how not to respond to a job rejection

This post was originally published on July 20, 2008.

A while back, I wrote a post about how a small fraction of job applicants respond to rejection notices with outrage, rudeness, or general vitriol, and gave a few real-life samples.

Some background: My organization emails rejection notes to all applicants we don’t offer a job to. It’s a friendly and polite 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 (which I recommend — reflects well on them), but every once in a while a candidate sends a nasty email back, outraged that they’ve been rejected.

I can’t figure out why job applicants are willing to burn their bridges in this way, especially since there otherwise may have been other opportunities for them with us in the future. But in any case, here are a few more real-life emails I’ve received in response to rejection notices.

1. I’ve reviewed this email. It’s pretty clearly a form letter. I can appreciate that you’ve got a lot of applicants, and need to skim the fat, so to speak, but I require honest communication from a potential employer, not form letters.

Yeah, it is a form letter — a friendly and polite form letter, but a form letter. When you need to communicate the same information to hundreds of people, a form letter is the most efficient way to do it. I’m not sure why that makes it less “honest.”

2. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that my qualifications are lower than that of other applicants. There is an astute air of refusal that I find quite distasteful. You were probably raised on the East coast, West coast, or Midwest given your style and grammar. I am not going to blame the customs and lifestyle of the geographical region you hail from in regards to the frigid nature of your professional demeanor. But I am upset to find that I can’t get a formal interview because other candidates have better qualifications than me.

Only southerners know how to deliver a rejection notice correctly. The rest of us are frigid. (Plus, my rejection letter is pretty nice, so southern rejection must include light petting or something.)

3. I beg to differ with you. You are turning down by far the most qualified person you had applying.

This is actually the most common theme when candidates react poorly to rejection — being 100% convinced that no one is a better candidate than they are. I understand how frustrating it is to be turned down for a job you wanted, but it always baffles me that someone wouldn’t take into consideration that they have limited information about the job — and the rest of the candidate pool — and we know it quite intimately.

4. Thank you for your rapid response to my last email. In it you state via what appears to be a form letter that you “identified other applicants whose qualifications better fit our needs.” Unfortunately I don’t believe this to be true. A lot of organizations would like to have someone with my considerable set of experiences and leadership and I’m secure enough in them that I won’t rehash those here. I would urge you in future to be more honest with your applicants about why you would prefer not hiring them.

This is similar to #3, but with a paranoid twist: Since it can’t possibly be true that other people are a better fit for the job, we must be hiding our real reason for not wanting to hire him. In fact, I’m generally happy to give feedback if an applicant requests it, but I’m not going to make it a routine part of our rejection notice — both because of lack of time and staff to do so, and also because taking the time to give feedback frequently leads to something like this next one:

5. (received after a rejected applicant asked for feedback and I told him the position required stronger writing and, upon his request, pointed out that his application materials had contained numerous grammatical and spelling errors)

I make no claims of being the best writer in the world, but I would think it is a skill that can be taught and developed. Traits that cannot be taught are character, passion, honesty, hard work, and integrity. I thought that my original cover letter was a pretty clear indicator that I am a well- spoken, educated, and hard working young man. I thought that at the very least my experiences would have made you say “this is someone I need to speak to in person”. But in this world I suppose a persons whole life, intelligence, and excitement will always be less important than “typos”. I guess I should have skipped University and attended typing classes.

This one actually made me feel bad for the guy. I do like character and enthusiasm, but it’s naive to think they trump attention to detail or a basic fit with the qualifications for the job. And since most employers have many well-qualified applicants who don’t submit error-filled work, those things are going to move you to the bottom of the pile. Still, naive as he is, I kind of wanted to give him a cup of cocoa and help him rewrite his resume.


Now that I think about it, this whole thing is yet another way in which the hiring process is like dating. Most people handle rejection well, but every now and then, you get someone who responds like an ass — which always serves to confirm that your decision about them was the right one.

{ 217 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #3: “I am upset to find that I can’t get a formal interview because other candidates have better qualifications than me.”

    I can understand being upset to find out that people with worse qualifications got interviews over you. But how can you be upset that a company went with the best candidate?

      1. JTS*

        If you write rejection letters to people you should expect an occasional harsh response. Its stupid to criticize people for their responses to rejection letters. Not everyone is going to give you a warm fluffy “oh thank you for considering me, it was so kind of you letter”. Sure that is preferred Rejection sucks and I can’t really blame anyone for getting upset about it. Unfortunately this society is filled with alot more No’s than Yesses. My advice to you would just to be sit in your desk and write your rejection letters and not judge peoples responses.

        1. Cactus*

          …but just because you’re rejected for one job doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be a good fit for something else in the same company in the future. But responding like this (being paranoid, questioning the manager’s judgment, calling her frigid based on where you assume she grew up), you’re sending up a red flag to a hiring manager. You’re burning a bridge for no reason. Just because you have a thought (“I’m annoyed to not be hired”) doesn’t mean you have to voice it.

  2. Katie in Ed*

    Oooh! This repost came at the perfect time! I’ve been tasked with hiring a new member on our team, and I’m just sifting through the first wave of resumes. Does anyone have any recommendations for/samples of what to say in a rejection letter? How long do you wait to send it? And this may seem like a silly question, but…how do you send it? Our hiring emails just come through a separate email account – no fancy/aggravating automated systems – and I’m wondering the most efficient way to keep people in the loop. I appreciate any thoughts and responses – I’m still new to hiring, and I want to represent my company well in the process.

    1. jesicka309*

      I think AAM has a few posts about this in the archives. :) I’ve never hired, so I wouldn’t know what to do here.

    2. FD*

      If it was me, I’d like to receive something like this:

      “Thank you for your interest in Position X. Unfortunately, we’re moving forward with other candidates at this time. We’ll keep your information on record in case there are future positions which may be a fit for your qualifications. We wish you the best of luck in your search.

      Katie in Ed.”

      1. WWWONKA*

        Although well done and sounds like many I have received we all know it’s rare that you might get a call in the future.

        1. Jen in RO*

          It’s surprisingly common in my circle of acquaintances. One woman actually got 2 jobs by being the second choice! First time, she got rejected (for a lower level position) and got called back to replace the manager when she went on maternity leave (1-2 years here). The second time, she got rejected and, 4 months later, the person who had been hired decided to quit… she started that job yesterday.

          This is just anecdata, of course, but I don’t think it’s as rare as people think.

          1. Anonymous*

            I’ve gotten other jobs after the one I initially applied for was filled and I have hired people into jobs after the one initally applied for was filled. I agree that it happens more than people might think.

            1. Bea W*

              This is how I got my current job. I was so disappointed when I saw on the status change on my application to “Candidate not selected”. I was contacted 6 weeks later out of the blue by the same company looking to hire in the same role for another team. Turned out the hiring manager for the job I didn’t get was the (then) boss for the head of the team looking to fill another position. You never know! People compare notes. If you were a strong candidate, someone who didn’t hire you might pass that information on to someone who has another open position.

              My team also a year later hired on a woman who interviewed for the same position I was rejected for. I found out while interviewing her that she had also interviewed for the job I hadn’t gotten. In her case she had actually applied for the job we hired her for, rather than the contact being initiated by the company, but either way, she got a job on the second go as well.

              There are usually more great candidates than there are jobs. Just because you weren’t on top the first time, doesn’t mean someone didn’t file you in the back of their mind for later reference.

              1. Tina*

                It’s also how I got my current job. They called me not quite a year later and asked me to interview for another position that was better aligned with my level of experience. And a candidate who got turned down for the job I did get, got chosen for a job the following year! Unusual, I’m sure, and it hasn’t happened since.

                1. some1*


                  To use the job search is like dating analogy, I have been asked or gone out with guys who were great, but I didn’t feel any chemistry with, or the timing was off. I’d have no problem introducing any of those guys to women they might be more compatible with (assuming both parties wanted me to).

            2. Liz in a library*

              We hired a faculty member this way at my last job. She applied for a faculty position in our library, but we were also hiring a faculty member in her area of subject expertise. She wasn’t the right fit for the library, but was being interviewed for the other position within a few days of receiving the rejection letter.

          2. Anonymous*

            A colleague of mine just hired a candidate I passed on to him. He wasn’t the right fit for our team (meaning skill set mix – I was hiring multiple candidates and wanted to balance the overall group) but he did well and I made sure my colleague considered him when a position became available.

            Good managers are always looking for talent to bring on board.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            This is exactly why it’s so important to be gracious about a rejection. All the people in the above post shot themselves in the foot with their reactions. Besides, I was actually glad when someone bothered to even reply. It made me feel better about them as a company, on the whole.

          4. JMegan*

            That has happened to me twice, including my current (permanent! full time!) position. Obviously it’s not very effective as a strategy, but sometimes you do get lucky.

          5. tcookson*

            I don’t think it’s rare at all, judging from the scenarios I’ve seen in even just my current job. There have been several times when the first candidate didn’t work out (accepted the offer then withdrew; started the job then accepted another one early in; etc.).

            Several of our current employees (unbeknownst to some of them*) were the second candidate, but they wouldn’t have been asked back if they’d made an asshat of themselves after the first rejection.

            *Now I wonder if I’m one of them . . .

          6. Parfait*

            I got hired once after the first choice person didn’t work out. They didn’t tell me that, but I found the original person’s offer letter and such when I was doing some filing after I was on the job.

            I credit my timely thank-you notes.

        2. Jen in RO*

          And, maybe I’m out of line, but you have seemed very angry at the world lately, WWWONKA… I know that job seeking can be brutal and some random stranger won’t make it better, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you to get out of this negative thinking phase.

          1. A Teacher*

            I don’t think she comes across as angry at the world–frustrated for sure, job searching is really frustrating. I too hope that things get better though.

          2. WWWONKA*

            Angry no, frustrated yes. This past case was so negative I wanted nothing to do with the company nor did I want them to have my info. I will not tolerate being obviously mistreated. I have seen many things in my day, discrimination and blatant racism amongst them. I have been told “you should work hard and then you can join the good old boys club” and have seen obvious favoritism toward the “gang” that hangs out drinking together. Lack of help from HR during trying times has been seen more than once. So with these experiences have come my writings.

        3. FD*

          True. But it’s not impossible, especially if your resume and cover letter were strong, but you weren’t the right fit for this particular job.

        4. danr*

          There are some class acts out there. One employer that I applied to had that in the rejection letter, and about six months later I was contacted for an interview for a similar job. I didn’t get that one, and about a year later I was contacted again. By then I had my ‘dream job’ (and it really was [grin]) and asked them to remove my resume from their files.

    3. Melissa*

      IMO, don’t send them snail mail. That’s weird. I got a snail mail rejection letter and it seemed like a waste of paper, and made the rejection seem more formal than it was.

      1. Bea W*

        When I was a young job seeker, employers would send rejection letters by snail mail which were then hand delivered to your home by some poor guy who had to walk 5 miles uphill in the snow! ;)

    4. Jamie*

      Katie – personally I keep it short and sweet. Just a couple of lines about how we went in another direction, but wishing them luck, and that we’ll keep them in file for future openings (if true.)

      I wait at least a day – even if in the interview you know it’s an absolute no, it just feels mean to send a rejection letter people could get on their phone before even making it home. But in practice, it’s usually a couple/days weeks before you know (I only send to those who interview, not just those who send in a resume) so if a reasonable amount of time as passed it’s kind to send it as soon as you know.

      And for us no fancy system – just company email.

      And again, IMO, but always email. To me snail mail is just weird and I hate the idea of making someone answer their phone for bad news. I think email is the kindest way to notify someone.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Maybe it’s me, but I wouldn’t mind receiving a rejection on the way home from the interview. That would help me to cross that job off my list and move on and also to know that I should order some of my famous Chinese comfort food and pick it up on the way back home to drown my sorrows. :) But I do get the argument for it being kinder not to send it right away too. It’s just my preference to know ASAP so I can let go of the hope.

        1. Jamie*

          I totally get that – and tbh I’m that way, too. But too many people have told me they think it’s heartless and to insert a buffer that I’ve adopted that. I’ve come to realize that my emotional reactions to things aren’t always the norm so sometimes I need to go with the consensus.

          I think for some people doing it too soon has a vibe of “we met you and hate you…ewwww” rather than “we weighed you against the other candidates and decided to go another way.” Even if the first isn’t true the wait can be easier on the ego to let you think it was closer than it maybe was.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, I get the arguments for why not to do this and it probably is the best rule to institute overall. I’m just a “let’s get on with it” type. But I do know that is not the norm and most people probably would prefer that buffer.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s good to know though – that if you’re ever in the position to reject me for a job that you can tell me right away.

              And I also think Chinese is the best comfort food after a trying day…so after you send me the rejection email we can get together for dinner. :)

              1. Anonymous*

                This is not against you but against me. Food makes you fat; just don’t know how the prospect of piling on more weight brings comfort. Finding and following a YouTube video of a hard workout does the trick. Pilates, for example.

                1. fposte*

                  Food feeds you, which you’d die without. *Excess* food makes you fat.

                  I’m not insisting that you get comfort from food, but the seeming belief that it can’t be anything but a source of overweight, to the point where you wanted to say this to a fairly tangential remark, makes me worry about you and your health. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, this is not a healthy seed to sow.

                2. Jamie*

                  What fposte said. A healthy relationship with food is a complicated issue for some people, but I was just making an offhand comment. And people do need to eat.

                3. Ruffingit*

                  Well, if I was eating fatty, deep fried food every single night, then yeah I would pile on weight. A little comfort food when I’ve been rejected from an interview? Not a problem particularly with the amount of exercise I do. But thanks for caring, I guess.

                4. Clever Name*

                  You know what? Saying this type of thing feels rude and unhelpful to me. This is a management blog, not a weight loss blog. Besides, do you really think the information you gave is a revelation to anyone? It reminds me of workplace health initiatives that gleefully give health advice without actually making any effort to actually make people healthier.

                5. Rana*

                  Agreed. This was a rather strange comment to make, in this context. For some of us, food is just that – food – and not an evil substance we must fight against. (I realize that may be hard for you to believe, given what you wrote, but it’s true.)

        2. anon-2*

          Or, better yet, to allow yourself to go forward and move ahead.

          Put them in your rear-view mirror and seek out the next destination.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I agree with the email–plus, then you don’t have to wait ages for the reply. Sometimes the mail is way too slow. If they react badly, you can always block them.

      3. Joey*

        I so wanted to cut an interview short not too long ago. The candidate sounded great initially, but it was apparent after a few minutes in person that his skills weren’t nearly as strong as he made them sound. But the guy drove in from about 5 hours away so I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was a painful. What’s surprising is he felt the interview went well because he reiterated his strengths that night to me in an email. The sad part is his cluelessness just reaffirmed our decision about him.

        1. anon*

          And this would be exactly why I wrote in to the open thread asking about how to write a thank-you after an interview where I got the sense that I was not really being considered for the position (internal candidates suspected). I really didn’t want to write my usual “here’s why I’m excited about and qualified for your position” note because I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t read the situation… but I also didn’t want to just not send any kind of note.

          Just because he sent the note doesn’t necessarily mean he’s clueless: he could be reading advice (including this blog) about the value of sending thank-you notes.

          1. Joey*

            If that were the case I would have expected a simple “thanks” for the interview. Reiterating why you’re great for the job when you know that you’re not flies in the face of all logic.

            1. fposte*

              How do you know he knew, though? Was it that he didn’t have the characteristics he was claiming to have in his followup or that they weren’t enough to make him competitive?

              1. Joey*

                Of course I don’t know for sure, but the first sign was an awkward joke he made in which he was the only one laughing. It should have been apparent that it was a disaster when I attempted to drill down into some important skills/experience and he backtracked on things he earlier claimed.

                He also claimed he was still working and then later made a comment that contradicted that. When I asked him for clarification he was sort of tongue tied and then came clean that his boss had kept him on the payroll for a few more weeks, but he wasn’t actually working anymore. Technically not a lie, but definitely misleading.

                And to top it off he emailed me reiterating how great of a match he was for the job. C’mon dude.

                1. fposte*

                  Dunning-Kruger effect, maybe? I’m amused that he actually managed to stay on the payroll past his term and still failed to use that to good advantage.

        2. Anonymous*

          I had the spend the whole day with a young un who interviewed in a field that is traditionally female and populated by humanities types. He told us in the first five minutes he would succeed because of his tech skills, and that, (though he was a humanities major) English majors who couldn’t cut it technologically in our field were a dime a dozen, so he would soon rise to the top. The two English majors in the room looked around the table at the rest of us and smiled. Proceeded to trash his boss and mentor, display his vindictive side, talked all during lunch about what a special snowflake he was. His job talk, however, was really good. I will give him that. He wasn’t getting the BROAD hints I was dropping that I wanted to wrap up the department tour–he kept asking probing questions of each person whose office we dropped by or ran into. I’m sure he left thinking he had a chance. He was that clueless. Later, one of my officemates asked me why I didn’t like him. She knows me well enough to tell, ‘when you were holding it together and being super Southern polite to someone you find distasteful.’

          Note to job-seekers: you don’t have to be the most special or smartest candidate. You have to be someone we can work with, as well as smart and good at your job. And most jobs don’t really call for ‘special.’ They call for competent and a low-drama team player. And you don’t prove anything –except how ungrateful and clueless you are– by talking about how much better you are than your boss, who some of us know professionally.

          1. AW*

            Ugh, I think I’ve met that guy. :(

            Unfortunately, there’s lots of job advice that insists that you do have to come across as special and some people seem to interpret that to mean they should be arrogant.

  3. Job Seeker #985,672*

    Should I be sending thank you for the notification of rejection emails emails? I mean, I certainly would if it were after I spoke with or interviewed with the person, but if I apply online and weeks later receive a rejection, should I be responding?

    1. jesicka309*

      Pffft I wouldn’t. If you emailed your application, and received an emailed rejection, I’d respond and say thank you.
      If I applied online via an AATS like Taleo, and received an email rejection automated from their systems, I wouldn’t reply.
      Basically, if a person had to copy/paste your address into an email and send it, I’d reply. Autogenerated emails from computwer systems I wouldn’t bother.

    2. FD*

      In my opinion, it depends on whether the e-mail comes from an automated system or an actual person. An automated system will usually have a notice at the bottom saying the e-mail box can’t receive e-mails.

      Even if it’s just a copied and pasted e-mail, what do you have to lose by sending a nice note? It might get someone to remember you for a future position. It needn’t even be long, maybe something like this:

      “Dear Hiring Manager:

      Thank you for letting me know that I won’t be moving forward for Position X. I appreciate getting a response, as I know you must be very busy. I am still very interested in working for your company, so if you have time, I’d love any feedback you might be willing to give me about my application.

      Job Seeker”

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ve gotten feedback from responding like that. And in that case, the hiring manager remembered me and some years later contacted me to see if I was still interested in working for him.

        2. Kate*

          I’ve only done this once but I did get feedback. Unfortunately the person didn’t really have any, she said she thought I was great and very personable and qualified but they’d been “inundated” with great applicants. Sweet of her to respond but it was kind of even more frustrating. She did forward me some other job leads, though, so that was nice.

      1. FD*

        A few! Mostly when it’s something fairly easy to point to, such as “We need someone with X years of experience and you only have Y at this time.” Minimally, it can’t hurt to ask, right (as long as you’re polite and not crazy)? The worst they can do is ignore you.

      2. Broke Philosopher*

        What if the rejection comes from HR? I recently had an interview at a company after a phone screen with a woman from HR. She sent me a nice note saying that she had enjoyed talking to me and the team had enjoyed meeting with me but they had decided to go with another candidate. I responded thanking her, but I didn’t ask for feedback because she didn’t conduct the actual interview.

        I would really have appreciated feedback from this group though, as I thought I was a great fit. It would have been nice to know whether it was just a matter of someone else was better (more experience, etc) or if there was anything I could have done differently.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I asked an HR person for feedback once, after a phone screen and an in-person interview went really well but I wasn’t hired. She actually said she had no freaking idea why I wasn’t hired, that the hiring manager really liked me and spoke well of me, but that the person they did hire was someone somebody higher up knew. So maybe she shouldn’t have told me that, but it explained everything. I thanked her and let it go.

          I probably wouldn’t bother replying if it were an application, but most definitely would if it were after an interview.

          1. Laufey*

            Hey, on the plus side, after feedback like that you know that your cover letter, resume, and interview skills are spot on and that you’re applying for the right type of jobs. I’m not downplaying the suckiness of getting rejected for that reason, but there’s still a lot of useful information to be gleaned from a comment like that.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, it was a long time ago, but it definitely helped me on this last round of unemployment. I just remembered that hey, sometimes I didn’t get the job because somebody’s niece probably did. And then, of course, in my mind, they sucked at it. :)

      3. fposte*

        Though I think we’re conflating two things here–you can send a thank-you-for-considering-me note that doesn’t ask for feedback, too. Don’t feel obliged to ask for feedback.


    I have burned the bridge one time with a company I interviewed at. The entire hiring process was a mess starting with the recruiting agency all the way through the interviewer. After I heard that I didn’t get the job I requested my personal information back which was a pain to get. I didn’t care about this agency or company so it didn’t bother me in the least. Other than that I get the generic thanks but no thanks, sometimes with disappointment, and take it with a grain of salt.

    1. Laufey*

      Just out of curiosity – how did you ask for your personal information back? Every place I’ve worked at has saved job candidate info to the server. After the search is completed, we delete the electronic files and destroy any hard copies. Did you not trust the company to delete your info? And even if they sent you back your hard copies, how would you know if they deleted it from the server. I’m honestly a little confused by this.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This is what I’m wondering. We put all info into our database, so even if an applicant wanted their physical application back (which would be weird enough to land that person on our informal do not hire list), we’d still have all their information.

        And it’s not getting removed from the database upon request, either. We’ll mark it Do Not Contact, Do Not Share, whatever, but that info is only *removed* exceptionally rarely (in part because removing people from a database can actually increase the odds that they receive an unwelcome communication from us in the future).

    2. Forrest*

      The problem is you don’t just burn one bridge with one company – people move and they remember odd things like that. One company can turn into five companies easily.

      1. Nikki T*

        Was about to say the same thing. People can have long memories and move on to different companies, even move on to different cities. You never know where anyone from that team may end up….

    3. fposte*

      Were you worried about what they’d do with the information, or was it a way of letting them know you were angry with them?

      1. WWWONKA*

        During the interviewing process I left them some requested hard copies of different bits of info I did not want them to have after I got bad feelings of the manger and company. I was very business appropriate at the beginning and worked through the recruiter. The recruiter then started to make a mockery of me and that’s when it changed the politeness from both the recruiter and myself. This is the only time I reacted like this and although probably not the best thing to do I felt I was correct in what I did.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t mean to be harsh, WONKA, and believe me, I know where you’re coming from. But you’re going to have to get your bitterness and frustration under control. If it’s showing here, it will show to potential employers. It’s very, very hard for most people to hide a slow burn like that.

      It’s fine to vent to us–we’re here to help. I’m concerned for you though. This could have potentially been a bad move if someone talked, or like others have pointed out, if they change companies. If you had a legitimate concern about their privacy practices, that’s a different matter and understandable.

      Journaling is a good way to get those feelings out, or some kind of physical activity. I torched a lot of it by exercising madly (walking and weights at home, so no money spent) during my 2012 exile. I had also been dumped, so I had a LOT of upset to burn. I’m still dealing with that last bit. :P

      My point is, try to find some way to channel it in a more positive direction, or it’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. You don’t want that and neither do we. *hug*

  5. John Fischer*

    In regards to #2: The very first thing that came to my mind was, “Bless his heart.”

    1. Stephanie*

      “Bless your heart, dear, we just can’t extend you an offer. But y’all come back now to our website to apply for future opportunities.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      LOL it made me think of the HIMYM Sn. 8 episode (that I just watched) where Marshall was channeling his inner goddess and she was a sassy, in-your-face, finger-snappin’, no-holds-barred Southern lady.

  6. Lillie Lane*

    I got a rejection letter last year that said their search “had not resulted in any qualified applicants and we will be closing the position search. However, we will reopen the position [several months later] and you are invited to reapply.”

    I thought that wording was kind of insulting. I guess I wasn’t what they were looking for, but I honestly believed I was really qualified for the position (over-educated, maybe, but qualified.). I’m sure there were other candidates that were probably good, too.

    I also don’t know why they invited rejected applicants to reapply in 3 months — if they didn’t think we were qualified then, what could you possibly do in 3 months to get enough experience to be considered? I suppose if you had a bad cover letter or resume, you could improve it, but that’s about it.

    1. Rich*

      This sounds like one of the worst rejection emails ever. I don’t know how they thought that was ok or that it made sense for people they just said weren’t qualified. **Blood Pressure Spikes**

    2. Nancie*

      Maybe they meant to imply that they were rethinking the qualifications for the position? Or maybe it required some certification that they thought a number of the previous candidates would get in that time? Otherwise I agree, it doesn’t make much sense.

      1. greenlily*

        If I got that e-mail, I would assume that a. they were re-thinking the qualifications for the position, or that b. they had gotten some qualified applicants but none of them were quite right, and they expected the applicant pool to look better in a few months.

        That first one is understandable in almost any professional context. The second one is kind of specific to my field, which is higher ed. Higher ed admin jobs are, to some extent, seasonal; if a job search is happening during the ‘slow time’ of the academic year, the folks doing the hiring might be willing to close the search and re-open it when there are more people looking for new jobs.

        (There is, of course, a third interpretation which leaps to mind, which is that, although the current batch of applicants were qualified, none of them were willing to work for the salary being offered–and the folks doing the hiring hope that, in a few months, these same applicants will be more desperate to find jobs and will be willing to rethink the salary they’ll accept.)

      2. Cruella Da Boss*

        Maybe they meant to imply that the candidate had some time to get in some training classes, complete a certification, make some improvements, etc…

  7. Anonicorn*

    I make no claims of being the best writer in the world, but I would think it is a skill that can be taught and developed.

    This is actually incredibly difficult – particularly if writing is, say, 30% or more of the job.

    1. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

      When I was an administrative assistant, my boss had me review all correspondence sent by one of our team members (who, of course, made 3-4 times my salary). College educated and could not figure out the difference between ‘hear’ and ‘here’ and could not punctuate a sentence to save his life. No – if the position requires any kind of writing – and I’d love to know about one that pays that doesn’t – they need to come in the door able to write business correspondence they learned on their own time.

    2. greenlily*

      Yup. I’ll be the first to admit that there are many aspects of my job at which I am not brilliant. However, I’m an outstanding writer, and my boss values me enough for it to mellow her temper when I make mistakes in other tasks. :)

      1. Jamie*

        This is huge. Being able to write well is such a valuable skill. When I was young and naive I didn’t appreciate that it was a big deal, since it comes relatively easy to me I thought it was easy for everyone. If you can read, you can write. Right? Turns out, not so much.

        Absolutely I think anyone can (and must) master professional communication and be able to write emails properly…but when we get someone new and they can really write…I try to grab them for my projects where I need that.

        Some people I’d settle for even responding to email. My favorites are the ones who receive my email, print it out, and walk it over to barge in my office to talk about it right now.

        I am not kidding that I’ve worked with people where I questioned their literacy due to their absolute refusal to reply to an email and everything needed to be a face to face conversation.

        1. Katie in Ed*

          The value of writing in business confounds me. I see so much poor writing in business copy and hear so many managers bemoan their poor writers on staff, but do they actually hire people with writing skills and education? No. Or at least, not primarily. In my experience, writing gets short shrift to other skills deemed more important to the immediate bottom line. If you want good writers, hire someone who can write. It’s that simple.

          Am I alone on this one?

          1. Jamie*

            You’re not alone, but while I weight that very heavily I know a lot of hiring managers who, when hiring engineers or techs, don’t care. I stress the importance, but to them it’s secondary or no big deal because they won’t have written contact with customers.

            So apparently not being able to send a cogent email to IT about an issue, or write up a performance review for a report without someone cleaning it up is okay.

            Sorry – pet peeve of mine. People need to hire for this skill. Can we start a movement about this?

            1. the gold digger*

              When my husband, an electrical engineer, wanted to take a four-month unpaid leave of absence last year to run for public office, I was worried his company wouldn’t take him back. They gave him the leave, but said his job was not guaranteed.

              I asked a friend (and former boss) of my husband’s about it. The friend said I didn’t need to worry – because of my husband’s technical and communication abilities – his dad was an English professor who made sure my husband could write, it would take at least six months to replace him.

              And Jamie, I’m all for the “Let’s hire English majors and other people who can write and who know not to name a shoe ‘Incubus'” plan.

              1. Jamie*

                Ha! Who would buy an incubus? That thing in a closet just waiting for dark to fall to come to life and…

                Come to think of it there may be a market for that. Just not in your general family friendly shoe store.

          2. Anonicorn*

            I think people have this false idea that you can either be good at languages and stuff or be good at maths and stuff, but not both. Kind of that whole left-brain/right-brain myth.

    3. Anonymous*

      I have a hard time imagining a position in an office setting that doesn’t require written communication.

      That being said, I was once privileged to hear a Senior Vice President who lacked this skill being taken severely to task by his assistant for daring to send out an email himself. It was only one sentence, I think, but it was clearly written by someone who simply couldn’t write.

      The assistant’s basic message was that everyone knew she handled his email, and when something like THAT went out it reflected very poorly on HER, and he was NEVER, EVER, EVER to send an email by himself again. :-)

      1. the gold digger*

        Which brings us to the sad story of the (former, I think) head of the Detroit Public Schools, Otis Mathis, and an email he sent:

        If you saw Sunday’s Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason’s he gave for closing school to many empty seats.

        From The Detroit News:

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Oh, wow. That just gave me a grammar headache. I’m not sure I could torture that sentence into making any sort of sense. At least his capitalization is correct?

        2. Not So NewReader*

          This guy’s writing skills are incredible.
          But that isn’t what bothers me.

          It appears he has been told numerous times to have someone proof read and yet he refuses.
          Clearly people are willing to overlook his writing because he has other outstanding abilities. So why not just ask someone to review the emails, etc. Why is that so difficult for him to do?

    4. Mena*

      Why would I hire some that I need to then teach? Isn’t my goal to hire the person that can best do the job?

      1. fposte*

        I think that a lot of job-seekers find it hard to imagine the hiring manager’s point of view.

  8. Erin*

    THANK YOU FOR ACTUALLY REJECTING CANDIDATES. It’s sad, but these applicants should be grateful these days to actually get a response from an employer at all. I’ve had companies where I’ve done multiple rounds of interviews – including flying cross country for the interviews – who still never formally rejected me.

    1. Sascha*

      Agreed, I get a lot more annoyed when I don’t hear anything at all. I will take any kind of rejection letter, including these “disingenuous” form letters of which they speak.

    2. Amber*

      I interviewed for a position last week and received a rejection phone call yesterday. The interviewer delivered the news but held that I was a strong contender and encouraged me to apply for other positions in the department as they become available. She noted that she wanted to contact me personally because she felt that email was insufficient in this case and she hopes that we can work together in the future. While I am certainly disappointed, I am beyond impressed that she took the time to reach out. One thing is for sure, this only reaffirms my interest in working for them!

  9. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

    Astonishing but somehow, not surprising, given your date analogy (one of the last dates I went on, the dude actually yelled at me – on the date – needless to say, the one and only date we ever had – I hadn’t even rejected him – just answered a question – ugh!).

    We had a wonderful contract employee in our office for about 6 months – I still miss her! She had done many, many interviews (about two years worth) before coming to us. The reason she left us was that one of the companies she had interviewed with had another opening and called her to have her come back in for a different position, then hired her. I’m sure this was due to her professionalism, both during and after the interview process (I know she sent thank you notes, having received a lovely one from her during her interview process with us). Never, ever hurts to be polite cause karma can be a b*(ch!

    PS – now she is soliciting me to come work with her and I am most seriously considering it! :)

      1. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

        Ha! :) I was looking to find a sales position at the time and when he asked what kind of salary I was looking to make, I said $100K. He went on an explosive rant about how if I made that much money, how would I ever be in a position to date anyone who made less? I said I didn’t use salary as criteria when deciding whether or not to date someone (with a smile on my face no less, since I could see he was getting upset) and he lost it. Apparently, he and his ex split over the money issue and he was clearly not over it. After he calmed down a bit, we talked for a few more minutes, I paid my share and booked.

        Good thing I hadn’t taken him up on his initial offer to ride out to take a walk with him out at the state park where Ted Bundy found some of his victims (close to where I live) – I would have been scared outta my wits when he went nutso like that!! :(

  10. Brooke*

    “…but I require honest communication from a potential employer, not form letters.”

    I have read this post a few times and only today did this statement from letter #1 stand out to me. I find it kind of odd/amusing that this candidate turns it around as if he is rejecting you, especially saying that he “requires” something… How can you “require” something from a company you just rejected you?

    This also reminds me of dating – “You’re not breaking up with me! I’m breaking up with you!”

    1. StellaMaris*

      I think the guy was just saying that his communication style and the company’s weren’t a good fit, not asking the company to do anything further. I agree that it’s phrased badly, but if I got that response, or a similar one, from other candidates, I’d take a second look at my letter.

      1. fposte*

        Sure, if tons of people tell you they hate your rejection email, you’re probably doing something wrong. But this is an email bitching about being rejected by form letter, which isn’t going to change, so all he’s doing is looking simultaneously pompous and naïve.

        1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

          Exactly, and it sounds like this particular candidate was taking the rejection personally. He figured that the employer had some sort of secret reasoning for passing him up (because he is so darn awesome). Unless you are dealing with a very small company who doesn’t do a lot of hiring, you are most likely going to get a form letter. It isn’t rude or dishonest (hopefully, but I guess you never know with some employers). Now I will admit, I have seen some bad form letter examples. One time, several years ago, my husband was job hunting and got a rejection letter in the mail. He thought that the wording was really rude, and so he asked me to take a look at it, I thought that he was just being sensitive, but then I actually read it… and it was rude! So I suppose if you are getting a lot of complaints about the form letter, it may need revamping. You want form letters to be short and to the point, while still being friendly and appreciative of the candidate’s time and interest in your organization.

  11. fposte*

    Some of this reminds me of the teenaged fandom belief that if you just could manage to *meet* your crush, he’d totally love you and be yours. But I do not think the interview would have gone the way these applicants believe.

    1. Jamie*

      Teenage? This is why I steadfastly refuse to meet Alex Van Halen to this day. I am sure it would result in the break-ups of both of our marriages and I don’t want to move to California.

      1. fposte*

        And now it’s like an O. Henry story where you’re secretly doing this amazing sacrificial deed and the Van Halens never even know.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m sure similar disruptions would happen if I ever met Mike Rowe. How on earth could he possibly fail to be impressed by my qualifications as the future Mrs. Rowe? ;)

        1. Jamie*

          I carry, in my wallet, a cut out from Fast Company magazine’s interview of Mike Rowe where he admits he’s ripping off Steven Covey and posts his own 7 Habits for Highly Effluent People.

          1. Never follow your passion, but by all means bring it with you.
          2. Beware of teamwork.
          3. Vomit proudly and wherever necessary.
          4. Be careful, but don’t be fooled. Safety is never first.
          5. Think about what you are doing – never how.
          6. Ignore advice like “work smart, not hard.” It’s dangerous and moronic.
          7. Consider quitting.

          It’s my lucky talisman. But don’t worry, Elizabeth, I just love him for the laughs and platonic work advice…just invite me to the wedding because I want to show him that’s I’ve been toting around his wisdom for years.

          1. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

            Wow – I love those 7 and I’m posting them (with #6 in bold caps) in my cube – thanks, Jamie!

  12. nyxalinth*

    I used to get annoyed at the ones which told me I wasn’t qualified and they went with other candidates. I had the right years of experience, right skills, right this and that as stated in the ad. How could I not be qualified for an interview? Reading this blog has taught me a lot, including you can have all the right everything, do all the right things, and still never make it to an interview,so just move on and keep at it. You don’t know all the stuff in the background that an employer has going on, requirements that don’t make it into the ad, last second requests for certain skills, etc.

    I started looking at it more as “Doesn’t matter, had a rejection” and moved on.

    I got a written rejection back in 2008! I remember thinking that I didn’t think that they did that anymore. Ten years previously, I had one, too.

  13. Anony1234*

    I had applied to a fellowship two years in a row, and both times I was rejected. The first year I was asked to interview, but the second year I was not. Both times I received a form interview, and after the second one, it seemed too familiar, at least to the point of it being written by the same person. I still had the first rejection letter filed away on my email, and I opened it – to see that it was the exact same form letter! It did not differentiate between those they had interviewed and those they had not. While I did not respond to the rejections in either case, it did tick me off and, at the same time, make me laugh out loud because they could not write up two different letters. It did not sit right, still doesn’t, but I’m not going to call them out on it.

    1. Kate*

      Eh, I kind of agree. In one case I interviewed multiple times for a position and heard from an inside source that I was one of their top two candidates and generally felt I had invested a lot of time and emotion into this and built relationships with these people … so when I got the generic form rejection in the end (from the HR go-between, not even any of the four people I interviewed with), I was a little miffed.

      Now with the passage of time I’m pretty glad I didn’t get that job, mainly because the commute would have been a nightmare, and I ended up getting a great job which is more aligned with my interests (and closer to home!) and I harbor no hard feelings. But even so, I think a short note from a real human would have been appreciated.

  14. K in Canada*

    I once got a snail mail rejection letter in the mail one day after having the interview. Is far as I know, it is very unlikely that someone can post a letter in the morning (regular mail) and have it delivered that afternoon, so my conclusion was that they had mailed it out before they actually interviewed me!
    I have to admit that I didn’t do very well in the interview, but perhaps that was partly due to the fact that the interviewers had already made their mind up on a candidate. I didn’t send them an angry response, but the experience soured me toward ever working for that company in the future.

    1. COT*

      At least in my city (U.S.) a letter dropped off at the post office in the late afternoon might make it to the recipient’s mailbox the next day, assuming they live within the same metro area.

  15. Cruciatus*

    Years ago (but not as many years ago as I’d like) I did once email the HR person and, I hope kindly, asked what they had been looking for (since I had met all the criteria and then some…I was newer to this work thing!). She responded and I thanked her. I am still hoping one day to work there so I hope she didn’t add my name to the “Do Not Hire” list…

    1. Anonymous*

      That just sounds like you were asking for feedback on areas you could improve. That’s not a bad thing.

    2. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      There is nothing wrong with that at all. People call and e-mail me with those types of questions all of the time. Usually I am able to provide some insight into why the hiring manager chose different candidates to move forward with.

  16. Anonymous*

    #2. I’m not a grammarian, by any stretch of the imagination, but how ironic that the last word in #2’s rant is a grammatical error. It should be ‘I’ and not ‘me,’ as awkward as it may sound to many, if not to most. *****But I am upset to find that I can’t get a formal interview because other candidates have better qualifications than I (do) and not me, as ‘me’ cannot do anything.

  17. tango*

    I bet somewhere some HR/Career counselor/__ (fill in the blank) “professional” is telling rejected candidates that it’s not you, it’s them and just persist and send a rejection to their rejection. Maybe hoping two negatives make a positive? Goofy!

  18. Ruffingit*

    There is an astute air of refusal that I find quite distasteful.

    WTF?? An astute air of refusal? I’d reject the guy just for that one line. What an ass.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. Besides the sentence just being completely stupid, he uses the word wrong entirely. Although, I’d say it was certainly astute not to hire this guy.

      2. Barbara in Swampeast*

        I wanted to say that!

        But, on the other hand, maybe he did mean to say this and does find astute decisions distasteful.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree. I wouldn’t attribute astuteness to an inanimate ‘object’ such as ‘air.’ It’s stilted if not just plain wrong.

        1. anonymous*

          Actually that use is quite correct. ‘Air’ can mean ‘attitude’ and in this case almost certainly does.

            1. Jamie*

              I think that’s what he was going for, too.

              Most awesome misuse of a word was a couple of years ago a co-worker asked – in a perfectly pleasant and polite way, “Can you answer a couple of questions about your charade of this project.”

              And he pronounced it sharrraaaaahhhhdddd…really drawn out and kind of old world fancy pants new englandly which you don’t hear a lot around this Chicago water cooler. He didn’t mean anything negative by it, but to this day neither of us have any idea what word he was really reaching for…but he was trying to improve his vocab and kinda missed on that one.

              1. Anonymous*

                LOL. yeah, we’ve got one of those Ivy League fancy pants here too who clearly cannot get over his SAT scores from 45 years ago! He throws Germanic around words like ‘ersatz’ that no one, NO ONE save for academics and of course Germans, Swiss and Austrians, uses in every day speech. But I got my revenge, so to speak, one day when, instead of simply saying that he shoes were ‘scuffed’, he reached for ‘burnished.’ A co-worker and I looked at each other and in unison, told him that he got the word wrong. The look on his face was priceless.

              2. Kelly L.*

                I associate that pronunciation with Days of Our Lives and some whacked-out storyline involving Stefano DiMera from the nineties. I think it was Hope as Princess Gina who kept saying shaaaaaaaraaaaaahhhhd.

            2. Nikki T*

              Thank you! I had to look up astute to make sure it meant what I thought. Couldn’t figure out WHAT he was talking about…

            3. fposte*

              I don’t really see “acute” working either, though; it’s just not quite as egregiously wrong as “astute.”

              1. Anonymous*

                ‘Acute’ might work elsewhere in the sentence, such as ‘an acute refusal’ or ‘acutely distasteful.’ What say you?

                1. fposte*

                  Even if we solve that, “air of refusal” is still bonkers, so this really is more than a simple word choice error.

  19. Liz in a library*

    I think candidates who are willing to burn bridges are the ones who take the rejection as a personal rejection. So, instead of thinking “My skills don’t fit what they need this time,” they think “They hate me/think there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.” So, there is no bridge to burn because why would the company contact me later if there’s something wrong with me as a person?

    It is really wrong-headed thinking, and has to be exceptionally stressful to go through life that way too…

    1. Ruffingit*

      These are the same people who someday become the co-workers and (God forbid) managers who take it personally when people want to leave their departments/job sites. We recently had that discussion in another post and someone shared that when she applied for an internal job, her manager found out and came over to her with “Do you hate me that much?” YES, yes I do. And if I didn’t before, I do now.

      People with this kind of self-involved demeanor are going to have major trouble in the workplace as a general rule.

    2. fposte*

      That’s the thing. I totally understand the frustration that these people are feeling, but I think they’re trying to do something with these responses without realizing it’s not working. Nobody gets these responses and is sorry about the outcome, or thinks they should have treated the person differently, or admires them. And surely people don’t write the responses thinking “I’ll show that company I fail at professional standards and respond to work developments personally! Convincing them they did the right thing in not hiring me will teach them a lesson!”

  20. Mena*

    “I require…” (who asked what you require?)
    “…I find quite distateful” (so?)
    “…I am secure enough” (um, no you are not)
    “…I thought that at the very least..” (you thought wrong)

    People tell you a lot about themselves if you listen. These people all confirmed why they should have been passed over. Job fit is NOT just about experience, but these entitled fools seem to not understand this idea. Experience requires a personable, approachable manner for job success.

  21. Annie Laurie*

    Re: #2 – Southern business etiquette is indeed a bit different from that I’ve found in the Midwest, and I can certainly see how a form letter could come off sounding overly brusque and dismissive. My office kept expanding, and instead of posting a position, we decided to call the candidates who almost made the interview list and see if they were still interested. Not a one was, and one or two told me our rejection letter was so off-putting that they would never consider working for us. My Boston-born boss was dumbfounded.

    1. fposte*

      Can you tell us what the rejection letter said? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s curious :-).

      1. Annie Laurie*

        It was about four lines long, with the standard brush off language – thanks for your time, candidate better suited to our needs, good luck. I’ve sent it and received it many times since moving to the Midwest. In the South such impersonal phrasing translates to “you were a waste of my time, no way will I or anyone else will ever hire you.” To be considered polite, it needed a compliment or two and sincere regret that they won’t be working together.

        1. Jamie*

          How do you fake sincere regret in a letter to a virtual stranger?

          As far as the compliment…it kind of makes me want to apply for jobs in the south just for the rejection letters. I don’t get nearly enough compliments and if it’s a requirement down there maybe I could get build a library of letters speaking to how awesome I am…from people who don’t want to work with me.

          On second thought I’ll just stay in the midwest – less emotional conflict.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is a very good point about cultural considerations in professional writing–I’m going to make a note of that for my schoolwork. Our tech editing textbook talks mostly about international business; however, as you’ve pointed out, there can be marked regional differences too.

        3. Joey*

          Where the hell do you live in the south? That’s old south, like stuck in the pre-70’s south.

          The only time I’ve heard that kind of southern drawl are in the conservative small towns in the middle of nowhere that are behind the times.

          1. Annie Laurie*

            I lived in Atlanta, and this happened less than ten years ago. The Boston boss had married into the family, and joined the family law firm. A lot of people come to Atlanta because that’s where the jobs are, and they frequently come from the smaller, more traditional towns where politeness is still very important. It’ll still take you a long way, even in the “New South”.

            1. fposte*

              I think polite gets you a lot everywhere; it’s just that it means different things in different places.

        4. Bobby Digital*

          Yeah, this isn’t an actual Southern thing.

          I’m not exactly sure why these candidates turned you down. Maybe your rejection letter was rude? Maybe they were crazy like the rejected job-seekers who replied to Alison?

          All I know is that it’s not because they live in the South. I know you were being candid, but I actually think this is a weird, condescending, stereotype-driven assumption. Imagine if Alison asserted that her loony rejects responded negatively because they live in D.C. and people who live in D.C. are too politically correct to be rejected for their weaknesses.

    2. holly*

      Being from the south, I’d like to say that form email rejections don’t bother me at all. A rejection is a rejection is a rejection. Nothing will actually make it better.

      1. Evan*

        Me neither, and I grew up in the South. Of course, the area I was in had a lot of Northern transplants (such as my parents), so that probably made things different.

      2. Anonicorn*

        Same here, and I can only remember receiving standard form rejections. But then I’ve never applied to jobs in those small, cornbread and butter beans and towns.

      3. Anonymous*

        #2. Try reading this part “customs and lifestyle of the geographical region you hail from in regards to the frigid nature of your professional demeanor” in the accent of Bill Compton from True Blood.

        However, the grammatical errors and the use of the word ‘hail’ does mark our writer as not really of the genteel class of small-town Southerners who would expect such courtesies, if they indeed even exist anymore.

        I’ve lived in small to mid-sized Southern cities all my life, and the 4-line ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letters are standard.

      1. Annie Laurie*

        Boston Boss was a good guy, just a little culture shell-shocked. Turned out he had a good ear for nuance which helped a lot. He really got on-board when he realized that the Master’s golf tournament was played only a few hours away!

  22. holly*

    it was fascinating to see the 2008 perspective from one person about how email rejections are not the way to go. at this point in my life, i think paper mail rejections are kind of weird.

  23. EM*

    I once applied for a job where they called to reject me, but wanted to tell me I had “a beautiful resume.”

    That was definitely a little odd, but after reading these comments, maybe the admin/HR person was originally from the South?! (I’m in the Midwest.) lol

      1. Portia de Belmont*

        I did that once; we needed more litigation experience than the guy had, but I just had to call and tell him how impressed I was with the way he presented his information. It was one of tightest, most concise pieces of writing I’d ever seen. We did try to interview him later for another opening, but he had moved to London with his UK-native girlfriend.

  24. Pam Richardson*

    Wow, these people are lucky to get any type if rejection letter at all. I would say I’ve only gotten rejection letters from about 2% of the companies I’ve applied to. I’d live to have a letter like this so I can move along with my process. I know a lot of companies are busy. But how long does it really take to send one of these out. Especially if the person has come in for an interview and not heard back.

    1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      Sadly, I hear this a lot from people. We do e-mails for people who get rejected after the first round and phone calls for those who get rejected after the 2nd round. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten thanked by candidates because they have been on several interviews with other companies and never got any feedback at all. I just think that leaves a bad impression with candidates and that candidate could end up working for your customer, competitor, etc…and they may tell people about their bad experience. Or they may even be one of those people who takes rejection badly and go on Glass and totally bash your company. So in addition to this being the ethical thing to do, it could also hurt your business if you don’t do it. A simple, “thanks for interviewing, we are moving forward with another candidate”, e-mail only takes a second.

  25. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

    Candidates like #5 would benefit from picking up a pop grammar book like “Woe Is I” or “Eats, Shoots, And Leaves” and trying to absorb some insight about grammar and punctuation, as writing ability isn’t an immutable characteristic (and inattentiveness is just inexcusable). The qualities that differentiate the best candidates aren’t necessarily evident in résumés, but spelling and grammatical errors ARE. It’s hard to fault anyone for using the criteria closest at hand to cull a large field of applicants.

  26. anon-2*

    Two things to remember —

    – ONE, your work community is finite. If you are rejected for a position, you have to take it gracefully. You may run into these people again.

    – TWO – no position is permanent. If you were their second choice – and probably qualified for the position, you may suddenly be stunned and called back if “candidate A” didn’t work out.

    – THREE – rejected candidates — more often than not — make good impressions on hiring managers. It’s important to know that even if you didn’t get the position, there may be OTHERS at that enterprise, or through networks.

    Now – for managers —

    It is incumbent upon you to keep in mind that you not mistreat, insult, abuse, or use a rejected candidate as a target for jocularity.

    The tables COULD be reversed on you someday. Someone from your firm may attempt to do business with the guy/gal you made fun of, or verbally abused, etc. Or someday YOU may be looking for a job, and end up having to interview with that guy or gal — or even pass them in the hallway. They will be in a position to skewer your candidacy there.

    So – the golden rule applies.

  27. Cruella Da Boss*

    I know this is not really the forum for this, but I need to mention it somewhere. If you are a job candidate and do make it into an interview, BE NICE TO THE RECEPTIONIST! One would be surprised at how someone people treat the very first company representative that they meet, just because they are out front answering the switchboard. Our receptionists are the FIRST to report when someone behaves boorishly. And yes, this has made the difference between two sparkling, equally qualified candidates.

      1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

        Yes, this is spot on. We actually rejected a candidate because he was rude to the employee at our front desk. When he called because he had forgotten the name of the manager he was supposed to be interviewing with. The receptionist told him that she didn’t know and that she would have to check with HR and put him on hold for a minute and then he told her that she was useless and hung up! When the hiring manager found out, she cancelled this candidate’s interview.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      No, this is very relevant. That may indeed be the reason a person gets rejected. Some employers will ask the front office staff for their impressions of the candidate. If (s)he was an asshole, look out.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, I also work the front desk and without fail the Sales Manager will solicit a quick ‘thumbs up/down’ from me on each candidate BEFORE the interview.

    2. Beebs*

      This! Our office staff always lets us know if candidates are rude or dismissive of them. Aside from just the basic rules of human niceness, haven’t these people learned how much influence good front office folks wield? Even if it’s only self-serving, be nice!

  28. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    Sadly, I have gotten the same types of e-mails from candidates as well. It just makes them look bad and makes me happy that the hiring manager didn’t decide to move them forward as they would most likely be a crappy co-worker. Luckily, most candidates take rejection gracefully. When I really like a candidate, I put a note in my database so that when something opens up again, I can contact them. Even though I don’t make the final hiring decision, I can certainly make sure that their resume makes it in front of the hiring manager and put in a good word for them.

  29. Meghan*

    Just dropping in to share my all-time favorite story of how not to respond to a job rejection. Sorry if this is kind of a wall of text, but I’m sure at least some of you will be entertained ;) The funny thing is that we hadn’t even decided that we were definitely rejecting this candidate yet when this happened (although hiring was unlikely), so he sort of rejected himself.

    The candidate in question was, quite frankly, terrible. He called the day of his interview and asked to reschedule for the next day because he was trapped in the suburbs due to the train. Sometimes the commuter trains in our area can be significantly delayed, so I was willing to accommodate. I regretted this the next day, when he revealed that what had actually happened was that he overslept from being up all night gaming and missed his train. He seemed to think that this somehow reflected well on him because the job was technology-oriented. Aside from this, his qualifications weren’t great and he was unimpressive overall.

    Unfortunately, my boss has a policy about hiring warm bodies, so the candidate was brought in for a second, hands-on, interview, where he was expected to build a chocolate teapot kit that most 6 year olds can build in about 45 minutes. It took him two hours, most of which he spent walking away from his table and trying to convince customers that he already worked for the company.

    I was still not allowed to formally reject him until we were sure that we were hiring someone else to fill the spot, but we do have a pretty quick hiring process so it wasn’t like I left him hanging for weeks or months. Less than a week after the interview, he called to ask if he had been hired, to which I responded that we were still interviewing candidates and would be in touch when we had completed the process. A week after that, he called again and spoke to my coworker, who said that she was not involved in the hiring process, but that I usually respond to candidates who are being hired within a week or two.

    He felt that the best way to answer was to yell, “So you’re saying you’re not hiring me?! You guys are f***ing idiots. F*** you, b***.” So needless to say, we didn’t hire him.

    1. nyxalinth*

      Ugh. I apologize on behalf of my fellow gamer. He’s probably the sort who make rape and death threats to the female game reviewer who took a point off Grand Theft Auto V for misogyny. You guys didn’t dodge a bullet: you dodged a freaking nuke!

  30. danr*

    For #1, I would be pleased to have a form rejection letter for every application that I send out if I’m not chosen to advance to an interview. I hate the black hole that most applications seem to drop into.

  31. Cajun2core*

    I have to chime in on this one. I have applied for many jobs recently and gotten a good number of interviews. I have even gotten two interviews (for two different jobs) at the same company. I even interviewed with the same people. Sorry, I digress. I do believe that it is not necessary to send a rejection letter if the person is not interviewed. However, I do think that a rejection letter is warranted if the person is interviewed.
    I can understand the frustration from a form rejection letter, especially when I hear that they hired someone in-house. I know of too many cases where the company knew who they were going to hire but interviewed people “because they had to.” If you interview someone you know you are not going to hire, then at least be very accommodating (time, location, dress, etc.) to them. Again, I digress. In the rejection letter, please do admit that you went with someone in-house. You don’t have to say that you already knew you were going to hire them, but at least own up to it some.

    Also, I have applied for many jobs that I do believe I should have gotten. Yes, I know I don’t know all of the details but let me give one example. The advertisement said they were hiring three people. I applied for the job at community college. In the second interview I was interviewed by the President of the College and the CIO. After not hearing from them for a while, I contacted them again and finally got a form rejection letter. Then about 3 months later, the exact same position was advertised. This time they said they were hiring 2 people. I said, okay, great, the money must have fallen through and they only hired one person. So, I reapplied for the job. Within a week I got another form rejection letter saying that I had not qualified for the interview. I have to wonder, what changed so much in three months that I was very qualified for the interview the first time but not nearly qualified enough for the second time around. I guess I may have screwed up the interview with the president and the CIO but I don’t think I did.

    There have been other jobs where I thought I did well on the interview and if anything I was overqualified. I am thinking of one in particular. I would have gladly accepted the position at the pay they were offering and they knew that. I even went out of my way to tell them that I would not be moving anytime soon and that I was looking forward to getting back to customer service. In any case, again, I got a form rejection letter. I do have to wonder if it was because I was over-qualified.

    In summary, if at all possible, please don’t say “we found a candidate that better suits our needs” when it isn’t true and that you rejected the person because they are overqualified or because you hired someone in-house which you knew you would hire anyway.

    1. fposte*

      But it is true, by definition. It doesn’t become untrue just because one of their needs was to know somebody before they hired them, or to have somebody that they weren’t worried about outgrowing the job immediately, or to please the boss by hiring a relative. And most of the time that’s not what happens anyway–they just thought the person they hired would suit them better. It doesn’t mean anything more significant than “we hired somebody else for reasons that work for us.”

      1. nyxalinth*

        I think that’s the better and more honest answer, but like any other social thing, the job hunting game’s wheels are greased with little white lies. It may not be the absolute stone-truth, but who wants to hear “We don’t hire fat people.” or “The owner wants a blonde in the receptionist position, and you’re a redhead.” or “You remind me of that jerkface my daughter dated a while back.” or “You don’t like cats/dogs and I do.” or “I’m having a crappy day and you remind me of someone who pissed me off earlier.” It could be any number of things that had no bearing on the grand scheme of tings…but since it’s humans and not robots hiring (yet!) human nature can get in the way.

        “More closely fit our needs” isn’t always a thing related to the job, and once I figured that out, it all made more sense to me.

  32. Lesley*

    I usually don’t reply to rejections, though I so seldom receive formal ones that I might start doing so just to thank the person for the taking the time to send one. I would MUCH rather receive a rejection than for the employer to drop off the face of the earth and leave me wondering. The only time I’ve been tempted to send a rude response was in an instance where a recruiter overtly lied to me by telling me the position was filled/closed when I saw it still listed on their job site. Just to confirm, I called their HR department to see if the position was still open and they told me it was. I’m not three. You can tell me I’m not what you are looking for and I’ll move on. Lying to me is not only unscrupulous but patronizing, lazy, and borderline cowardly.

    1. nyxalinth*

      It used to bother me, but then I figured that unless it’s a thing where they need to get back to me about the time and day to come in or are sending over paperwork in an email or getting back to me about a start date, I stopped caring. Less stressful that way!

  33. Kat A.*

    We hire college students and stopped sending rejection e-mails for applicants because the responses were almost always nasty. We do, however, notify anyone who interviews.

    I don’t believe it’s our rejection e-mail. We’ve had several people look at it and have tried sending nicer, more complimentary ones. But those only seem to add fuel to the fire in the “If I’m so damn wonderful, how come you jerks didn’t hire me” way (except with many more obscenities). It’s just sad.

    1. Lesley*

      Ironically, I just got a rejection letter today and tried to send a “thank you for taking the time to consider me” note in reply. However, the email was returned because apparently it was sent from a “donotreply” kind of address that just junks all email sent to it. This seems like a reasonable option for employers who are worried about getting nasty responses. It’s a way to remain courteous to the courteous people who wouldn’t be jerks about it and simultaneously avoid the jerks.

  34. Vicki*

    MY response is to sigh deeply, thing D*** (in my head) and then either a) file the note if it seems to be a form letter or b) write back to say “thanks for everything and please keep me in mind for future opportunities” if we progressed to the interview stage or I would like a job there some day.

  35. Tara T.*

    I would rather know as quickly as possible if a place decides they do not want to go further with my candidacy – even if they are still interviewing others who are better qualified for that particular job. But sometimes places do not want to send a rejection letter until after they have hired their first choice and that person starts. Then if the first choice does not work out, they will call their second choice. But it is nice if they at least send a letter, and even nicer if they put “we will keep your resume in our file in case openings come up in the future,” or “it was a pleasure talking to you.” Even if they send the letter, if they change their minds later, they can always call and say, “We were wondering if you are still interested in the position.” It is like in the “Post Grad” movie where the main character goes to an interview and her classmate is also interviewed at the same company, and the classmate gets the job but is later thrown out, so the company calls and asks if the main character is still interested – and then the main character gets the job later.

  36. Dawn*

    f I find a candidate that I think may not be a good fit for my position, but may fit in another, I always pass those resumes around with feedback of the qualities I was impressed with. This has resulted in a number of great hires for other departments..

  37. Barnabas*

    “Plus, my rejection letter is pretty nice, so southern rejection must include light petting or something.”

    This has to be my all-time favorite content I’ve read in your blog. No matter how many times I read it, it cracks me up!

  38. Anonymous*

    That person who asked for feedback about his writing skills wrote back again with a grammatical error (person`s, not persons – see below). I guess the employer was right to dismiss him for inaccuracy and inattention to detail (if not other things).

    “But in this world I suppose a persons whole life, intelligence, and excitement will always be less important than “typos”. I guess I should have skipped University and attended typing classes”.

    No, not typing classes, just proofread what you submit and you`ll be fine.

    Job applications are so rushed sometimes it`s easy to forget basics but you shouldn`t (forget them). What`s more, when you look for feedback, don`t write back with something that proves the employer`s point.

    I never believe an employer who says `We might be able to offer you something else so we`ll keep your application on file`. Nonsense.

  39. Bonapartist*

    Well, as someone who has racked up 200+ rejections:

    Why would I write a thank you letter after being summarily rejected out-of-hand after spending hours or even days in research and getting application materials together? Why would I write a thank-you letter when I summarily rejected, and the employer DOES hire someone with less experience and less education (but who’s younger)? Why would I write a thank-you when the interview was turned by the employer into a free consulting session and then the employer hired someone else? Why would I write a cover letter to an HR box-checker who likely didn’t even bother to read the cover letter? It may be smart to write the letter but it strains basic humanity just to not strike back — let alone be thankful.

    I know that 30 years’ focus on short-term executive bonus greed has trampled civility and meritocracy. But really.

  40. Dave*

    I am a bit late to the party…

    I’m looking to change my focus within the IT field. I do have a BS in Comp Sci and a MS in a related field.

    I applied to a more entry/junior level job in what I want to get into. They said they were willing to train, and didn’t require globs of professional experience, so I figured I could give it a shot.

    It was in a smaller town 2 hours away, but the wife and I were alright with that, as we love the area and would find a way to make it work, especially since there is more growth potential in the field I want to get into.

    I get past the HR phone screen, the technical phone screen, and get invited to the final on-site interview.

    Of course, during all this time I was trying to study and do all I could to brush up on topics they could ask about.

    Interview was tough, and I figured out most of the questions and a few required some hints but I eventually got to the final solutions. Some of the topics I have not had exposure to in a decade or more, and I didn’t get to those topics in my self study.

    Unfortunately, I did not get the job as they said they went with someone with more experience. They did say I presented myself well though (I assume that this means they think I didn’t get flustered or threw a hissy fit).

    I thanked them for having me and asked if I could ever re-apply. They said in a year.

    I now have some better insights on what to expect in these type of interviews. I am currently trying to come up with a plan of attack to get experience I am lacking.

    If worse comes to worse and I re-apply/ask them to reconsider, I can at least say, “over the last year, I feel I improved my skills by doing X, Y and Z.” Not only will my credentials be better (in theory at least), but I think it shows that I am willing to put in the work to better myself.

  41. Retnuh*

    Taking the job hunter’s side:
    1. The job seeker is not thinking about how hard life is for you HR people, having to email out all your hundreds of rejections. They’re thinking about all the time and energy they put into writing their resume, perfecting their cover letter, and having the audacity to hope that maybe they’d be worth more than the second of your life it took to hit the “send” button. It’s not really “honesty” that bothers the seeker. It’s the fact that s/he is not worth more than three seconds of your time.

    2. I have to admit, I don’t really get this one at all. Every rejection letter I’ve ever gotten has been more or less exactly the same, and so impersonal as to be devoid of geographical indicators. But no matter how “nice” a rejection letter is, it’s still a rejection, and it will always seem cold. Half of me always unconditionally wants to reply “F*** you” to it, and it is only through the small amount of dignity I have left that I don’t.

    3. Is it really that hard to believe that a person in this position wouldn’t take what you’ve said into account? He or she is upset that they’ve been turned down, and their immediate response is that it’s bullshit. They know they’re not the most qualified person for the job. But getting a rejection on the computer is like being punched in the stomach with no way to defend yourself. The only recourse is to believe that the hirer, too, has lost out. Plus, the application process requires the job hunter to exaggerate his/her qualifications, and he or she isn’t about to stop now, when his/her only hope is that the recruiter will smack himself on the head and say, “Hey, I’ll be damned. That person really is qualified.”

    4. This one deserves more though than it is given here. It is not as much that people are paranoid as that they are confused. We send out these applications and cover letters that we work for AGES to perfect, maybe interview for the job, and then abruptly, with no real explanation, we are told we aren’t given the job. This is probably not the first time this person has been rejected–depending on how long they’ve been applying, it may be the 50th or the 100th rejection they’ve gotten in a very short amount of time. The person begins to wonder what he or she is doing wrong, and because they can’t change whatever qualifications they have (at least not very easily), they’re forced to look at other reasons.

    5. The guy disagreed that the typos mattered completely on instinct. It didn’t really matter to him whether the typos would or wouldn’t effect his ability to do the job. It only mattered that he’d been rejected.

  42. cristy alley*

    i always say to the rejction lietter…THANKS I ALREADY HAVE A JOB! that pisses off the employer…..why? that means, you already have a job even before they rejected you!! even if you do not have a job yet, the employer that rejected you will think that you got a job even before they rejected you..I HAD NEVER WORKED in a company that rejected me..never is, and never will! so long ghetto companies..I work for the government now and have job security! with union powers and benefits!

  43. Anne*

    I’ve been on enough interviews to know when I’m being toyed with. It happened to me once – 2 HR people had me in an office 1-1/2 hours from my home for an entire morning – lengthy interviews with each of them, detailed review of benefits package, office location, lots of jovial banter – they practically gave me the keys to the executive washroom. I left with a copy of their HR policies & procedures to read by the following Monday. On Monday morning I got an e-mail stating that I did not have the required skills for the job. This was a bridge I didn’t care about burning – a company I would never want to work for. You bet I sent a brilliant, eloquently insulting e-mail (let them envy my writing skills!) I must have attended Ameateur Day at HR – did they just use me as practice or just wasting time (mine?) I can handle a rejection and a form letter gracefully. But this folly was a disgrace – and not my disgrace.

  44. Marcusa*

    Please get off your high horse. This is why HR professionals have such a bad reputation–you hypocritically expect everyone to follow a certain etiquette that you have no problem violating if you can score some points on your blog or get some laughs from friends.

    What business do you have sharing these poor people’s reactions to rejection? Rejection is tough–in some of these cases, people may be struggling with a lot of complex emotions and financial difficulties. So, haha, let’s all laugh at their desperate attempts to defend their dignity.

    Sad. This post says more about you than them.

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