer than hear nothing, and form letters are typical in this situation. When you’re going to deliver the same message to hundreds of people, why wouldn’t you use a form letter?

  37. Andy M*

    I’ve been in the field for over 30 years. HR representatives used to have class. When they sent out rejection letters they were well worded with no typos and properly formatted; definitely not designed to insult a prospective candidate. The rejection letters I’ve been receiving from some major corporations lately are nothing short of an embarrassment. Some have been so bad that I refuse to have any dealings with that company, regardless of how loyal a customer I have been in the past. Others simply make me realize my good fortune in not having been hired into such blatant buffoonery.

  38. Me*

    I have received hundreds of rejection letters and still receive it until now..done everything I could, so no longer bother opening it and reading it sentence by sentence..I’m really lost right now..the lates one was an invitation for attending workshop and internship worth a certain amount of money..feels like crap obviously..

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