why don’t employers tell you the reason they’re rejecting you for a job?

A reader writes:

I recently had a very positive phone interview for a position I was very excited about. Because of the hiring manager being out of the office for awhile, he was planning to interview local candidates this week and then non-local candidates when he got back. I was a non-local candidate.

I received this email this morning:

“I wanted to thank you once again for your interest in the XXXX position. In the course of conducting in-person interviews this week, we identified a candidate whose professional experience and technical skills were an exceptional match for what we were seeking, and her academic background in international studies and languages was very well suited for speaking about the XXXX. As a result of these circumstances, we decided to offer the candidate the position and she accepted. I’m sorry that this didn’t work out for you, and extend my sincere best wishes for your success in your job search.”

I am of course disappointed but getting an email explaining that a) they didn’t even get around to the second batch of in-person interviews, and b) that the chosen candidate was an incredible fit, has preserved my morale and self-confidence. Whereas, if I had just gotten a vague “we decided to go in a different direction” email, I’d be kicking myself wondering why I sucked so much that I could do really well in a phone interview and still not get an in-person interview.

Of all the interviews I’ve had over the past few years, this is the only non-canned rejection I’ve gotten. I guess I wonder why hiring managers don’t tend to write more thoughtful rejections to candidates who have put in the time and energy interviewing. Does it really add that much extra time to the process since the pool has already been whittled down to the top few candidates anyway?

A few reasons:

1. Notice that this rejection was sent after they hired someone, and it’s about the person they hired rather than the person they’re rejected. However, many employers (myself included) like to send rejections on a rolling basis, rather than waiting until a hire is made. That allows people to hear a decision much sooner; otherwise, they might be waiting months before they hear something. But if you’re sending rejections before a hire has been made, it’s going to be about why someone was rejected, not why the other person was hired. And those are, obviously, often trickier to write in a personalized way.

2. Lawyers have advised them not to be specific about reasons, because it can open the door to legal issues. For instance, if I tell you that we’re looking for a candidate with more experience in teapot policy, but later on I hire a candidate without that experience (because she wowed me in some other, legitimate way), you might conclude that the real reason I didn’t hire you was because you’re pregnant or a woman or some other legal issue that my company will now have to spend time and money defending itself against. So lawyers often prefer the “say nothing” policy.

3. The reason isn’t always as easy to articulate as this one was. Sometimes the real reason is something like this:
– you were okay but not great
– you had bad social skills
– you didn’t communicate clearly
– you didn’t seem as smart as what we need in this role
– you had really lukewarm references
– you were long-winded in an environment where you’d need to be more concise
– you came across as really cold
– all manner of other awkward reasons

And you might be thinking that you’d love to hear that kind of feedback so you know if something like this is causing you a problem, but it’s not an interviewer’s obligation to relay that kind of thing, the vast majority aren’t interested in providing this sort of coaching to people who they’re not hiring, and so many rejected job candidates argue when they get feedback that most interviewers aren’t interested in opening up that possibility.

While I agree with you that this was a particularly nice rejection to receive, I’d recommend focusing on changing your reaction to other rejections. You say that your response to most rejections is to wonder why you sucked so much. But that’s totally out of line with the reality of how hiring works. Hiring managers reject loads of excellent candidates every day — because they have 20 of them and only one spot to hire for, or because there’s some additional qualification that you didn’t know about that wasn’t in the ad, or because the job changed in some way, or because the boss is a jerk and you seem like a lovely person who wouldn’t be happy there, or all sorts of other reasons.

Reading rejections as “you suck” is much more of a problem than employers sending vague rejections!

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. baseballfan*

    I have often wondered why so many companies don’t send rejections of any sort! I have applied for plenty of jobs and never heard a peep after the interview. Even a canned rejection would have been welcome; at least then you aren’t left hanging.

    1. Lucy*

      Yes! I’m not asking for a personal email (unless we’ve met in person) but just a simple “Thank you for your interest, we’re not able to move forward with your application” would be nice. I kept track during my most recent job search and, out of the 40+ positions I applied to, only 6 ever gave me any sort of “thanks but no thanks” closure – otherwise I took Alison’s advice in a previous post and wrote them off after ~3 weeks.

      I’m also shocked at how many companies didn’t bother to send a formal rejection after we’d interviewed in person – that stung more than applying and never hearing anything to begin with.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Yeah, I’m used to no response from applications. But I’ve had multiple interviews now where I took unpaid time off from my actual job to interview and they swore up and down they contact all their interviewees….nothing. Not a word. Insulting and frustrating beyond belief.

        1. some1*

          This has happened to me, too. And one time, I withdrew my candidacy after being invited for an in-person interview because I had accepted another offer and I got an email saying they’d decided to hire someone else. I got a good chuckle out of that.

          1. Lucy*

            “Fine! If we can’t have you we didn’t want you anyway!”

            I had something similar happen to me when Company A and Company B both told me on Friday that I would have an official offer on Monday…..and then when I told Company B that I was accepting an offer elsewhere they said they had decided to go with another candidate. Lol.

            1. K Squared*

              I remember getting 2 offers. I accepted both – one started in September and the other was going to start in January. When January came around, I told the first job I needed to take time off (with no pay) to do something. The “something” was to go work on the second job. If I liked it, then I would have quit the first job. Fortunately, the lead on the second job was a @$#$ – so I quit the second job and went back to the first one. BTW, these were contracting positions – not real actual permanent pay.

              1. Zachary*

                the old me would think you were shameful, the way employers treat their employees now, they don’t deserve loyalty. You were smart.

        2. manomanon*

          I’ve mostly gotten over not being formally rejected but, on the side of taking actual time off: I interviewed for a major university in my area last summer and went through eight rounds of interviews via a combo of phone, skype and in person. After the final interview I was told they had a bunch of people on vacation but they were serious about me as a candidate and I would be hearing soon. I sent my thank you notes off and never heard anything from them ever again. It was the oddest and most frustrating experience ever- I followed up a week after the original deadline they gave and got no response.
          On the one hand, I know this is how rejection generally works in the job market; on the other, it was for a job in advancement at a university… an office which above all others should be focused on following up with anyone they talk to.

          1. Lady Bug*

            Eight interviews!!!! That’s ridiculous. I get annoyed when I don’t hear anything after one interview.

            1. Mander*

              I’d be a bit worried about any process that requires that many interviews. If they are that indecisive about hiring someone, what will they be like with other, more minor decisions?

          2. savannah*

            I have gone through the traditional 3 type, and my last one has always been on a Friday, and the parting words are we WILL contact you Monday. Monday comes and goes and I never heard. That is so depressing. I can’t imagine going through 8. I seem to do fine on the phone one, the one on one type, but the panel interview, KILLS me every time. I am more of an introvert and sitting there with the panel and the inquisition deal where you fire off answers and you can SEE the response on the faces is just TOO much for me to take. I find it highly intimidating and a waste of my time. I try to remain upbeat, but I am not a speaker, and I am not applying for jobs that require being a speaker. One on one I do very well, the group, in your face type is just NOT my deal. There is always more of an extroverted person that gets the job.

        3. Leah*

          Yes! I interviewed with Company A. Sent a thank you. Didn’t hear back. Send a polite follow-up since I decided that if I spent 4+ hours getting to and from and at an interview, they should respond.

          Within hours they responded, asking for a second interview. During this interview, they swore that I would totally hear from them either way within a week and that the time after the first interview was a fluke. Ten business days pass, I finally send a polite follow up, and get a rejection within hours. Made me feel like crap, honestly. I came in for TWO interviews and you can’t bother to let me know I’m out of the running?

          1. K Squared*

            I came off an interview last week. The interview started at 10:30AM and they kept me there for a bit. I did not leave until 2:00PM or thereabouts (got no lunch BTW) – the whole time was spent talking about my background and how I handled issues. I sent a thank-you email and also asked them (a week later) about my status. Have not heard anything as of yet …

    2. BananaPants*

      Better to get a canned rejection than to go on one or more interviews, submit writing samples, and give references only to have the company go into complete radio silence and never contact you again. My husband has been through this over the last 10 months and it’s so disheartening. It’s almost worse because you get your hopes up just a little bit that maybe this one’s going to work out.
      Please, hiring managers – if someone takes their time to come interview and you decide to go in another direction, just send that single-line canned rejection rather than leaving them hanging.

      1. K Squared*

        This >> “It’s almost worse because you get your hopes up just a little bit that maybe this one’s going to work out. Please, hiring managers – if someone takes their time to come interview and you decide to go in another direction, just send that single-line canned rejection rather than leaving them hanging.”

        I just reamed a head hunter for disappearing. False hope is the worst!

    3. hayling*

      It’s probably a combination of lack of consideration and logistics. If you’re receiving resumes by email, it’s actually a PITA to reply to all of them. Yes you can use a form letter and copy-paste but that’s a lot of clicking. I am hiring for a manager-level job and have received 75 resumes. If I wasn’t using an ATS I wouldn’t be able to send a rejection to all of them.

      But if you’re using an ATS and you don’t send rejection letters, you’re an a-hole. We use The Resumator and it takes two seconds to send bulk rejections at the end of the hiring process.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I talk about this below, but even without an ATS, it’s fast and easy. You just copy and paste it into the email — it’s literally a couple of seconds. You can reject 100 people in about five minutes.

        1. Kat*

          If you have the candidates to be rejected in Excel with their names and email addresses, you can also do a Mail Merge in Word to send mass emails!

        2. Shannon*

          I agree.. Hayling taking 5 minutes or 30 minutes to reply to your rejected candidates takes alot less time and effort than applying, booking appointments, showering, getting dressed, driving up to an hour to an interview and putting yourself out there.

          Think about it!

      2. baseballfan*

        I’m not talking about rejections before even being interviewed; I’m talking about not being selected for a job that you interviewed for. There’s no reason a company can’t notify those people that someone else was hired.

      3. HR Manager*

        That may be true, but don’t many people come to this very board complaining about ATS and asking every which way on how to circumvent them? So candidates, you can’t have it both ways.

        I know Alison’s advice has been to follow through with whatever application process is put down, but this doesn’t stop the litany of complaints of people who find the ATS system too long, too boring, too intrusive and somehow just too much work.

        1. K Squared*

          It is too much work because some believe that it does not work at all. It takes a *very long time* to fill out correctly and you never know if anyone actually sees it.

        2. Donald*

          I am sick of HR people justifying this un human behavior. I’m not going to get into ATS’s but the fact that we are more worried about not getting sued than allowing someone to know how to better themselves to maybe have a shot at getting a job. I am a Pharmacist and have been told by a hiring manager they cannot tell me why I didn’t get the job. Really, you cant tell me that I need X skill or be more personable, or whatever they are looking for? I guess improvement is left for your personal friends or is just that I look a little different than you and apparently that makes me a bad candidate? It’s not the ATS that’s the problem, IT’S THE FACT WE ARE NOGT TREATED LIKE HUMANS DURING THE HIRING PROCESS. Also, if it didn’t take about 3 days to do 1 application(resume, cv letter, references having to do it on a desktop or laptop , and don’t forget about making sure it is formatted to the ATS-which the applicant has no way of knowing what the ATS is formatted for) the applicants wouldn’t get so upset about the perceived “rigged” hiring process

      4. Lamb*

        …”a lot of clicking”? I’m failing to come up with a kinder way of saying this: that excuse sounds weak. I can’t help but infer that you feel too something (important or valuable or lazy or something like those) to send those rejections when I read that. Everyone feels those kinds of feelings about tasks sometimes, but the idea that you would let it get the better of you on a task where a little effort would pack a big punch for those applicants just leaves a negative feeling with me.

      5. JBadger*

        It’s literally YOUR JOB. I have little to no respect for either recruiters or HR people. I’ve seen it all – they reach out to me, they lead me on, etc. I truly wonder what recruiters and HR people really do all day long. Emailing responses is definitely an autonomy job task, simply put.

        1. Binaya*

          Perhaps if you were nicer to your recruiters and HR folk, your job search would go more smoothly ;).

    4. Chelsea*

      I find more and more there is radio silence after applying and worse, after even an initial phone interview! It’s like the Internet age has taken simple manners and thrown them out the window. I’m definitely part of the camp that is I take time to apply and especially take time to interview with you, it’s only polite to send a “thanks but no thanks” email. And these aren’t interview I’ve totally failed at either. It’s like the back end follow through is completely dropped in this Internet age where the hiring manager may get more applicants than they initially intended for.

      1. Chelsea*

        My EXTRA favorite is no response after an interview but somehow I’m now subscribed to the companies monthly newsletter without my initiative. Yea, that’s happened…

  2. Gene*

    An addition to #3 that I’m sure has cost me a job or two;

    -You were terse while we like people who bloviate.

    I’m perfectly happy to not fill silences. I answer the question they ask as fully as I can and wait for the next one. Quietly.

    1. Steve G*

      Bloviate…I just learned a new word! Had to check the dictionary first to make sure it was real first:-).

        1. Leah*

          This is an excellent word, thank you for sharing it! I love how it sounds like what it is.
          For those who don’t feel like googling: “talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.”

    2. HR Bloviate*

      Bloviate is an awesome term that should be used more often and practiced less.

      I’m now vowing to use it at least once a week, I could go on but I don’t wish to bloviate.

    3. Cruella DaBoss*

      Also add to this list
      -You were rude to our receptionist!!!
      Who in our company get the real first impression? OUR RECEPTIONIST
      All of our hiring managers speak to our receptionists after interviewing to see how the interviewee behaved in the lobby.

      It matters y’all

      1. Angel*

        She may seem like an insignificant “just a receptionist” to you, but a word to the wise, the hiring managers I’ve known always ask that “insignificant receptionist” what she thought of you. Be nice and engage the receptionist and it may well be a deciding factor on whether you are asked to join the team or not.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      If I received the same feedback more than once that cost me a job I would really seriously consider that I should rethink my strategy.

    5. OriginalEmma*

      I love words that produce the perfect visual image of its definition. Bloviate makes me think of big wind bag – “blow” – like Mr. Pumblechook from Great Expectations.

  3. kathy*

    I definitely agree that the reason is sometimes uncomfortable and hard to state. As an interviewee, I would love feedback, especially critical feedback that would help me improve. As an interviewer, I don’t want to have to tell someone that they were weird and no one liked them because of it. A big reason why we don’t think someone will work out is personality which is tough to give feedback on.

  4. Anonymous Educator*

    Yeah, once you get into a hiring position, you realize that any kind of helpful advice in a rejection will 9/10 times lead to a rejected candidate arguing with why she was rejected. Not worth it. The hiring manager / hiring company benefits in no way from offering reasons for a rejection, so it’s safest not to do it.

    That said, I agree that canned rejections are great to get, so you know to move on.

    It’s shameless the way some potential employers will bring you in for an in-person, all-day interview and then not send at least a canned, email rejection later.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is what I was going to say. I’ve given feedback to candidates who I really wished I could hire or just otherwise thought had a lot of potential, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve commented a few times recently on how giving a reason can be considered the opening of negotiations by some people, and people who think like that can be as relentless as the sleaziest salesperson. Any reason you give can be countered, sometimes “No” is all you need.

      Right Adam? *fistbump*

  5. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A really, really common reason (at least in particular high performing organizations) is “you were okay but not great, and we’re looking for great.” And that’s very hard to communicate diplomatically to people.

    1. Dawn*

      There was a job I interviewed for in November that I really really really wanted at the time, and I thought the first interview went really well but I didn’t get called back for a second interview. At first I was upset at this, but then I really thought about it and came to the conclusion that this was exactly the reason I didn’t get called back. And then I thought about it some more and realized that the job wouldn’t have been all that great a fit for me anyway, so I’m glad I didn’t get it.

      It would have been nicer if they had said exactly what you said, Allison, instead of “We’re choosing to go in a different direction with this position” tho, because that really made me feel like all the good stuff I brought to the interview counted for diddly.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think you will find many people to agree that ” you were not great” is nicer than “we are going in a different direction”. Or many people with enough self-awareness to realise that, yes, they weren’t suited to the job.

        The hiring manager doesn’t know you, or how you handle rejection or if you are reasonable about getting non-raving feedback. There are people who would be offended, or blow up at them or consider a lawsuit if they can swing one. I don’t blame them for playing it safe and keeping it generic.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          I don’t think “you were good but not great” is SUPPOSED to be nicer than “we are going in a different direction.” I think it’s simply supposed to be far less information. Telling you that you didn’t get the job is seldom nice. This phrase happens to feel nicer because it is vague and isn’t about you, not because it’s any softer. After all, more than likely we are going in a different direction precisely *because* you were good but not great.

          But you don’t really need to know exactly why we are going in a different direction. You just need to know *that* we are going in a different direction.

          1. Dawn*

            Oh I definitely understand why they don’t tell candidates that! For myself, personally, I just wish that every interview came with a postmortem that went over why you didn’t get the job and exactly what you would have needed to get the job, so then you’d be better for knowing. But, like my dad says, if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt on the ground every time he jumped!

            1. MK*

              How useful would such a postmortem be? Would you be better for knowing, if the reason you didn’t get the job may be irrelevent in your next interview, or even a plus? Or if what you had to do is impossible or something you are not willing or able to change? And when each employer is likyle to give you different and/or conflicting feedback?

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I feel like the only time it helps me is when I lack a certain skill for that type of job. So if I were looking to change careers, say, and they said, “You almost had it, but typically, this job requires a bit more proficiency in X and U,” then I would know where I most need to gain experience/education.

      2. Yellowrake*

        I had feedback once from a recruiter who referred me to the hiring organization: “They didn’t think you were anything special”. I can assure that was not “nicer” than hearing “they went in another direction”.

    2. Jennifer*

      It always boils down to “We found someone who was better than you,” so what more do you need to know beyond “you weren’t 100% good enough and these days we can find 100%?”

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Also, that almost always means “you weren’t 100% good enough **for our wants and needs.**”

        There’s not necessarily anything wrong with you per se or as a human being; it’s that our ideal candidate has U, V, W, X, Y, and Z, and you have V, W, X, and Y and half of Z.

        THAT seems to be the distinction the angry responders don’t always get.

        1. Leah*

          The frustrating thing about this can be that you know they interviewed 20+ people, and had hundreds of applications to choose from, and rejected every single one.
          A friend of mine watched this happen when her company was trying to hire someone. They spent all their time chasing the perfect candidate who fit every weird requirement they came up with that they rejected some great people and had to repost the job – twice!

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            That usually means you dodged a bullet, and you likely really, really, really did not want to work for those people.

            I have been unemployed and broke, and I intimately know that feeling of being willing to do almost anything for a decent job, and thus how awful it is to watch a job that you could have done well go elsewhere (or nowhere) because of those kinds of (…often unspoken…) expectations.

            Knowing that you likely dodged a bullet does not put food on your table. It is cold comfort when you need a job.

            … but you likely dodged a bullet.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            As someone who often hires for really hard to fill roles, sometimes there’s good reason for the pickiness. I hire for a role that’s incredibly tricky, in part because it requires coaching clients in a complicated skill. We’ve tried compromising on what we’re looking for, and too often it doesn’t work out. The stakes are high with this role — it has a lot of client contact — and we’d rather search until we find the right person and not have to fire someone who doesn’t work out. The right people are out there, but they take some searching.

            Sometimes it’s legit.

            1. Leah*

              Absolutely true that some roles are tricky to fill, but I think they’re the exception and not the rule. For my friend, I think they also had the attitude of “This is entry level with an entry-level salary but we don’t want to train anyone so we’re demanding a year of experience in this exact field and work and rejecting anyone who doesn’t have that.”

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              Sure, I agree with that. When I say you dodged a bullet, I don’t mean those people were necessarily evil, or they were going to flog you with vines and put tacks on your chair. You can not want to work somewhere for reasons other than them being terrible people. It’s an awful experience to be a poor fit for a position, and not having U and half of Z could mean the difference between 10 wonderful years and washing out after 3 months. Someone who is upset because they didn’t get a job, which they didn’t get because they didn’t have an unspoken U, which would have made the difference between 3 months and 10 years? Dodged a bullet.

              For the sake of argument, let’s say U is “ability to be micromanaged by a fairly nice but very particular supervisor.” If your interviewer knows the deal, and can see there will be a personality clash, s/he is doing you a favor by rejecting you, even if it doesn’t feel like it when you get the letter. There is someone out there who has V, W, X, Y, and Z AND won’t mind the micromanager too much. That is the person who should get the job.

            3. savannah*

              OK, then OWN that description and make it VERY CLEAR that you want something precise. So many job descriptions are vague and general, so you get a lot of applicants, right? One thing I DETEST in an interview is for the interviewer to read me the job description. Then the brilliant HR person asks me if I have any questions about the description. I can read, I don’t send the same resume or cover letter when I apply. I make it MATCH the ad, and if you know anything about getting a job in this day and age you have LESS than 10 secs to dazzle or your are OUT. But then they do the cattle calls, they interview scads and then in a week or two you see they are at it again. So is it the applicants, I don’t think so. I think it is the way they advertise the job. I have seen articles and books and you tubes on how applicants do not apply right. I think we ALL know, it has to be a resume that DETAILS qualifications, not job descriptions. We all know now, that you must “sell” your brand, be the “product” etc.

    3. Ž*

      I think it’s also something a person can’t do much about. At an interview, you are trying your best. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough, but even so you can’t do any better than that right now. Telling a person “you were okay but you weren’t great” is like telling them they aren’t flying because they aren’t flapping their arms hard enough. I think most people can excel at something, but few people can excel in any specific position in a specific place and time that requires specific skills. So I think the form rejection is best most of the time. The person won’t be great in this role here and the hiring manager wants them to go apply somewhere else.

  6. MaryMary*

    Sometimes the reasons a candidate isn’t hired are difficult to articulate. Particularly when you’re lucky enough to have multiple qualified candidates, hiring comes down to nebulous things like fit or personality. And I think trying to articulate vague reasons gets into the legal issues some people are concerned about. If I email a rejection that says you were a terrific candidate but someone else was a better fit, you might interpret that to mean that you didn’t get hired because you’re not a white man between the ages of 25 and 45 (which may or may not be true).

    There are all sorts of internal issues that come up in hiring too. You’re not going to get an email saying there’s no longer room in the budget for that position because teapot sales have tanked. No one’s going to tell you the owner decided to hire his brother instead of you.

    It’s really hard not to take it personally when you don’t get a job (especially when you thought the interview went well!), but you’ll drive yourself crazy looking for meaning in every rejection.

  7. Jamie*

    At least there was some response. I interviewed for a job a few months ago, drove several hours to the interview (on my own dime), spent all day in the interview meeting with various departments, followed up after expressing my interest, and never heard a word from the company again. I found out about the new hire from friends who worked for the company. I thought it went well enough — I didn’t leave feeling like I had the job 100% in the bag, but I definitely didn’t embarrass myself.

    So while a vague response may be frustrating, it can be better than no response at all.

    1. Michelle*

      When I first began my admin position (today is my 7th year “anniversary”!), my company did not send rejection letters. A few weeks after I was promoted from a part-time position to the full-time admin position, we began the hiring process for other positions (we were expanding). I would spend half my day fielding calls from people who had sent in resumes/filled out applications/interviewed and never heard back. I drafted a simple form saying the position had been filled, had the executive director (my direct boss) approve it and also had HR okay it, to make sure it was all legal. When it had been cleared, as soon as a candidate was picked, I would spend 30-45 minutes printing the rejection letters and sending them out. 99% of the calls stopped.

      I asked my boss why they had never sent rejection letters before and he said he didn’t know, they had just never done it. Of course, we did have an occasional person call up and want a more specific reason and I would let the person in charge of hiring for the position handle it. There was one woman that I could not get to stop screaming long enough to transfer her to the correct person. She just kept screaming about how she was actually overqualified for the position she applied for and she couldn’t believe that we would not hire someone with her experience and degree for a “measly” part-time position.

      All that screaming did nothing to help her chances. It got her put on a never hire list.

      1. (The other) Jamie*

        I’m thinking you must be thinking of another Jamie , I’m pretty new. I’ll change my public name according as to prevent confusion. :)

      2. Pam*

        Welcome, New Jamie! But now I’m really wondering where the original Jamie has been. I miss her comments!

    2. Artemesia*

      When I was hiring we were not allowed by our boss to send rejections until after we had hired; that meant people were hanging for weeks and months when we had rejected them within 3 seconds of reviewing their paper. I finally got them to agree to let me send canned rejections to everyone except the people in the final pool of 20 or so and then to those not in the phone interview pool of 10. We still were horribly slow. But there is no excuse for not getting back to people who have been interviewed; you don’t have to tell them much, but you do have to thank them for their time and let them know that you have hired someone else.

  8. Bartleby the Scrivener*

    How are employers quantifying “great”? I just had an unpleasant experience with a potential employer. I applied for a position as an office manager with them, making sure that I had every qualification listed in the job posting. They called me that day and asked for a phone interview. The phone screen went great, so then they called me in for an in-person interview, the first invitation I had received in five months.

    The interview went well, and they had me take the Wonderlic cognitive test. I know I did well because they called me back for a second interview. I went in, they explained that the position had applied for was only part-time (NOT mentioned on the job posting), and they wanted to combine the office manager position with an entry-level data science position ( I have been taking online courses, but I am still a beginner in the field). They gave me an advanced skills Excel test, which I failed. They wanted me to copy-edit 500 lines of text in 10 minutes, which would not have been difficult except that the time limit made me freeze up, and I could not finish.Two days later, they sent me the usual “we will not be pursuing your candidacy” e-mail.

    If they had been honest in the initial job posting and included the data science requirements, I would never have applied in the first place. Instead, they humiliated me. I don’t know how else to take this except as “you suck.”

    1. sb*

      Well, it pretty much sounds like the requirements changed and you didn’t meet them. You don’t suck. But you weren’t what they ultimately needed.

      1. some1*

        I am an admin myself — I don’t know what data science positions entail, but it’s not at all unusual to want an Office Manager with advanced Excel and copyediting skills.

        1. Bartleby the Scrivener*

          I possess the requisite skills. I know how to use filters, bloody ps, and pivot tables. However, I do not do well with the contrived skills tests where they lock down buttons so you can’t use short cuts. Plus the short time limit caused me to panic.

          Give me an assignment and I’ll do it well, but timed tests make me hyperventilate..

          1. Parfait*

            Oh I hate when they lock out the keyboard shortcuts. What, it’s better if I only know how to click around in the menus?

    2. Flora*

      It sounds like the role may have changed after the hiring process had begun, they gave you a shot at it, and you weren’t a good fit. I don’t see anything humiliating about this? (I mean, you get to feel how you feel, of course, but it’d be a heck of a stretch to see them as deliberately trying to humiliate you).

      You weren’t the right person for the job they had. That doesn’t mean you suck. If the role wasn’t advertised accurately, they suck. If things changed on their side during the process, well, that happens.

      None of this is a referendum on your value.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        “None of this is a referendum on your value.”

        Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth — unknown

        1. A Job Seeker*

          “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth”. – LOVE this! It’s good to remember this while interviewing, dating or involving yourself in another activity where it is likely that others will make opinions about you that impact their interactions with you.

  9. some1*

    I completely agree that there is some a disconnect going on if you take a job rejection to = “I suck”, for all of the reasons Alison pointed out.

    If there’s any chance that attitude is coming through in interviews, that might be something to work on. No one wants to worry that they can’t give an employee critical feedback because they are afraid the employee will take it as a personal insult.

  10. Another Steve G*

    You mentioned you were a non-local candidate…I bet the company liked all their local candidates they called and decided not to interview non-local candidates in person. It’s a drag about this job market, but a lot of times interviewing non-local candidates isn’t worth the hassle and/or expense for the company!

  11. Bella*

    I have recently had to hire a fourth choice for a job. My first choice wouldn’t have fit well with our culture, the second choice was just too good and would have been bored with the position, and the third didn’t have enough experience at that time and we needed someone to fill the role quickly.

    There are a lot of reasons why someone may not get hired, but don’t think about why you sucked. You may not have sucked at all.

    1. Suzanne*

      Don’t, don’t, don’t reject an otherwise qualified candidate that you like because of your assumption that he or she will be bored, unless you are a mind reader! I’m overqualified for the admin job I have now & I love it! It’s not in my field, I’m learning a bunch, and I’ve done wonders for the office’s efficiency. On paper, I should be bored. I’m not at all.
      We all know what happens when you assume…

      1. A.K.*

        Hiring requires making a lot of assumptions. Ultimately, the offer is based on the assumption that they will do well in the job and that they will accept it. I don’t think this one is any less valid than most of the other ones we make, and it can save the candidate time and the employer money and time. I’m hiring for a role that very clearly has no room for advancement any time soon, but is very critical. The majority of very ambitious people would be bored and want to leave quickly, and I just can’t take the chance hoping a person will be in the minority of ambitious, overqualified people that find that they actually enjoy the job.

        1. some1*

          Right, and I think a lot of assumptions can be borne out of experience — they have seen other overqualified people get hired and be poor fits, leave as soon as they get a better job, or spend all their time trying to get higher-level assignments.

        2. K Squared*

          LOL – if the job market is interesting, they will find a way to like/ perform at the job (especially if there are bills to pay). There is such a thing as turning a lemon into lemonade :-)

        3. savannah*

          I find this laughable because most of those doing the interviewing and probably the initial screening couldn’t find or know good talent if it bit them. If they are applying they WANT the job, most employers aren’t loyal, and oust people on a whim based on their needs, so why not provide a paycheck for someone who applied until the job goes away, which in this economy happens more than it doesn’t. Ambitious people aren’t usually applying to dead end jobs, c’mon now, they probably have more of a clue than the HR person about what REALLY happens on a job.

      2. fposte*

        But it’s not likely to be an assumption that hurts the employer, because they hired another strong candidate instead and are perfectly happy. That’s why the onus is on the applicant to make a case for why the job is a fit if it doesn’t look like one.

      3. not overqualified*

        If it’s not your field and you’re learning a bunch, you may not be overqualified. Differently qualified, perhaps.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      I am a bit puzzled as to why someone who was a bad culture fit was the first choice. I keep hearing at the moment that “the right fit” is one of the biggest requirements.

      Sorry, just being a bit curious as it is always interesting to hear a bit of reasoning. But hope all goes well :)

  12. fposte*

    I’m thinking about the OP’s use of “canned” here. It’s still not a personalized response, since it’s nothing to do with her and will have been sent to all the remaining candidates, so I would have considered it canned as well. I don’t have any problem with that, but it sounds like the specifics about the process and the choice made the email feel more personal even though it wasn’t personalized.

  13. AVP*

    “Because the boss is a jerk and you seem like a lovely person who wouldn’t be happy there.” I reject so many people for that reason, and it’s just not one you can tell people without ruining the boss’ reputation. Same with, “you seem like you have a life and we’re really looking for someone who doesn’t have one.”

  14. Ed*

    I never personally faced this issue (that would require responses at all:) but some of my female friends deal with this in online dating. They told me they quickly learned sending a polite rejection to men was asking for trouble. You think you’re being nice and potentially even helpful but soon your inbox is filled with tirade-laced emails calling you everything under the sun. I wonder if this would also happen with job rejections if the candidates were anonymous like with online dating. One one hand, I guess it confirms your decision to reject them but it could also be a little nerve racking since there are so many nut jobs out there.

    It would be nice to get a rejection response if you made a fixable mistake, someone else barely beat you out, you asked for too much money, etc. but I’d prefer to just be ignored if I was simply a crappy candidate (or with dating, too old/fat/ugly). In that case, a generic “you weren’t the successful candidate but we’ll keep your resume on file” would suffice.

      1. AW*

        so many rejected job candidates argue when they get feedback that most interviewers aren’t interested in opening up that possibility.

        I was just about to comment, “Haven’t we seen that exact thing here before?”

    1. Steve G*

      I’m don’t think the dating analogy works in this case. When you turn down an advance in the dating scene, or, online dating, the other person tends to take it personally and thinks that you think that they aren’t good enough for you.

      When someone rejects you for a job it doesn’t hit that same deep chord of “ouch someone doesn’t think I’m good enough.”

      1. Jennifer*

        To some degree they might be related and you might get the vitriol, but it’s not guaranteed vitriol in the same way that dating rejections are.

        Also, one date or no dates is a lot less time, money, and effort spent than the amount of time you spent applying, rewriting your resume, doing yet another cover letter, buying an interview outfit, taking time off work to “go to the doctor,” blah blah blah. It’s only fair after that much effort has gone into the application experience that they at least let you know instead of hoping you “take the hint.” Which sucks in dating too.

  15. Joe*

    I went on an interview once and at the end of the interview the person told me to call them in a week. I called the interviewer after a week but they did not return my phone call. When the interview ended with “call me in a week,” I knew they had rejected me but they could have at least answered the phone when I called or at least said you been rejected.

    1. Vee*

      I was just at two interviews and they both asked me to call them in a week to set up a second interview. Does that mean that I’m rejected? I’ve never heard that one before. They were strange interviews from the get go. But nothing was bad.

  16. Sabrina*

    While I would rather get a rejection letter than never hear anything, I honestly don’t think I read much past the “Thank you for taking the time to apply…” part. Just another rejection to add to Mount Rejection. Since they are rarely customized anyway, that is.

    1. Joe*

      I usually do not read past the “Thank-you for applying part” either. I just add it to the collection of rejects and go on with my day. I did email one person back in order to ask for feedback. I applied for an entry level job but they were understaffed and wanted someone that they did not need to train.

    2. Sunflower*

      I’m the same way. I have to laugh when I get form rejection letters that are long winded and filled with generic information. Does anyone really read past ‘we regret to inform you’?

      1. K Squared*

        If someone says “thank you for coming in to interview” does that mean rejection? During one of my interviews, the manager passed me to someone and said “get ready to be blown away” because of my technical background. They kept me there from 10:30AM to nearly 2PM (with no lunch). I also got a lot of questions – maybe they were just trying to get some free consulting. I sent an email of “thank you”. After a week, I sent an email asking about my candidacy – now – what you guys are saying is that it was rejection?

  17. RVA Cat*

    OP, please think about your search as sort of like dating, and that you are being rejected not because anything is wrong with you, it’s just that there is no “chemistry”. Fitting in with the company culture is both huge and completely out your control. The rejection is not about you – it is all about the employer and the candidate they decided to chose.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d say it’s even better than that. Usually with dating if there’s mutual chemistry, you’ll probably end up dating. I’ve been involved in searches in which one candidate clearly stood above the rest and had chemistry with the existing team, but someone else got hired for political reasons.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        i.e., no one should ever take not getting a job as any indication of personal flaw or lack of chemistry even.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    I have struggled with this, as a recruiter. If a hiring manager gives me feedback on a candidate, I definitely prefer to pass it on, because I myself would want to know.

    However, unfortunately candidates complain so much after given the feedback, that now my large company’s HR has decided that going forward we will not be giving any more feedback.

    For example, one person temped with us and was released due to poor attendance. She applied for one of my openings. I reached out to her former manager, who explained it was an attendance issue. I relayed that to her as the reason why we would not be moving forward. She responded that she was told at the time of release that it was an attendance issue but that she has proof that it wasn’t and what is that manager’s employee ID because she wants to file a formal complaint, etc. So now, we just tell them “thanks but we’ve chosen another candidate who more closely meets our requirements” blah blah.

    So blame the complainers.

    1. voyager1*

      I think for a lot of us, we are thankful for just the “blah blah” email as you call it.

    2. James M.*

      Where else have I read about HR making myopic blanket policies in response to a few uncomfortable incidents?…

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        It’s HR who gets these calls. It’s usually not just a few. I’m an HR person, and you have no idea how much time these calls take. I’d make this “myopic blanket policy” for my company.

        1. K Squared*

          At least it is good to send something instead of leaving the candidate hanging out there with “false hope”.

      2. fposte*

        Why do you think this is myopic, though? Can you explain why it would be advantageous to the employer to give feedback to rejected candidates?

        1. voyager1*

          If I take off work, maybe multiple days, a “blah blah” email goes a long way if I ever apply at your company again. No email, don’t expect me to apply again.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I agree. I probably won’t come back even for an opening I would be perfect for if you fail to blah blah me after I went to all the trouble of meeting with you, preparing, etc.

            1. Adonday Veeah*

              Did I miss something? I thought we were talking about not giving people reasons as to why they were declined, not about blah blah. I agree about the blah blah, but I stand by my comment about not responding to people when they ask why they were declined.

              1. fposte*

                Right, that’s exactly what I was talking about. I think giving people rejection notice is absolutely obligatory, because otherwise you kind of suck. But I think there’s rarely an advantage to the employer in giving feedback. I still do sometimes, but not because it’s going to be good for me.

        2. James M*

          For a recruitment agency to disadvantage its own product (i.e. job seekers) by refusing to provide feedback, I think it’s quite clear why “myopic” is the right word.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think she’s a recruitment agency (Victoria, can you clarify?); I think she’s a recruiter for the company.

  19. Suzanne*

    I’d say that I wouldn’t want to work for an organization that can’t even bother to take 60 seconds & send a polite “Thanks but no thanks” email after rejecting me, but if I did that, I’d not be able consider 2/3 of the employers in the US.

    Getting hired today is like being forced to participate in a sporting event without being told the rules, or even how you score, or how much time is allotted or if the referee will throw you out of the game because your shoes are ugly or your uniform was the wrong color. And, at the end of it all, good luck finding out if you lost.

    1. Joey*

      No it’s more like deciding if you want to date someone than a game with rules and a score.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re thinking of hiring as a being a yes/no referendum on you — like the employer is rendering a verdict that you’re either good enough or not (and if not, it might mean that you suck). But that’s not the question at all. The question for hiring managers is: Based on the limited data they have, do you seem like the absolute best match out of all the candidates, who may number in the hundreds?

      1. Suzanne*

        But if you’re not what they consider the best match, especially after at least one interview, they could at least give you the common courtesy of letting you know. But that is becoming increasingly rare and I think it says a great deal about how hiring managers view the people they interview.

  20. voyager1*

    I think with small busineses and such have good reasons not to send rejections, but large companies have no excuse. There is software out there that allows candidates to be tracking their progress without even an email.

    1. fposte*

      Honestly, it doesn’t take that long even without software. I’m not letting small businesses off the hook–if I can do it, they can too.

      1. hayling*

        I had 150 people apply for an part-time admin position. I just didn’t have time to reply to them all.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s actually very easy! I do it for every position I hire for, most of which get 300+ applications. You just copy and paste it into the email — it’s literally a couple of seconds. You can reject 100 people in about five minutes.

          1. Carl*

            What a disgraceful attitude for someone in that capacity, and a lack of basic clerical skills

        2. I called her Estella*

          Trouble is, if an employer regards applicants as a nuisance, how do we know they don’t treat their staff and customers like that? How you represent your organization is important.

          1. Swedish Tekanna*

            Agree. When someone or an organization thinks their behaviour doesn’t matter, that’s when they often show their true colours,

          2. Joey*

            to be clear most employers that do this don’t regard ALL applicants as nuisances, just the ones they have no use for.

          3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Agreed, called…

            I related a story about a now-defunct, once-very-prominent company in my area, that used to, for a lack of better term, mess with applicants — their HR and interview process was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — and something I have never seen before or since.

            Now- that company is dead and gone. Kaput. But what do you think it was like for any sales rep from that company trying to sell you its products? What did they think — if the company is run like that – what if I need support and service from someone there?

      2. Merry and Bright*

        If only more interviewers/hirers had the simple courtesy that you and Alison have.

  21. Orange*

    This one of the most frustrating realities of job hunting. My boyfriend has interviewed for a half-dozen organizations in the past year and each time he has been short listed (asked to return for subsequent interviews and submit references, who are contacted) but is always rejected in the end. Not once has he received a reason or feedback. I know it’s difficult to take these canned responses to heart, but it makes him wonder if he is doing something during the interview process that is turning the employers off. Emails and phone calls nicely asking interviewers for feedback are never returned. It’s difficult to know how to improve your interviewing skills when you don’t even know if you are the problem. His field (biotech) is brutally competitive at the moment, so it might not be anything more than somebody else was more qualified. Sigh…

    1. fposte*

      If he’s turning them off in the interview phase, they’d be unlikely to be contacting his references. I think it’s likeliest that they just are going with somebody else–which isn’t even the same as “somebody else was more qualified.”

      Wouldn’t hurt to have somebody call his references for him to make sure they’re good, though.

    2. Joey*

      You know I send out canned rejections but only send out useful feedback if applicants genuinely and politely ask for it. Has he tried asking for feedback?

  22. tango*

    Well I got a canned thanks but no thanks, we’re going another direction generic email after my last interview- the kicker was it was an internal position for my current company. So not even a personal email/note or anything but something computer generated. I knew after interviewing it was not a good fit and there were a few other more qualified candidates but even so…

    1. Abby*

      I never even got a response from an internal application and interview. Instead, I was invited to a dept. meeting where it was announced that my supervisor had gotten the job. I understand why they’d hire her over me (and it turned out that she had been picked for the position before it was even posted), but I was PISSED that the HR dept didn’t have the courtesy to inform an internal candidate.

      1. Steve G*

        Same exact thing at past past job. I totally thought my supervisor was overqualified for the work, so hadn’t even thought of her for it. And everyone kept asking me if I was applying for the opening, and since HR there was up in everyone’s grill, they should have addressed it with me.

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      Where I work, there’s a different policy for referral and internal candidates than for external candidates.

      External candidates who aren’t getting an interview get ignored. If we’ve phone-screened or interviewed you, you get a form letter.

      Internal candidates, the recruiters reach out to the manager to let the candidate know in person they’re being rejected. Referrals are similar — a rejection is still sent, but they reach out to the referrer to let them know they’re going forward with another candidate.

  23. De Minimis*

    Also specific feedback might be of limited use, depending on the nature of the issue. Something that might cause you to be turned down for one position might indicate a good fit elsewhere.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      So true. Sometimes we are looking to balance out a team with a particular kind of person…fill in a particular skill gap, get someone more nature on that team, find a peacemaker, etc. we might love the person, but they are too much like another team member and we’d be left with a gap or imbalance.

  24. Oryx*

    I had an in-person interview at a very well-known, beloved local company. Only found out I didn’t get the job when a friend who works in the same industry posted on her FB page that *she* had been hired. I never got a rejection notice, not even after I followed up myself (prior to finding out about my friend, obviously).

    I get not wanting to send everyone who applies a notice, but if you bring someone in to interview in person, c’mon. And, not gonna lie, their failure to do that makes me side-eye them a bit when I see their products.

    1. newbie in Canada*

      This just happened but I am on the hiring end. I offered a job to someone and he posted it on his Twitter feed before I had a chance to contact those who were not successful. I suppose it’s his prerogative, but I felt bad for those who may have found out that way.

      The reason it took a while to notify the unsuccessful was that I am part of a group who are hiring 15+ seasonal staff within one posting and not everyone with job offers responded to the offer in a timely fashion. Students are applying for other jobs and they “need time” to hear back from other employers before they accept our offers so many of our first choice candidates don’t accept our offers so we go to our next choices. We don’t want to send out rejection notices right away because there’s a really good chance that we’re going to draw from that group anyway.

    2. Risa*

      My dad once interviewed for a corporate counsel position at a company that I was in management at. I found out he didn’t get the job when some coworkers mentioned meeting the new corporate lawyer. They hadn’t even notified my dad that he wasn’t hired – I had to call and tell him…. Not fun! And we were at a medium size, privately owned company. I found out during a business trip that I was on with the owner who was making the hiring decision – so it’s not like there was a big disconnect between me and the hiring process.

  25. Whippers*

    Reading Alison’s advice about how to take rejection for jobs is something that really helped me when I was job searching. Previously I didn’t have great confidence and consequently took rejection very personally; thinking that it meant there was something grievously wrong with me, and it would put me off applying for other jobs for months.

    However, reading Alison’s take on rejection; that it’s just a normal part of hiring and doesn’t mean they thought you were terrible or unemployable, really helped me put things in perspective. I think it’s probably one of the main things that helped me persevere with my job search and not get so discouraged.

  26. Dillybar*

    Job hunting is not for sissies. Recently when I was in a full throttle job hunt a company that I had applied to early on and had already received a rejection note, had a computer glitch. They sent me yet another rejection letter. It was extremely demotivating, and I admit it was hard not to want to scratch them off my list of companies to watch for open positions. Then I gave myself the “put on your big girl pants, and move forward” speech.

  27. Elder Dog*

    Sending a “Sorry, you didn’t get the postiton” note is the other side of the candidate sending a thank you note for an interview.
    Both should happen. Sadly, many employers who expect thank you notes can’t be bothered to be polite back.

    1. hmmmm*

      I disagree.

      Employee sending a thank-you note should equal the employer also sending a thank-you note. Both parties are in it to benefit themselves and, yes, the employer has more power in many cases. But it’s a simple courtesy and does not serve any real purpose. (I have never sent thank-you notes and my offer to interview rate is over 90%.)

      A rejection notice, on the other hand, equals the candidate withdrawing his or her candidacy upon accepting another position. It is notification that one party has made a decision, and that decision does not include the other party. Both acts are a courtesy, and both serve a purpose.

  28. YandO*

    Thoughts after reading comments:

    1. I don’t care if you reject me after I send in my application, but it is nice when you do
    2. After an interview, please let me know you rejected me. A form letter is fine.
    3. After 4-5 interviews, a writing sample, a project, and especially after calling my references, please send me a real email. Ok? A phone call would be too much to ask, I get it.

    With that said, February has been a good month for me:

    10 applications
    5 responses: 4 interviews + 1 written assignment.
    1 offer (I postponed/rejected it), one I rejected for the 2nd interview, the other three are still warm leads.
    4 rejections
    1 rejection by no response
    1 is too soon to tell

    I am keeping meticulous records of my job search. It will be interesting to how it all works out in numbers.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Have you ever had a phone call rejection? It’s worse than a rejection email… super awkward…

      1. Swedish Tekanna*

        I had one of these last year. It was awkward but I have a strict policy when dealing with anyone in the job hunting food chain to never show any negative feeling. So, when I got the rejection phone call my response was on the lines of “Oh, that’s fine, I absolutely understand …no, not all. Thanks so much for letting me know…” ín my best cheerful voice. The HR person on the other end was one of my interviewers and was completely wrong footed.

        The funny thing is, at the interview they already dropped a mighty hint that the job was already filled as they said they were looking to recruit internally for the role and there were a couple of people who seemed just right and were just checking availability.

        Still, that’s job-hunting, folks.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Gah, yes! I was in the doctor’s office during my unemployment for a minor procedure and my phone rang. I missed the call and when I called back afterward, it was the employer calling to reject me. Um….okay. Thanks. Grr. She did NOT leave it on the voice mail, which I would have preferred.

  29. PoorDecisions101*

    For those hiring managers out there, what’s your take on out of state candidates?

    I’m currently applying a lot outside my state in a current job search due to limited opportunities and I’m wondering on how likely I’ll hear back or whether most managers consider out of towners too much effort.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it depends on what the pool of local candidates are like. If there are a ton of really strong local candidates, I wouldn’t completely discount out-of-towners, but I’d definitely put them on the backburner.

      1. A Job Seeker*

        Would you mind sharing why? I’ve been wondering about this because I want a position that is out of state. Here are some of the reasons I’ve been considering, but I’m not sure if they are correct. I’d love to hear your input.
        – company prefers not to pay interview (or relocation) expenses
        – position requires local contacts
        – concerns that a newly hired candidate from out of state might get homesick and quit the job
        – other employees do not want to work with people from out of state
        I think the first 2 are legitimate. The third is unfair but understandable. I would not use it to make a hiring decision. The last is prejudicial and beyond ridiculous. It should be illegal (but I don’t think it is).

        1. Another Job Seeker*

          Sorry, that previous post was from “Another Job Seeker”, not “A Job Seeker”.

  30. CatDog*

    I’m a Digital Communications Officer, and was recently told I was rejected from an interview for a Digital Communications Officer (similar salary to now but different company) because I didn’t have experience in SEO. The thing is, SEO is a key part of what I do and I actually have five years of experience in it! Obviously they had given me feedback meant for someone else and likely rejected me for fit, but didn’t want to say it.

    The worst part was that the HR person actually said, ‘They felt you didn’t have much experience in SEO. Do you think that’s a fair comment?’. Thus followed one of the most awkward silences of my job-seeking so far. I was super cheesed off that she expected me to agree (she could have simply delivered it and thanked me for my time). I ended up blustering agreeable something to be polite because I wanted to protect my reputation and was too embarrassed to say otherwise, but it was so awkward to be put on the spot like that. I’d never even asked for feedback!

    The good thing was that this was another red flag that this company wasn’t right for me. I had arrived for my 2pm interview at 1:50pm, but it didn’t start until 2:15pm as the interviewers had scheduled back-to-back interviews and the previous one had run late. I was breezily informed as I set foot in the interview room that they would knock mine down my hour-long interview to 45 minutes so they could get back on schedule. That showed they had zero interest in me as a candidate, as most companies wouldn’t unfairly penalise one candidate like that when it was the company’s error. If that’s how they handle interviews I don’t think it would be a great place for me.

    1. Artemesia*

      So they called and said that and asked you if you agreed and you didn’t say ‘well actually I have several years experience with that precise process? I am not getting it.

    2. Revanche*

      I’d agree with Artemisia that correcting the HR person would have made sense. I’ve worked with some prize incompetents (recruiters and HR, variously) and I had to be super on top of their work because they’d make that kind of mistake and relay the wrong screening information to me so that perfectly good candidates would have been knocked off the list simply due to their lack of reading comprehension. In those cases they’d match the wrong candidate to the wrong summary on the recruiting report so if I didn’t dig out the resume, I’d never know. For that reason alone I’d say it would have been worth politely reminding them you have five years of experience in SEO.

      1. Owl's That*

        I was put on the spot and just didn’t know how to react. I know I should have said something in hindsight, but on the spur of the moment I had a total mindfog! Had they not been so disinterested in the interview I might have had more courage, I hope.

  31. Tom*

    Why don’t employers send out messages explaining why they didn’t hire you:

    It’s pointless.

    Think about it, they probably will never deal with you again, they gain nothing by spending time and energy composing a message when they could just use a canned one. Then consider the potential downsides; if you get a personalised message and you react really badly, you could sue them, you could attack the manager (at least verbally), you could use it as a directed attack on the company online. There’s a lot of ways it could take up a lot of their time, compared to just sending a rote “thank you but you didn’t get the job this time” email.

  32. Suzanne*

    It’s not pointless. The world, in a way, is a giant web with many connections. You don’t know who that candidate knows and how much they will talk. I know I have dissuaded people from taking jobs at certain companies, or doing business with them, because of their incredibly rude hiring people. I have likewise said wonderful things about several businesses that rejected me for a position because of their civility throughout the process. Oh yes, it does matter.

    1. Lightly Salted*

      This is exactly my thinking on this too. How you treat anyone and everyone always matters. At this point, companies that fail to see and embrace this are missing the chance to be their own good PR.

    2. savannah*

      How you treat everyone in the employment process reflects on your company AS MUCH as how a prospective candidate treats a receptionist. If you are careless then the word gets out. In our technological triggered world, it will be blogged about, twittered, facebook’d or youtube’d…So at least take the 5 mins after an interview it takes to say thanks but no thanks…I might be a customer in the future or if I land a job at a competitor I will talk about my experiences with your company.

  33. Christian Troy*

    I had a couple of situations where I was relayed information why I was a bad fit for a job. Personally, I felt the feedback was useless. In one situation, they opted for a candidate who was more passionate about children and in another position, they felt I had too much experience. Another job told me they went with someone local. I don’t know, I mean, I think sometimes it can be useful, but at the same time every person is looking for something different and what is a negative to one person might be exactly what someone else is looking for.

  34. LQ*

    I got a very nice rejection from a job (I think I would have been great at) and 4 months later or so I was in a position where I was one of the leads on a project where we used the person I’d interviewed with and the person who had been hired as contractors.

    The person who interviewed with me pulled me aside and said some nice things, she was glad I’d found a position that was good for me etc.

    But I was so incredibly glad that I’d gotten a rejection from that job (it was slightly personalized) and it made working with them so much easier than if I’d never heard from them.

  35. Merry and Bright*

    With regard to impressions hiring companies make, I have had a timely email this morning. Last September I was interviewed for a PA role at a finance company. It was a phone screen followed by 4 in-person interviews, so 5 interviews in all and took almost the whole month. Promises to let me know one way or another by early October followed. Radio silence although I did email the HR Manager in October as my main contact to confirm my interest and if to see if there was a decision yet. No point chasing bad news but having invested so much time and money in the application, I thought I would at least remind them that I existed.

    Today’s email addresses me as “Dear Valued Stakeholder” and asks me to sponsor said HR Manager in this year’s London Marathon. Only the cat heard what I said.

    1. Swedish Tekanna*

      Outch! That really stinks. They have time to email you to ask for sponsorship money but didn’t have time apparently to email you back in the autumn to say “Thank you, but no thank you”? Now, nobody will ever convince me that by the time they have reached Round 5 they have dozens of candidates left to email.

      Presumably the money is the travel costs to the interview site – another cost to the candidate. It is part of the rough and tumble of job hunting and has to be allowed for. But it is still a cost and the money is not always easy to find if you aren’t working at the time

      But your experience to day takes the biscuit.

  36. soitgoes*

    These days, I’m sure the answer is some variation of, “The person we hired for this entry-level job has a master’s degree. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) a stated requirement, but we ended up going with someone who was way more qualified than you.”

  37. HR Manager*

    Most recruiters don’t diss people by not rejecting or replying on purpose. It really is a matter of volume. When I was doing recruiting full-time, and when I see my recruiter work now. about 10 hours of the day (yes- a full 10- hours) is spent on screening, scheduling interviews, sending offing letters, meeting with managers about new jobs, posting jobs, and coordinating for on-boarding. This means that rejecting candidates then gets tacked on after that. And trust me – so much of the other stuff is time sensitive in the hiring manager’s eyes that the rejection piece is indeed the last thing on the list. And mind you..this isn’t 10 hours leaving like you’ve done everything and you start off clean the next day. You leave feeling like you have the same laundry list of things for the next day with just the next set of deadlines.

    I’m not offering an excuse – I agree that it’s important to notify candidates, but I am also honest that after that 10 hour day, my brain is fried, and it’s not unusual to push that rejection to the next day or the day after. I really made an effort to reach out to everyone that I spoke to, but I have no doubt I’ve missed a few people too. That’s also why email is so much easier than the in person reach out.

    1. savannah*

      Than as a HR mgr DEMAND more staff to do a GOOD job that reflects positively on the company.

  38. Anisa*

    This has happened to me a few times. It is very frustrating. When I was searching for a job last fall, I was lucky enough to get three interviews in the span of only one month (October). Two of the interviews went really well (in my opinion) but I never heard ANYTHING back from them, although both ended in “we will be contacting you very soon, you are a great fit for this role, etc…” I followed up with both of them via e-mail and leaving a voice mail, did not hear back. The third interview, which did not go well at all, e-mailed me about a week and a half after the interview took place and wrote a long e-mail about how they are going in a different direction and they spoke very highly about the person they had decided to go with. I was a bit deflated, but appreciated them letting me know. I would always rather know.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I never expect a reply from an application, but YEAH if I interview, I definitely think it’s rude not to respond! Good on the third company for at least getting back to you.

      I tend to strike non-responsive companies off my list. Forever.

  39. Bill*

    The real issue isn’t legal, or any other legitimate one. It’s really more a matter of the death of simple common sourtesy in society. Think about it. Have you not noticed (including in ourselves) the offering of far less courtesy to others than we experienced when we were younger (this is NOT age dependant and applies to all generations!). If you are honest with yourself you will admit this to be true. This simply carries over into the business world.

  40. realist*

    They didn’t want to tell you, you’re too old. Or you have the wrong skin color and they’re looking for “diversity” (defined no white men need apply). Or they saw you were pregnant and did not want to pay for maternity leave. Or other illegal reasons which they don’t want you to take them to court for.

    Or maybe you wanted to work for more than minimum wage. So they are cheap.

    1. Scotsgirl*

      Lol..or more likely you have the wrong skin colour because you’re black or brown. So much research has been done into this and shows clearly interviewers and recruiters being more prone to reject a candidate at both pre Interview stage if they have ‘ethnic names’ or at interview stage if they are obviously an ethnic minority so save your poor white guy speech for another time.

      1. Billy*

        Your theory is completely wrong. I am white, my name even sounds white, I have the same issues as everyone on this page.

  41. davp*

    Ignoring people is not professional. Especially when the company says they will get back to you no matter what. I’m still waiting to hear back from six positions I interviewed for. There are twenty more applications I haven’t heard anything from. Even Stop and Shop lets you know what happened. It seems the higher up the job, the less likely they are to have common sense.

  42. Araceli*

    I can answer that question quite easily, and I don’t have to be an ‘expert’ to give you an honest answer. The reason employers won’t tell you why they are rejecting you for a job is because:
    They don’t have one.

  43. Veronica*

    that is an illegal course of action that those managers perform. it is a form of favoritism which by law is not allowed in places of business whether it is family owned or not. me and my friend have been rejected for jobs because of this form of illegal activity although the managers can get away with it.

  44. Billy*

    Hers is the problem I have. No matter what it is personal to the applicant. How does the manager if the person they hired was better? They did the in person interview with the local but not the non-local. The non-local may have wowed them even more but was not given a chance. Why not select the people you really want to interview, then interview them all before making a decision.

  45. KatieX*

    Thank you for writing this. It really helped me. I recently had a double interview first one with two people and second one with 8 people. “note: this was a very low titled position, the second lowest in their company” Going into the interview “Twice” was extremely overwhelming but I actually felt like the interview went pretty well. The HR generalist and the manager invited me back for a second interview within the same week, sounds good right?
    I am never a person to flaunt myself or have over confidence I get nervous quite easy but I can say I went through both interviews very calm, collective and answered well. They even told me that my “test scores” were higher then the previous candidates and that they enjoyed getting to meet me, But yesterday after nervously waiting 4 days the HR generalist sends me a very short email stating she enjoyed “talking” to me about the position over the phone, but they went with another candidate. **no phone calls nor explanation as to why I was not chosen” eh, I guess at least I got an email denial right? I was kind of confused about her email though like it just didn’t seem to be well written pertaining to both our meetings. we didn’t talk on the phone actually…… It was totally not the job denial that disappointed me I accepted that, it was the way she informed me about moving forward with another candidate through such a confusing email. I could easily accept such a short email if we met once but to have me come in TWICE same week which I had to quickly Take some time off my current job to accommodate their time AND She also had me fill out all the background/drug testing release forms ( I clearly passed) this kind of rubbed me wrong. what I took out of this if it helps anyone else is the experience and that you can never expect employers who compliments you to be accepting of you. Good Luck to everyone else and hopefully I wont ever have to go through this again.


    Don’t allow these a hole HR/hiring manager types to have so much power over your life. Many want to play god with your life.

  47. Zack*

    @HRISNOTYOURFRIEND you make a valid point. I notice it is in majority women on here who care. There is fantasising, over caring and over wanting a position you know little about. I am job hunting at the moment. I see jobs as leads. I get interviews. I put on my best front and that’s it. For me it’s like going on a date. Even if it goes really well it means nothing. If its meant to be. You will hear back. It is also surprising how many people say ‘the interview went really well’ bla bla bla. Really. Have you not learnt yet? Just because somebody is nice to you does not mean they necessarily like you! Often people are nice in interviews because it is easier to get through allocated time, particularly when there is no real interest. Personally, I ask questions, check their body language and and I put interviewer on spot too. This way I gauge real not fake reactions or short sweet uninterested answers. It must work I have after a very short time job searching received two job offers! One place, I knew straight away I did not like them based on interviews. Should I send them a thanks but no thanks mail or be a d*** and do tit for tat and opt for radio silence? TBH the latter would probably make me feel better. It might just make employers wake up to their stinking horrible attitude towards job seekers who many judge as scum. It is a two-way street ladies. Please have higher self worth it is not just about them. Have dignity. They do not hold any power over you yet.

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