how not to reply to a rejection email

When you get a rejection email, if you’re tempted to shoot back a reply, I strongly recommend that you wait a day to do it. Or at least a few hours. Otherwise, you risk sounding angry, defensive, or hot-headed.

Good replies: thanking them for letting you know or asking for feedback.

Bad replies:

“You’re making a mistake; I’d be a great candidate.”

“I’d think I’m at least worth an interview.”

… or anything angry, negative, or pushing back against the decision.

While a response like that might give you the momentary satisfaction of venting, it makes you look naive at best (lacking in smarts and interpersonal skills at worst) and carries the very long-term consequence of ruining any prospects with that organization in the future.

Seethe if you want to, but don’t hit “reply” until enough time has passed that the sting is gone. Or at least gone from your writing.

Also, these are old but good reads:

job rejections and vitriol, part 1
job rejections and vitriol, part 2
job rejections and vitriol, part 3

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. AD*

    I can’t tell you how many people I know who were turned down for a position and then contacted about another position by the same company.

    1. fposte*

      It is really amazing how impressive a gracious response to rejection can make an applicant, too. So you actually can do yourself some good here and not just avoid hurting yourself.

      1. Piper*

        Yeah, generally, if I get a personalized rejection e-mail, I said a “hey, thanks for letting me know, keep me in mind if you have other positions that might fit my skills, have a good day,” response. And almost every time I send that, I get a nice response back. Note: I only do this for e-mails that I’m reasonably sure came from a human and not an auto-generated e-mail.

        There are so many other factors that are completely out of a candidate’s control that can mess up potential future job opps. Their response to rejection is not one of them. Why burn a bridge you’ve barely begun to built yet?

  2. Aaron*

    This is an “internet” problem–it’s way too easy to say something without considering the position of the person reading it. Nobody would say this in person, because in person nobody would think: “Zing! I really showed them.”

    That said, if responses like this are common from applicants who seem otherwise decently qualified, your hiring process is flawed. Rejection sucks, and there’s nothing you can do to make it totally fine. But I’d bet candidates usually do this when they are asked for to create some material specifically for this job, to enter their resume into a web form, to provide three references, to give authorization for a credit check, etc., and then the employer rejects them the following day with a two-sentence e-mail. In that case, the employer has brought this on himself.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In my experience, these responses are pretty uncommon — I’d say maybe 1% of the rejections I send result in an inappropriate response. But I’d say that even in situations like that the ones you described, it’s still not okay for candidates to reply like that. It’s harming absolutely no one but themselves.

      1. Anon*

        I’d be tempted to answer some of those inappropriate messages with: “Thanks for totally confirming my decision to not hire you.”

        This is why I should never be a manager or work in HR.

          1. Anon*

            That totally made my day! I can only imagine how over the top they’d have to be to elicit that response.

            Does it not occur to people that not only are they burning the bridge with the company that turned them down, but likely at future positions held by those currently at that company as well? Because some industries are a very small world, and it’s entirely possible they may run into some of those same people again.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One more thing! While I agree with you that employers shouldn’t request references, SS#’s, etc. at this stage, no reasonable candidate is thinking that by supplying those things, they’re somehow insulating themselves from a rejection!

    3. K.*

      Yeah, I’ve been there (although I haven’t and won’t authorize a credit check – thankfully it hasn’t come up), and that’s when you email or call your best friend all “WTF, I did so much work and they just flippantly tossed off a form rejection?” And then your best friend calms you down and helps you talk shit about the company, and then you get your nose back into joint and move on. I mean, it SUCKS, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like getting catcalled on the street – I could toss off a quick retort or curse them out* but it’s the rare street harasser who’s going to say “You know what? You were right, I am wrong, and I’m sorry. I’m going to take a look at myself and the way I treat women.” Nine times out of ten, a hiring manager isn’t going to get your response and re-evaluate her hiring practices.

      *The only time I did respond to a street harasser was when he was with his toddler, and I said “I hope no one ever speaks to your daughter the way you just spoke to me.” He kind of gulped and didn’t say anything.

      1. jmkenrick*

        “You know what? You were right, I am wrong, and I’m sorry. I’m going to take a look at myself and the way I treat women.”

        Picturing that exchange just made me laugh. Me and my friend from high school have an ongoing joke about an imaginary best-man toast: “I knew John and Cynthia were meant to be when he called out ‘hey baby, nice ass!’ as she walked by, minding her own business…”

      2. Sigh.Sigh.Sigh.*


        Just curious, why in the world are you elevating men who make inappropriate and unsolicited comments about your appearance to the same level as hiring managers?

        Your relationship with a hiring manager is based on a response to a shared need (them: fill vacant position; you: find a new job) and the consent of time and access to information. Meanwhile, a catcalling man on the street is neither satisfying any presumed need you have nor asks for your consent to critique your body.

        Although I strongly disagree with your framing of the issue, I am happy to learn that you asserted yourself, at least on one occasion.

          1. K.*

            Yeah, my point was: sometimes stuff just happens and you have to suck it up. You could swap out “getting catcalled on the street” for … I don’t know, dealing with a stupid, rigid customer service policy, or any other thing that sucks, happens often, is out of our control, and can’t be solved with a retort.

            I absolutely do not want to derail the discussion with a whole thing about street harassment, so I won’t comment further.

      3. The gold digger*

        The only time I did respond to a street harasser was when he was with his toddler, and I said “I hope no one ever speaks to your daughter the way you just spoke to me.”

        I was a cocktail waitress for a short while when I was in college. A man grabbed my butt. I was so indignant that after 15 minutes, when I could think of what to say, I hunted him down and asked, “How would you feel if someone did that to your daughter?”

        He answered, “I don’t have a daughter.”

        I replied, “Well, if you did, how would you feel?”

        He said nothing and I flounced off.

        Later, he found me and gave me a $10 tip. Which I kept.

  3. Julie*

    When writing emails, I deliberately fill in the “to” field last. That way, if I make a mistake or accidentally press enter, I don’t wind up sending something unprofessional, unfinished, or unflattering. Sometimes just writing out all the anger is worth it for the catharsis, and then you press “delete” and go on with your life. (Kind of like writing a letter to an ex-boyfriend and then tearing it up.)

    1. The Other Dawn*

      That’s an awesome tip! There have been a few times where I was too fast to hit “send” or did it accidentally when I meant to cancel.

      1. A Bug!*

        I’ve set my e-mail to delay sending messages by a few minutes. Although I’m generally fairly attentive when composing e-mails, I often feel a small moment of panic when I hit “send.” The delay allows me to go back and check it without worry.

        That said, it’s less for the possibility of unflattering content and more for the possibility of sending the e-mail to the wrong contact or forgetting to include attachments.

  4. Kelly O*

    The other thing I think people forget is sometimes, things happen with the first person hired; they might have a family emergency come up, they might have to move, heck they might not be as great in person as they were in the interview.

    When that happens, I’d really rather be the person who was intelligent, reasonable, and graceful about the rejection than the person who shot back a sarcastic/zinger email and who will most likely not be considered a second time.

    (Spoken as someone who just went on an interview because the first person hired did not work out, and I was the first person on the call-back list. Another object lesson from this one – when interviewing with this HR manager it became clear she has a some work to do as far as defining this role. I was honest, but offered some reasonable, thoughtful insight into the role from another perspective. Not necessarily trying to sell myself, but providing another point of view on some of the issues she’s had in this role. While I do hope they call me back, I also hope she remembers me if another role at this company becomes available. Way better than acting bored and cutting things short because things didn’t look at first like they were advertised.)

    1. Janet*

      I received my first job out of college when I interviewed at a larger company and was rejected. I was very nice to the guy who rejected me and a few days later he called me back and said that they’d hired a girl who had a year of experience at a slightly smaller company. He knew her old boss at that smaller company and called him up and told him about me and I was told to send that company my resume so I was first in line for a job that had not been posted yet. I did and was hired. So yeah, you really never know how it’s going to shake out.

  5. Listmonkey*

    Errm, I’ve always been under the impression that it’s best simply NOT to reply to rejection emails. Is a response generally expected if it was after an interview?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They’re certainly not required, although if I’ve met with someone in person and established a relationship, it’s generally nice to receive a reply.

      1. K.*

        I reply if it’s clearly come from a person; if it’s a form email, I don’t bother. Usually “Thanks for letting me know. Best of luck to you.” And I do appreciate not being left hanging, since so many companies do the “no news is bad news” thing.

      2. Joy*

        Yes, I almost never reply because we really have nothing further to talk about at that point (because honestly, at this point I don’t appreciate your time, etc. I just really, really, don’t like you). Once I asked for feedback, which was helpful, but usually, no. Which is why I really hate when interviewers call to deliver the bad news … really? I don’t want to hear you talk about how it was such a hard decision for you and on and on. Ugh. Sorry, just venting here! (Since I can’t do it in a reply email, lol.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “at this point I don’t appreciate your time, etc. I just really, really, don’t like you.”

          Why? That’s a serious question. Assuming you weren’t mistreated, you know when you apply for a job that even if you’re really qualified, others are likely to be too, and it’s not going to be personal if someone else is just a better fit. So how come the dislike?

          1. Kelly O*

            I’d have to agree with Alison here – they’ve just not chosen you for a job. It’s not like the hiring manager thinks you’re a bad person.

            And believe me, I know rejection is tough. I think for me at least I appreciate the contact. We both took time from our days to work toward this position – you posted it, I applied to it, we met and interviewed or talked on the phone or whatever, and I’ve been thinking about it while you make a decision. At that point there is a good bit of time mutually spent on the position. So many times, you never hear anything, so I guess I just appreciate the closure.

            Besides, just because this one isn’t right doesn’t mean the next one won’t be. Or you might adore me from the interview and tell someone “we really need Kelly O on our team, even if it’s not this job.” The interviewer might not feel comfortable sharing that just yet, but she does want to let me know this one isn’t panning out.

            I guess it’s all in how you choose to view it.

  6. Stells*

    I’ve had some CRAZY responses to rejections – situations where I seriously think “this person needs psycological help”. Even when things are on the more sane side of things, I still can’t help but wonder why they send these emails. The person sending them to you is (usually) the recruiter who had no say in the decision – or at the very least has little control over whatever it is you’re frustrated about (yes, including how long it took to contact you – a lot of companies base their recruiter’s performance on those types of numbers). At best you just gave them a good story for happy hour, but at worst you eliminate yourself from being considered in the future for any role in that company. When will people learn you can’t simply bully yourself into an interview or a job?

    1. Sophie*

      “When will people learn you can’t simply bully yourself into an interview or a job?”

      THIS. Yes. The hard drive tactic makes me sick. I don’t want to hire anyone that is arrogant and mean. Some people think that shows confidence…to me it means they will be difficult to work with, will be overly sensitive to criticism, and will ultimately quit or get fired and it will all be a waste.

      1. Stells*

        Yes! I’m fine with someone asking why they didn’t get hired, but unfortunately the answer usually is “the other person was just better”. It’s not a lack of anything – they were just more friendly, more knowledgable, etc etc. If you can’t take that feedback without getting defensive (and sometimes angry) then how are you going to react if your manager has to give you negative feedback about your work performance?

      2. Kelly O*

        And the killer here is that there are “career experts” out there who will try and tell people they need to hard sell themselves and not take no for an answer.

        You get someone who is either desperate, who has *ahem* an overly healthy ego, or someone who is just plain gullible and does whatever the google tells them and it’s a recipe for disaster.

        1. Stells*

          True, although I’d amend my original statement to say that you can’t bully yourself into MOST jobs. I would bet there are some sales positions that require a lot of hard selling and they would appreciate seeing a rational explanation on why they ARE the best candidate.

          BUT that is really rare. Unless you’re applying to do cold call type or car sales, it’s never going to work.

  7. Frank*

    I’m surprised people ARGUE this!

    Recently I had gone through some interviews (none were successful, unfortunately) and the few times I DID receive a rejection, rather than dead air, I accepted it and moved on.

    One company did surprise me though and called me to tell me that they had gone with a different applicant. Although being turned down, I did like the one-on-one approach to this and simply thanked them for their time and consideration and asked if they had opened up a position that I would fit in, that I would love to get back in touch.

    Nothing good can come from arguing.

    1. Anonymous*

      As an aside, I will never understand why employers deliver rejections by phone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you appreciated the courtesy they gave you. But in general it just is so emotionally exhausting. The phone rings and you think “OMFG!!!” and then it’s a rejection. Usually in job hunting, phone contact = good news and email = bad/neutral news. So if the phone rings from a company I’ve interviewed with, I’m EXTREMELY excited. I would rather get the rejection via email. Just a random thought.

      1. Nikki*

        You know, that never occurred to me! I guess I’m just a pessimistic job hunter, ha.
        I received a rejection call once and I was sad that I did not get it, but the man was *so nice* and he encouraged me to keep trying . Gave me the warm fuzzies..

      2. Lindsay H.*

        Ugh! I once received a rejection phone call on a Saturday morning. I thought, “There’s no way a hiring manager would be a big enough a-hole to ruin a perfectly good weekend by giving me awful news. New job here I come.” I was wrong. And, bummed out. And, angry. So, I drank.

  8. Ellen M.*

    I am also surprised whenever I read about these nasty responses. It’s choosing to burn a bridge, don’t the applicants realize this?

    In 2005 I applied and was interviewed for a job at a University. Didn’t get it. They were nice enough to send me a letter (snail mail! letterhead!) informing me that someone else had been chosen. I responded by saying “thank you” and wishing them well.

    Seven years later, guess where I am working?

    If I had pitched a fit those years ago, do you think they would have remembered? Yes. Most of the people I work with were working there in 2005.

    It may sting to get a rejection, but if you lash out, you may be causing yourself long-lasting pain and losing opportunities for years to come.

  9. Stells*

    I’d also like to point out, as a recruiter, I’ve received emails like this from people who were currently employed. This mentality isn’t just frustration with the job search process. In fact, one insane candidate tried to tell me I was horrible at my job and should be ashamed of myself because there were people out there who need this job! I actually started laughing at that point in the email because one of the people I hired for that position had been out of work for almost a year and cried on the phone when I gave her the offer – but somehow I’m horrible at my job and deserved to be shamed for not “helping out” someone with stable employment who had an attitude problem on the initial phone screen. Credibility, here’s an open window…just go on through…

  10. Kit M.*

    Personally, I’ve never written an angry response to a rejection because I know their business will inevitably flounder and collapse without me, and that’s punishment enough.

    But seriously, I’m just grateful to get *any* kind of response for a job application.

    1. Joy*

      +1 Also, the person they did hire will be awful, embezzel funds, or leave in two months in with no notice or explanation. I will know this to be true when I see the same job posted three months later :)

  11. Sara*

    This is not related to rejection emails, but it happened recently and I have to share it. Along the lines of “things not to do during a job search,” this happened at my company:

    Several people at my company, including the CEO, belong to a particular professional society in the US. This society posts a directory of members online, including names, company affiliation, email addresses, etc, according to each members’ privacy settings. Recently, someone sent a mass email to every single person at my company on this membership list (including the CEO!) expressing interest in working at our company and asking for general career tips as this person embarks on a career in our field. Seriously!

    1. Robert*

      why is that bad? If you want to work at a company and you don’t already know anyone there, what’s wrong with trying to introduce yourself?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Mass-mailing strangers asking for general career tips isn’t likely to produce a response; it looks lazy (you can’t even be bothered to come up with specific questions, and general career tips can be found all over the Internet) and it’s impersonal.

  12. Pamela G*

    Yep, I originally got rejected for a music teaching position straight out of uni because they went with another applicant. One month later, the other music teacher in the department quit, and since they didn’t have time to readvertise before the school year commenced, they called their number two candidate – me!

    1. Lexy*

      Seriously… stuff like this happens all the time!

      A friend of mine at our office was originally not offered the position, and then another person in the department in that role (not the other person hired) left (2-3 months after her interview I think) and she got the call!

      There was no email torespond to in that case as the original rejection came by snail mail, but still, freaking out about it would have COST her the job that she eventually got.

      Some people, however, aren’t very good at thinking about the consequences of their actions.

  13. Blinx*

    Question about who to reply to… I interviewed at one company with an HR manager and 4 other people. They all received individual “thank you for interviewing me” emails. The rejection email came from the HR manager, and I replied to her with a nice “please consider me for any future openings” email. Should I have copied-in the 4 other people? Sent them all individual emails? I feel like I goofed up on this one.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unless you sent a nastygram, you didn’t mess it up! However, it can be a good idea to respond to the hiring manager too, as well as anyone else who you felt you really clicked with.

  14. brendapie*

    I received the dreaded rejection letter which, after some promising interviews, left me very dejected. Still, I was very polite and sincerely thanked the interviewer for her time. She was a very sweet woman I would have loved to work for and I think she picked up on my sincerity. She wrote back and told me that the same position would be opening up in a few months and once funding was approved I should apply again. It’s not guaranteed that I’ll get the job or even get an interview but I thought it was great that she thought me qualified enough to apply again.

  15. Chocolate Teapot*

    Many years ago, I did receive a couple of rejection letters and did reply, but at the time, I was angry with the treatment I had received.

    1. I was asked whether I would be available for a second round of interviews and I explained I would be away, and they noted the dates. I was then contacted for an interview when I couldn’t attend! So a new date was set, and then I received a message to say there would be no second interview, since they had found somebody else.

    2. A recruitment consultant sent me for a job. They provided the interview time and date and who I would be meeting. So, armed with job description, off I went, to discover my interview was with completely different people. Now, I understand things happen and somebody else needs to take over, but then the interviewers started talking about a completely different role.

    So, feeling bewildered, I tried to make the best of it, and it did sound like the alternative would be interesting and the interviewers emphasised that they thought I would be suitable. So I asked about follow up, and it was agreed a fresh job description would be dispatched. The recruiter was equally bewildered when I provided an update afterwards.

    Several days later and no job description. I telephoned the interviewer to follow up, and was informed that after all, they had decided not to bother, as I probably wasn’t right for either role, especially since I appeared to be confused in the interview!!!

    In these circumstances, I decided to send a polite letter, thanking them for their time, but emphasising that if they hadn’t thought I was right, why agree to a follow up?

  16. Anonymous*

    This finally happened to me as chair of an academic search committee after the first cut and before phone interviews.. It was a phone call from an applicant who tried to argue with me a bit about why he didn’t get an interview. After I told him there was nothing amiss with his application packet, there were just more qualified applicants, told me in an angry tone ‘well, I’d like to meet them then because I have every qualification you want and then some!’ He really didn’t.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I find this attitude of “I’m qualified so why aren’t you hiring me?” so baffling. Do these people really not realize that lots of people are qualified, some of them more so?

      1. Max*

        When people ask for feedback, they’re generally asking “tell me what I did wrong so I can avoid doing it again”, and it’s incredibly frustrating to hear that another applicant was simply more qualified because it doesn’t really offer any concrete path for improvement.

        Rejected applicants want to hear a problem that’s relatively easy to fix, like a mistake with their clothing or a wrong answer on an interview question. If the issue is that another person was more qualified, that’s a far more difficult problem to fix, especially when you’re getting rejected from junior-level and entry-level jobs for that reason. Becoming the most qualified applicant in the pool isn’t easy, especially for younger people that can’t hope to have enough experience to match up against competitors who are just a few years older.

        A lot of the entitlement comes from the fact that many young people nowadays are doing, in many cases, years of unpaid internship or volunteer work. It’s incredibly difficult to face the fact that all that uncompensated effort, undertaken solely to build their skills (and their resume!), is barely enough to put them in the running for jobs in their field.

        I’d guess that many people go into denial about it, and therefore get defensive about rejections because they don’t want to acknowledge that after all that, they’re still not seen as being good enough to be worth paying. When the choices are between feeling worthless or insisting that the hiring manager simply doesn’t realize your worth, I think a lot of people choose the latter as a defensive mechanism.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think there’s something to that. But it continually strikes me as weird that people don’t realize that they could be a great candidate and worth paying, but there were, say, five such people and only one open slot.

          1. Robert*

            which is why companies with big enough budgets should create multiple positions, since there is always work to be done, and usually not enough people to do everything that needs to be done

          2. Editor*

            Here’s a good perspective on why people feel entitled and how they think hard work is all it takes:

            “… If you work hard enough, the maxim goes, you can do anything. This is one of those notions that is so stupid it has to embody a deeply held belief. If you work hard enough, you can be a poet. If you work hard enough, you can play for the Knicks. If you work hard enough, you can become a brain surgeon, a model, the president. Obviously no one believes those things. That it doesn’t occur to anyone to consider them means we must be dealing with a matter of dogma.
            Our students have absorbed the creed. “I worked really hard on this,” goes the common complaint. “I deserve an A.” Never mind the absurdity of this equation when projected out to a professional career. …”


            My favorite line?
            “The Greeks had a word for people who worked harder than anyone else: slaves.”

            Some people think they’ve checked off all the boxes, worked hard, and deserve an interview. Some people think persistence trumps talent. Because work is considered so virtuous in the U.S., people think that their virtuous work will always lead to reward.

            On occasion, I’ve been guilty of expecting a reward for hard work, and the American Scholar post gave me some food for thought. A student paper, for instance, can show hard work but lack logic and organization, and thus be a product of much labor but still not be the right work product. It’s easy to get caught up in supervising the work or doing the work and lose sight of the goal of the work, or in this case, the goal of the application process.

  17. Lisa*

    We brought in a candidate who, in the interview, referenced his age a number of time and refused to give his DOB on the background authorization form. After he was not offered a position (because he was arrogant and no one could imagine working with him) and was sent the “thanks but we went someone else” letter, he emailed me (1)a fairy tale he had written about hiring different color frogs (2) a week later again with just the line “And you must be a democrat” (we provide pest control- totally bipartisan!) and finally (3) another email saying he had started his own business. All three email were copied into out applicant database. I don’t ever want to forget this guy.

  18. Anon1973*

    I was rejected for a job I would have loved! The rejection e-mail stung. I cried. I went home and ripped up all my notes from the interview. I even ripped up my resume!

    A week later they called me. There was another opening. Was I still interested? That was two years ago and I’m still in the job now. I love it.

  19. KarmaKicks*

    I actually had a guy reply to a rejection email with:
    “Well, bite me then!”
    Ummm…yeah. The hiring manager called him out on it (he was an incumbent for the position). Turns out he thought that the email was automatically generated and no one was reading any replies that might come thru. Surprise! He ended up on my do not contact list.

      1. KarmaKicks*

        The HM basically told him we received his response, our company has a policy of service to the customer, and that in the future he may want to temper his response to other companies in a more professional way.

        We haven’t heard from him since :)

        On another note, I always copy emails into our system from people that reply to rejection/position filled emails. Most of the time they thank us for letting them know the status of the position. He’s the only one that’s ever replied that way…doubt he’ll do it again!

  20. Suzanne*

    Whenever I’ve gotten a rejection from a real person, via email or letter, I always follow up and thank them for sending me a personal rejection as many organizations don’t do that. And then I think what a crazy world this is that a job seeker actually gets excited because he/she got a personal rejection rather than an automated one! But I do believe that companies that take the time to personally contact you with a rejection make that their standard practice, and don’t realize how rare it is.

  21. Joy*

    My most recent rejection letter (and of course I don’t bother replying to these) was 1) actually postal mailed when I emailed the application (why kill trees for this?) and 2) said they really enjoyed meeting me. Yup, definitely never laid eyes on me.

  22. Editor*

    I used to be surprised people think they’re the only ones qualified for a particular job. Then my husband started watching American Idol, where people who couldn’t sing on key had tantrums when they were rejected. That was a real eye-opener.

  23. CMW*

    Rejection, like failure, is just part of life.
    It’s a universal human experience.
    Everyone gets rejected at some point,
    and your reaction reveals a lot about your character.

    People who respond in an irrational or disrespectful manner may be new to the experience. Eventually, they will probably learn to control their emotions (or at least resist the urge to throw tantrums) but that takes practice.

    Business correspondence requires tact and professionalism. Anyone who behaves like a spoiled child in response to a rejection letter obviously needs a lot more practice handling rejection, so your letter was the best thing for them — and you, since nobody wants to work with a brat!

  24. Jacob N.*

    Sorry to be late to the party, but I wanted to add my recent experience. I had had a couple of interviews recently, and prepared very thoroughly and felt I connected with my interviewers. I have since interviewed for another position, but I received the rejection letters for the first two positions at virtually the same time. Needless to say, it hit me like a sack of potatoes, and I wondered what more I could be doing.

    That being said, I took a day, and today I replied to both letters. I was gracious and thanked them both for letting me know, and also told them I appreciated their keeping my application open for the near future. One of the two places was very prompt in letting me know, and I was genuinely grateful that they did that.

    It’s been a slog, being unemployed this past year since I finished grad school. But I was raised better than to lash out at people, especially those who I may still end up working for in the future. I have had too many people around me burn their bridges that I know better than to do so myself. Thanks for all your insights (everyone involved), because it’s been a life-saver since I discovered this website.

  25. Anonymous*

    I think what’s most frustrating is when you do accept your rejection with grace, write back expressing gratitude and wishing the company the best, and getting absolutely nothing out of it. I keep hearing stories of applicants who have had employers call them back after they responded gracefully to a rejection with another interview or even a job offer, and I admit to be quite disheartening to do those same things but not get anything back at all.

    I know I should be doing this because I want to show that I am professional and mature, and that I shouldn’t expect anything out of it, but it would be nice to have a success story to share.

    1. Lisa B*

      Unfortunately, it may take awhile. :-/
      I had a candidate we rejected in 2007 and he reached out to touch base last week (9/2012). I responded and told him that I had remembered him to be very professional throughout the interview process and looked him up in our system and let him know the following: “I’m not working on anything that would be a good fit at this time, but it looks like you’ve applied for a few positions being handled by various recruiters in the other offices. While I can’t guarantee anything, I will certainly forward on a note to them letting them know you are worth reaching out to! Glad to hear you are well!”

      So even though I have nothing today, he can be certain I wouldn’t hesitate to be an advocate for him in the future.

      Hope that helps a little. Good luck!

  26. Artemesia*

    I know this all a year old but I just discovered the site and so may others be reading long after the fact.

    Two stories of responses to rejection:

    My daughter lost her job while on maternity leave (they closed down the entire office) and after some consulting work was trying to get a new full time job. She had a series of interviews where she was a finalist and lost out to the other person; very discouraged. The last one told her, they ‘might have something after the first of the year’ for contract work and invited her to the Christmas party. She went. They had a project they hired her for part time after the first of the year. They said, they ‘might have a full time job by summer’ if new business came in. They hired her full time at the start of summer. Imagine if she had behaved like a snot when she lost out. (and they did handle the notification awkwardly)

    I have had lots of weird applicant situations in my career hiring people, but the most memorable response to a rejection was from an older applicant whose put him in our pool of 15 being considered for phone screen. Our ideal candidate was actually someone at his career stage looking for a position for a few years and we did hire someone over 55 for the position. We didn’t end up putting him into the phone screen pool of six from which we selected 2 for on site interviews (involving performance try outs) for several reasons. We got a bad review from someone in the organization for whom he had worked on contract. His email address was beyond unprofessional: something like ‘hotshotjacko’ or ‘mrstudly’ — . He badgered the Admin for a couple of weeks demanding to be scheduled for an interview since he was obviously perfectly qualified for the job. We probably would have interviewed him since he was local and thus it involved no fly in cost if it had not been for the email and treatment of the Admin. The bad rec was a huge red flag, but we might have still at least talked with him.

    After I sent him his rejection indicating we were not going forward with the process with him, we got several detailed Emails in which he railed at us about how he was not only perfectly qualified for the job, but perhaps overqualified and that it was inconceivable we had failed to at least interview him unless we had some agenda or bias against him. He sent us about 500 words of indignation and defense of his right to the job. In his last Email he suggested this agenda was age discrimination. To his first rant, I sent a bland response about choosing the candidates with the best fit. I ignored the second.

    I mentioned age earlier because in fact his age and career stage was actually a positive; we wanted lots of experience and we saw the position as possibly medium term — 5 or 6 years. The person we hired was over 55, but the runner up was in her 30s, so while we were very open to an older experienced candidate, we also went with the best two candidates to interview regardless of age

    We hired two more people for similar positions the next year. We reached out to our runner up. Mr. Wonderful though is definitely on the do not hire list.

  27. jane*

    A simple and quick response to a rejection email should be something like:
    “Thank you for your consideration, and for letting me know your decision.”

    So many companies do not bother to get back to rejected candidates at all, even to those candidates who’ve put in the effort of going through the interviews, submitting tests, delivering references. A company that is respectful enough to send rejection letters deserves a sincere ‘thank you’.

Comments are closed.