online dating rejections vs. job rejections

A reader writes:

I have recently dipped my toe into the online dating pool. Like many straight women, I’m finding myself absolutely overwhelmed with messages … and, like many, I delete most of them without replying.

But I’m also an avid AAM reader, and would certainly not do such a thing at work. As a hiring manager, I always make sure we send a reply to every applicant.

So is it different? It feels different, because it feels more like I’m rejecting a person, well, personally, rather than saying they aren’t the right fit or we had more qualified applicants. I also think I would get more pushback of the kind hiring managers sometimes get when we reject an applicant.

If it is different, why? And if it isn’t, and I should be replying to every message I get with a “thanks for your interest, but X,” what should X be?

I’m interested in what you think as well as what commenters think. Hopefully I’m not the only one to find this question fascinating!

You are not. It is objectively fascinating.

I do indeed think the etiquette for rejection in different in these two situations: It’s much more acceptable not to reply to messages from would-be suitors on online dating sites than it is for employers not to reply to job applicants.

Part of it is just a difference in conventions — the professional conventions for hiring are different than the conventions for online dating. Employers are expected to close the loop when someone sends them business correspondence, which is what a job application is. With online dating, there’s more of a cultural norm (among most people, at least) that if you’re not interested, there’s no need to respond to say that; it’s okay to just delete the message.

Part of it, too, is that there’s more of an understanding (or at least there’s supposed to be) that hiring and applying for jobs is, well, business not personal. As a result, everyone involved is expected to handle rejection reasonably professionally. (Not that they always do, of course, but there’s more of an expectation of it.)

But a really big part of it is the reality that most women doing online dating quickly learn that if they send polite rejections to men who contact them, they’ll receive an enormous number of hostile and even abusive responses. And you can’t always tell who those are going to come from! You might think it would be more likely with the dudes whose initial messages are already a little sketchy, but it’s not uncommon to also receive abusive responses to rejection from the guy whose first message was polite, unassuming and/or charming.

Given that, it’s just the smarter option for women who don’t want to field a bunch of hostile and insulting messages not to respond to people to say “thanks but I don’t think we’re the right match.”

Now, it’s certainly true that some job applicants also respond to rejection with hostility, but (a) they’re far less numerous than in online dating, (b) the intensity of the hostility seems to be lower, and (c) it’s part of the job in that situation to deal with the occasional whacked out response to rejection.

What do others think?

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    I met my husband through online dating :)

    My philosophy was that if someone took the time to write a nice, thoughtful, personalized message, I would respond either way. Even if I wasn’t interested. But if it was a cut/paste job, crude, didn’t show they’d actually read my profile, or otherwise low-effort, I didn’t reply.

    If you’ve never seen the ByeFelipe Instagram, I highly recommend it (OP, I hope it doesn’t scare you off) because you’ll realize how hazardous it is for women who DO reply.

    1. LaurenB*

      My philosophy was that if someone took the time to write a nice, thoughtful, personalized message, I would respond either way. Even if I wasn’t interested. But if it was a cut/paste job, crude, didn’t show they’d actually read my profile, or otherwise low-effort, I didn’t reply.

      I think that it’s also not a terrible faux pas to not respond to job candidates who send a one-line email instead of a cover letter and resume. Which is the equivalent of the multitude of “hey”s that you get in online dating.

      1. Alton*

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing. I think the etiquette is mainly about showing people the courtesy that someone showed you. If a job applicant takes the time to apply and send their materials, that deserves a polite response. If they just send an email saying “hey u hiring?”, or if they obviously didn’t pay attention to the job posting at all, I don’t think the company owes them more than the bare minimum in response.

        I generally try to respond to online dating messages that make an effort. If it’s just a message saying “Hey” or if, say, they message me on OkCupid even though we have a 9% compatibility rating and our values are diametrically opposed in every way, I don’t feel obligated to respond.

        1. Buffy Summers*

          What? I got all my best jobs with that email. Well, mine was a little different – I was fairly considerate and “hey” just felt so impersonal, so I used:
          ‘Sup, Dudes? U hiring?
          Worked like a charm.

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah, if I was hiring for, say, a college biology professor and I got a resume from a 20-year-old whose only job was cashier at 7-11, I wouldn’t feel obligated to reply to that guy. Or girl. It’s the same with people who don’t bother to glance at your dating profile and don’t meet your requirements.

        I’m on a non-dating site looking for local friends, and I get a number of messages about my “beautiful smile.” I’m not smiling in my photo. If you don’t even care enough to actually LOOK at me, I don’t owe you a response.

        1. seejay*

          I get a lot of blind recruiter contacts that I know didn’t bother reading my resume or job profile, but I think the best was a LinkedIn recruiter that *came so close*. She’d read part of my profile and got that I was in a masters program, but she got the degree wrong. I wanted to respond with “I give you a 6/10 for effort, but you still flunked that one, into the spam pile!”

          It’s like hitting me up for a date…. if you’re interested in me for a job, read my profile and match it, don’t look for buzz words and then slap it into a form letter and hope it sticks.

        2. Telly*

          What is the site for finding local friends? I would like to find more mom friends in my neighborhood.

          1. Alison Read*

   is the spot for finding others that share your interest/demographic. i.e. similar aged (self & kids), unique diets, foreign language, recreation, religion & politics … you name it.

          2. many bells down*

            I’m on Meetup and MeetMe. I would not recommend the latter, it’s mostly scammers. Meetup is generally fine, though. I tried Friendable but it was really terrible and non-intuitive. I’ve heard mixed things about NextDoor, which is confined to your neighborhood so at least you won’t get duded in Malaysia messaging you. Probably.

      3. The Rat-Catcher*

        Came to say this! No matter how thoughtful and personalized the message, it was certainly not the equivalent of the time and dedication put into a well-done cover letter and resume.

    2. Karenina*

      +1 to all of this. With a caveat:

      I think especially in dating, many women feel obligated to give men their time and attention even when it isn’t warranted. And many men seem to feel they are entitled to as much time and attention from women as they want, regardless of their behavior.

      However, back when I was online dating, I would sometimes feel it appropriate to respond to messages that were more or less polite just to let them know thank you (like if they had complimented me) but that I wasn’t interested… and then I would get some nasty, angry response.

      After that, unless I was genuinely interested in having a conversation with someone, I wouldn’t bother even responding, no matter how thoughtful the message. I got the impression that lots of these men preferred to be ignored rather than be told ‘no thanks’, at least based on how I was treated.

      1. Amber T*

        Yep, learned rather quickly that saying online “hey, I don’t think we’re a good match” or “I’m not interested because X” very rarely resulted in “oh ok, thanks for letting me know!” but instead, lots of insults, name calling, or even better, the repeated harassing phone calls and texts. Ghosting gets a lot of crap, and it’s not a mature way to peace out on any established relationship, but when you’ve exchanged only a handful of words with someone, I don’t think it’s a bad way to end a conversation.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Ghosting gets a lot of crap, and it’s not a mature way to peace out on any established relationship, but when you’ve exchanged only a handful of words with someone, I don’t think it’s a bad way to end a conversation.

          Yes. I’d say you’re not even really in a conversation with someone if you’ve only sent them one brief message. And you’re not obligated to have a conversation with everyone and anyone who wants your time. It’s like how, when you encounter someone on the street with a clipboard who wants to tell you about their political issue or give you a free sample of hair product, it’s not rude to say “Thanks, not interested” and keep walking.

          1. TootsNYC*

            It’s also not rude to say NOTHING and to keep on walking. That is actually what I, a seasoned NYCer, do.

      2. The Rat-Catcher*

        If you simply don’t respond, maybe it’s an old profile, you are seeing someone else, or you’re just a shrew.
        If you respond with polite rejection, then it’s….rejection.
        It’s ridiculous, but it is what it is.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m sorry! I think you’re right that it should only be administered in small, manageable doses :(

            1. seejay*

              Oh don’t apologize. I read ByeFelipe months and months ago! It was amusing at first and I laughed and giggled at it… then got so depressed over it, because it reminded me of how terrible the internet is!

              I’m a jaded old dino of 20+ years of internet garbage at this point, I shouldn’t be shocked, but sometimes I still am.

    3. Morning Glory*

      I met my husband online too, and I agree with this.

      Most applicants put a lot of time into looking over job requirements, writing a cover letter, filling out the required online fields in the employment portal, etc. – even fast applicants usually spend an hour minimum per application. In online dating, a lot of people will send the exact same message to 100 recipients in the time it takes a job seeker to apply to one job – they don’t deserve a personalized response. Any message that included specific info from my profile, or made it clear they had put the time in – that deserves a reply, even if there isn’t mutual interest.

      1. Joe Jobseeker*

        Thank you for recognizing that even fast applicants spend at least an hour per application. People often say it couldn’t hurt to apply but when it takes an hour or two of very limited time, it can so hurt!

    4. Here we go again*

      I felt the same way…. If someone takes the time to read your profile and craft a thoughtful message, it is a nice courtesy to respond and just feels… respectful?

      My typical response if I wasn’t interested was “Thank you for the nice message, but I don’t think we would be compatible because ______. Good luck in your search!” 90% of of the time, that blank was filled with, “you want children and I do not.” I recognize that’s an easy way to weed out people that doesn’t apply to most, but there is probably something in their profile anyone could allude to.

      I rarely got any push back or rude responses.

      1. seejay*

        I had it very clearly outlined in my profile that I didn’t want children (nor would I date someone with kids) and some guy contacted me, and he had *clearly* read my profile, and went out of his way to pretty much state that I would love his toddler daughter. He was nice enough initially, that I responded back and said that I was flattered and all, but we weren’t a good match and he went totally off on me about how if you loved someone, you’d make sacrifices for them, etc. I was just… buh? No. Go away.

        Apparently he’d latched on that I was his soul mate despite some *glaring* differences in our profiles and my rejection totally destroyed his faith in online dating.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Amazing to open with “when you love someone” when you have never met or had a conversation before. People can be really strange in general, but it seems to get a little more focused online (I think because you don’t have to live with the consequences you’d live with if you did it face to face).

          1. seejay*

            Yeah, unfortunately I stayed engaged for a few messages with crazyguy before I blocked him and pointed out “you have to actually meet and fall in love before getting to sacrifice stage dude” and I wound up feeling bad for a little bit because I apparently shattered his dreams and self-esteem. (I was still a little green to online dating and hadn’t quite figured out the crazypants filter).

            Fortunately it didn’t drive me away from it since I wound up meeting my current partner and some amazing people eventually.

            1. requiredname*

              If it helps, you didn’t shatter anything. If he’d built you up like that, he basically built something already shattered. It’s not your job to not touch it gently and then feel bad it collapses. When fantasy bubbles burst, it’s the fault of the fantasizer, not the fantasizee.

              1. RVA Cat*

                I have no sympathy for CrazyGuy, but I do for his little daughter. I hope her mother is still in her life.

          2. Allison*


            If I meet someone and fall in love with him over a reasonable period of time, I’d be willing to make sacrifices for that person. I’m not gonna date someone I don’t love because I might fall in love with him, and therefore would want to make sacrifices right away. That’s not how that works.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          Seriously! My profile is quite clear about looking for something serious, and that it is non-negotiable that you be down with social justice, left-wing politics, and intersectional feminism. The number of guys who were like “I don’t know what intersectionalism is, but maybe you could teach me?” No. Google is a thing that exists, fam.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            Maybe they’re part of the crowd who puts “teaches me something new” in things they want in a partner. Something about that line, whether it’s coming from a man or woman, drives me insane.

            It’s right up there, though underneath, men who write that they love women who smile and laugh at their jokes. IT’S 2017, STOP TELLING ME TO SMILE AND LAUGH AT YOUR DUMB JOKES.

            1. RKB*

              There’s a line between social and emotional labour and teaching you something new, though. As a brown woman who is very vocal about these things, I tire easily of people who want me to tell them something that has millions of articles and books about it.

        3. Stellaaaaa*

          Ugh, I hate guys who think they’re being slick by drawing attention to how they’re supposedly great fathers. They don’t understand that for women who don’t want kids, it’s not just about carrying and giving birth. I don’t want to live with a child, or participate in any component of parenting, or set aside a room in my home for someone else’s child. I would prefer not to sacrifice every other weekend (or whatever) with my boyfriend to someone else’s custody arrangement. I’m not interested in dating someone who is still in regular almost-daily contact with an ex.

          1. seejay*

            Yep, I was pretty clear in my profile that it wasn’t just about not wanting to *have* children, but that I wouldn’t even date a parent… I didn’t want to deal with *any* of the baggage that went with a person who had kids. The number of random people that messaged me to tell me how horrible I was for stipulating that was also kind of mind-boggling too. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to discriminate against single fathers and have that as a criteria about what I wanted in my life. I’m sorry? I wasn’t discriminating against anyone, I just had very specific lifestyle choices that I wanted for me and any potential partners and that meant not fitting it around someone else’s kids. If someone had kids, great for them, it meant *I* wasn’t a great person for them to be dating! Hooray! I couldn’t wrap my head how my choices were so upsetting to these random guys… I was one person on the entire dating site that was off the options for them and they took it personally and had to yell at me for it, instead of just chalking me up as a 0% and looking at other profiles. I DON’T GET IT.

            Don’t like redheads? Don’t message one.
            Don’t like blondes? Don’t message one.
            Don’t like women with DDD boobies? Skip over that profile.
            Don’t like a woman who works 60 hour work weeks? That one’s not for you.
            Don’t like pets and that woman has four cats and two hamsters? Yeah, she’s a pass.
            Don’t like a woman who doesn’t want kids? MUST MESSAGE HER AND TELL HER SHE OFFENDED YOU.


            1. Stellaaaaa*

              That’s usually when I get a bit vulgar and point out that I’m looking for someone to have sex with, and it’s gross of guys to pressure me to say yes after I’ve already said no.

            2. Amber T*

              This is why Tinder was crap for me, because I like taking the time to read profiles, where it seems that the majority of users just swipe swipe swipe right and talked to anyone that matched with them. Basically, Tinder was the creepy bar full of randos and maybe occasionally the one random nice guy, except it was attached to my phone, which was attached to me. Not thank you. I met my boyfriend on a different dating app and I am beyond thrilled that all dating apps are now deleted from my phone.

              True story, I had “must love cats” in my profile because I have two, and they are my life (as most pet owners will say). The amount of guys that messaged me saying “I hate cats, but…” or “I’m deathly allergic, but…” Like, do you think I’m going to give up my two companions that I’ve had for 10 years for a guy that randomly messages me? No thx.

              1. seejay*

                My current partner is allergic to cats but he *loves* pets in general so me having two cats (which expanded to three eventually) wasn’t a deal breaker because he already knew what he wanted in a relationship anyway (not living with anyone, which actually fit exactly what I wanted as well). The only major damper the cats put in our relationship is we can’t hang out at my place for very long, which actually works out since I don’t have a tv. My place is pretty much centred around “entertaining Seejay and her three cats by herself for hours on end and not much else” which works out great for me, notsomuch for company. ^_^

                But yes, I wouldn’t date anyone who doesn’t like pets. One guy I dated who came over asked if I could put the cats in the bathroom because they annoyed him. The look on my face was kind of :| followed by a “you can leave now since they live here and you don’t”.

                1. (Another) B*

                  That’s a non-negotiable. I would never date a guy who didn’t like my cat. Bye boo.

              2. Perse's Mom*

                You wouldn’t, but people do. I sat in a room years ago as a woman gave up the family cat of many years because she got a new boyfriend who happened to be allergic. She brought her two little girls along, who bawled their eyes out for the entire appointment.

                1. vjt*

                  I don’t understand anyone who would put a new boyfriend ahead of her pet, much less ahead of her kids. How sad that any woman feels she needs a man in her life that badly.

            3. Anonymous 40*

              And it doesn’t make sense from their point of view either. If their kids are so important to them, why would they want to spend time with someone with absolutely no interest in kids? It’s almost like they’re using the kid as a prop to make themselves look good.

              1. seejay*

                Seriously! I don’t get that! I would expect someone who cares about their kids to put their kids *first* over some potential dating partner. If anything, I’d think less of a person who would care so little about their child that they’d try to shoehorn the kid into a relationship with someone where the other person didn’t want them around. Kids should be with people who want them, both their parent and the parent’s potential partner. I get that it can be difficult for single parents to date and find partners when they have kids already, but your kid needs to come first still and you’re not doing your kid any favours by hopping into a relationship with someone who doesn’t want that kid around… that’s *horrible*. Not everyone is going to self-select out ahead of time in all cases. :/

                1. Anonymous 40*

                  Maybe it’s that dumb thing parents do where we expect everyone to be as crazy about our kids as we are? It sounds like most of these guys aren’t self aware enough to avoid that. Makes no sense to me.

                2. Stellaaaaa*

                  Hmmm, I don’t want to get into a whole gendered thing here, but when women commiserate about losing friends to motherhood, I always think about the guys out in bars who hit on me by showing me pictures of their kids. Their beloved children…who are being cared for by women who don’t have time for their lifelong friends, let alone wacky nights out hitting on dorks like me.

                3. I am not a lawyer but,*

                  Hear hear – well said! When I was a single mom I’d dance with anyone at the club (during visitation at daddy’s) but you weren’t meeting the true little love of my life until you jumped through numerous hurdles!

                4. Perse's Mom*

                  I agree with Anon40 – I would bet that at least a good percent of these people honestly believe it just takes the right kid (their own magical, special, perfect child – of course) to change your mind. But yeah… a lot of them don’t care all that much so long as they get what they want.

        4. MashaKasha*

          My 21yo son was showing me how to use Tinder earlier this year. He took my phone “just keep swiping, see, here’s Jeff? Jeff looks good. You want to swipe right on Jeff.” which he immediately did for me. Next I know, Jeff is messaging me, telling me that he knows I am his soul mate and that we are meant to be together, and I’m like, “well to be honest, my son accidentally swiped right on you when he was showing me how to use the app”, and Jeff’s like, “nope, soul mate!”

          When I told my son what he’d gotten me into, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “eh, just unmatch”.

          But yeah, “soul mate” from someone I never met is an instant red flag. Even if we like the same bands and both have kids and both do not want more kids and so on… that’s still crazy talk if you have not met the person.

          1. many bells down*

            Jeff is probably a Nigerian scammer. They go for the “soulmate” thing right away. I don’t know how Tinder is, but MeetMe has *zillions* of them. All working from basically the same script, so they’re comically easy to spot.

            1. CoveredInBees*

              I recently learned that people running those scams are intentionally bad in their approach. To get a mark to pay out takes about 6 months of frequent back and forth. By being comically bad, they weed out the people who would eventually be a waste of time and zero in on the truly gullible.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Hahaha! If I’m ever in a situation where I’m open to online dating, I’m going to be asking any immediately over the top dudes if they are Nigerian scammers just so I can get this reaction if they are!

        5. Soul mate*

          … if you loved someone, you’d make sacrifices for them…

          “Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that!”

        6. ThatAspie*

          And, as someone who has been at the recieving end of some of the worst-case-scenario consequences of “parent wants to date Person E, but Person E doesn’t like kids”, I am glad you’re more upfront than two of the partners (one past, one current) of one of my parents. Not that I am assuming that you would actually commit verbal or physical child abuse if you did somehow get a partner who had a kid, just that I know what can happen when someone isn’t upfront about not wanting to raise a child, in a worst case scenario.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I think this is one of the very biggest problems with online dating, that you (general “you”) make a decision about somebody based on such a small data set and you don’t get the things like manner of speaking, the way they engage with you in body language, how they smell, random things you are fascinated by that aren’t important enough to mention, etc. When you meet someone in real life often you find out all these things that you would have thought were dealbreakers but because you already met and were attracted to the person before you knew, you can decide how much it matters. The last person I was dating, I really think I would have never in a million years picked him out of online dating, even for stupid stuff like that I wouldn’t have been into someone who wears baseball hats all the time, he was president of his fraternity and I famously hate fraternities, I thought he was a total idiot/bro type at first bc he wasn’t much for writing text or fb messages and used GIFs all the time which I hate, when it turned out he has A+++ in person communication and I absolutely loved how different he was from the other people in my life. Caveat that this applies less to major life issues like kids, pets, what city you live in (although honestly, sometimes attraction does jump over even such large hurdles) but in general I think it’s really true. Look at Mary Matalin and James Carville. Would never have matched on OKCupid.

        1. Caelyn*

          My last boyfriend was like this. We met at the gym after two years of me dating guys I met online. He broke all of my “rules” (preferences that help me weed out guys on dating sites), and we were together longer than any of my Tinder Ventures. Had I met him online, I would’ve rejected him right off the bat, but because we clicked right off the bat in person, it was a different story.

    5. Mela*

      This is my philosophy as well. It takes time to learn how to read between the lines. Sometimes I’ll read a very nice message and it’ll take me a second to realize it was all generic.

    6. Grits McGee*

      Yeah, in my experience the vast majority of messages are from guys who clearly were just throwing “Hi” at every woman in a 20 mile radius in the hopes that one would stick.

      Though I did have one guy write me a two paragraph message all about how socially awkward he was, how awkward this message was, how awkward dates would be with him, etc. When I didn’t respond he sent a five paragraph message rebuttal. Then he got blocked.

      Sometimes you don’t even have to respond to get a (low key) whacked out response to rejection.

      1. motherofdragons*

        “Sometimes you don’t even have to respond to get a (low key) whacked out response to rejection.”

        The ByeFelipe Instagram illustrates this, too. On some posts, when the woman doesn’t respond within 20-40 minutes, the guy completely loses it. It’s so disturbing how fragile they are.

        1. Blurgle*

          They’re just looking for an excuse to be verbally abusive. They aren’t fragile.

          1. motherofdragons*

            If that’s the case, then why not just start out verbally abusive? For many of the dudes on the ByeFelipe account at least, they’re sweet as pie until they get ghosted or a “Thanks but no thanks.” Their egos are so fragile that they respond to a stranger’s rejection with demeaning or violent comments.

            1. Blurgle*

              That’s how abusers work. Fake it until you have a justification to bring out the fists.

              They are not fragile. It’s all a way to justify their abuse.

              1. TootsNYC*

                And part of it is that they want to be able to think of themselves as one of the good guys. So they have to create a fake justification for attacking you.

      2. DecorativeCacti*

        A friend of mine had someone send her a quiz. A multiple page, multiple part, not-multiple choice quiz. Questions about past sexual history, STD testing, mental illness history, etc. It was insane.

        Come to think of it, he may have gotten the idea from some past AAM subjects.

    7. chocolate lover*

      I also met my husband that way. And as someone who advises students on job searching, there are so many comparisons that can be made!
      I did the same as Katie when it came to replying – if they had clearly read my profile based on the content of their message, then I emailed them back, one way or the other. If they started off creepy (or became creepy in further exchanges), I just ignored and blocked.
      I also ignored the guy who messaged me just to ask for job advice. Um, no.

    8. Wanderer*

      Also met my husband through online dating.
      The only time I replied to someone with a rejection was after his second long missive about how amazing a match we would be (him with his long doctor hours and four kids, me with my being a woman). Pretty sure I went the “you sound great but not for me” route and he gave up.
      I had a company ‘ghost’ me after making an offer – they didn’t return my emails or calls for weeks asking for logistics support (it would have involved an overseas move) before I could officially accept, and yet were surprised and unhappy that I finally rejected the offer.
      My current company just gave me the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk (I was laid off). Oh well, there are other fish in the sea!

    9. Violet*

      I’d never heard of ByeFelipe but I think I’m now going to spend the rest of my evening down this rabbit hole. :)

    10. Jill*

      I did the same as Katie the Fed. If it was clearly a personalized, thoughtful contact, I’d reply. But the cut and paste, I’m just here for a romp in the sack messages got nothing. But even with the polite responses, I’d have men email back trying to persuade me to change my mind “…but if you’d just meet meeeee…” Ugh.

      I think business correspondence, including job applications is different. With online dating, it’s almost all 99.9% random people you’ll never see. But in many professional industries or small towns, you WILL run into people who have made contact with your organization and who will recognize you/your name and remember how you treated them.

  2. esra (also a Canadian)*

    I posted a question similar to this in one of the open threads a few weeks ago and the consensus was generally to not reply. What made sense to me were the guys who said they just really didn’t need a rejection, you not replying was basically all the rejection anyone wants.

    Also, even guys who started off normal got weird quick. I lasted about 3 weeks.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      The “normal but gets weird quick” guys were the ones that threw me off when I started online dating. I didn’t feel bad ignoring the “hey” messages, or the ones that started off offensive (although I never got too many of those), but I always felt like I should at least respond once or twice if someone sent a reasonably put-together opening message. It didn’t take long to change that policy. But hey, I ended up meeting my husband after a few years on OKCupid, so it was worth it in the end!

    2. Mike C.*

      Seriously. I remember hitting it off with one gal and chatting constantly for about two weeks when she asked for updated pictures. The next day she stopped talking to me and posted a poll entitled “What do you do if the guy you’ve been chatting with is really cool but not physically attractive?” There were even comments on the poll that I could see!

      I get that my looks are only able to satisfy a subset of people on earth, but da faq? If I wasn’t married I would take no response over something like that any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

      1. Kate*

        Ugh. That’s super crappy. I’ve been trying out Bumble which tries to flip the switch on traditional gender roles (meaning I, as the female, have to initiate contact), so I understand how frustrating it is to get no response, especially when you have put thought and interest into the messages you send. But yeah, I take no response over getting back something along the lines of “you’re not pretty enough”. I also think in online dating, much like in job hunting, you can’t take the rejection too personally because you don’t know what the other candidates are like. Maybe someone didn’t respond because they’ve been out a couple times with someone else, and it’s going really well, but they aren’t at the “remove my dating profile” stage yet. Maybe things with their ex weren’t really over. Maybe they decided they weren’t really up for a relationship at this time. Who knows?

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Sometimes they’re not even single but want the ego boost of having a woman show interest in them. So gross and rude!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My husband would say, “She had to get out of the way so my wife could come into my life.”

          Time has a way of reducing and sometimes removing the hurts that happen.

      2. Hrovitnir*

        Oh man, I know you’ve moved on but what is wrong with people? Jesus. There are so many points at which she could have dodged being a massive jerk. I mean, if looks matter a lot to you that’s clearly something you can filter out right away. -_-

      3. Elizabeth West*

        That’s really stupid. Besides, what one person doesn’t like, another person might be thrilled with.

        Plus, as someone pointed out upthread, meeting someone in person means you might accept some things you’d dismiss from a snippet of online profile. I dated a guy who wasn’t conventionally attractive–he was almost four inches shorter than me and you would call him cute or adorable rather than handsome. Kind of like the difference between Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd. But he was whip-smart, funny as hell, and a very kind person.

    3. tw*

      I’ve heard that sending a rejection is basically going out of your way to hurt the guy, whereas not replying is just passive non-interest.

      This isn’t an online date, but one of my “friends” once got asked out by a pretty annoying guy over facebook messenger. She initially didn’t respond. Then roughly 2 months later said she would happily get coffee with him as a friend. I found that so usually cruel at the time. I imagine getting that facebook message and a well written online dating rejection feel similar.
      (we are no longer friends)

      1. NaoNao*

        Okay, it may be “going out of your way” but as a long time online dater, I have to interject here.
        I have seen hundreds of profiles wherein the guy specifically asks for any response including a ‘no thanks’ (sometimes in counterintuitive, almost funny, negative and aggressive language like “If UR 2 chicken to say no, keep walkin'”).
        Saying no clearly, early, and politely is good manners. Closing the door and shutting down any lingering hope or uncertainty is the nice and humane thing to do. Ignoring messages is okay too, but saying “no thanks” isn’t an aggressive gesture and shouldn’t be read as such.
        Also, if you check out the Tumblr posts, you can see that no response is also not a guarantee that men won’t flip out and become abusive and scary. Many women have had men flip out after less than one day of no response, or go so far as to make multiple accounts after being banned or removed, and keep asking out the same person (basically to troll them).
        I think it’s also fair to say “sure, as a friend” to someone. You’re setting the boundaries. Saying no and then going back and saying “okay, as friends” is…weird, but it’s not cruel, in my mind.
        The “friendzone” is not the worst place in the world and the “f*ckzone” (where women who want to get to know a man as a person or date him as a BF get relegated to “just FWB”) exists. Both men and women have unique challenges in the dating world.

      2. Anlina*

        What a curious interpretation. I find the idea that responding with a rejection is intended to be hurtful really strange, since, unless it’s phrased in a deliberately cruel way, that’s a pretty extreme motive to ascribe to someone. It sounds like, basically, there’s no acceptable way for women who are online dating to reject someone?

        I also don’t see anything cruel about what your friend did. No one is entitled to a response right away, and offering friendship when you’re not interested in dating is a perfectly normal, not cruel thing to do. The person who asked can always decline the offer of friendship if they’re only interested in dating, but there’s nothing wrong with making the offer.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It sounds like, basically, there’s no acceptable way for women who are online dating to reject someone?

          Bingo. I just re-read an article about men reacting badly to women who accept compliments instead of giggling and being self-deprecating. There are so many social interactions where women are taught that whatever option they choose, they can’t win. Online dating just seems to be another realm in which that’s true.

          (But I’ve also heard the convention tw mentions, and it’s the practice all my friends who are women use when online dating. Too many of them have had weird and borderline stalkerish things happen to them to even risk that reaction, anymore.)

      3. MashaKasha*

        I’ve heard everything under the sun. Not replying is rude, sending a rejection is hurtful. Saying no after one date is jumping the gun before you’ve gotten to know the person. Saying no after five dates is wasting his time and stringing him along. No matter what you do, people will get mad. I guess this means that we should just go with our gut feeling on whether to say no or yes, try not to do or say anything overly hurtful to the person, treat them like we want to be treated, and above all remember that, if they still get angry and call us names, that’s on them. That is not something we did.

      4. Whippers.*

        I actually completely get tw’s thing about not responding being passive lack of interest whilst sending rejection is more hurtful ( i am a woman btw); I would find it harder to move on from someone sending a rejection than from someone just ignoring me for some reason. When I say “harder to move on”, i don’t mean that I would harass the person obviously, but just personally for me.

        It’s not that I think the intention is to be hurtful when sending a rejection, however there is something about engaging with someone that makes it much more personal than if they didn’t engage at all. At least if they don’t engage you can just think “Huh, I was probably just another message that they didn’t look at”.

        I am someone who has problems with rejection and social anxiety though so my reaction may not be standard.

    1. Sal*

      Huh, interesting article. But as a counter viewpoint, my boyfriend used to say “I know” when I complimented him and it made me mad. Like, I think in general the polite thing to say to a compliment is thank you. And then there’s the whole thing about women (not) accepting compliments, where we will often deny the compliment in some way.

      Although, the examples in the article are by strangers, not a romantic partner…so, big difference. And I generally agree with the current literature out there about compliments, catcalling, etc, so this was just a thought.

        1. Thinking Outside the Boss*

          It is a Star Wars geek thing! And I think that’s what Sal’s boyfriend was going for, unless there is some other history. I use that line on my wife all the time!

          1. Anonymous 40*

            But it’s usually in reply to “I love you” rather than a compliment. I would absolutely miss the reference if someone said it in response to a compliment and I’m a huge Star Wars geek.

  3. Allypopx*

    it’s part of the job in that situation to deal with the occasional whacked out response to rejection.

    Bingo. As a representative of a company you are protecting an image and a brand and want to conduct yourself in the most professional and thoughtful way possible – and are being paid to do so, and get to go home at the end of the day.

    As a representative of yourself in social situations you are not getting compensated, it’s much harder to just walk away when things get nasty, the nastiness is much more personal, and you have no obligation to any greater entity to explain your reasoning. Your only obligation is to yourself, and that’s to stay safe or comfortable.

    Just delete the messages.

    1. Mela*

      Yep, this is the major difference. I sometimes go into the filtered messages to read terrible messages, but it’s for my enjoyment and amusement, not because there’s any obligation on my part.

    2. Nea*

      Also, as a part of a company, there are other employees who’ve got your back if things get strange. When it’s just you, you don’t have a built-in support system to help protect you.

      1. Blurgle*

        It’s not just that; the police will be more useful in a really unstable work situation than an unstable online dating one. I once saw a candidate go nuts after rejection (as in nailing dead wildlife to my then employer’s door, placing long screeds on dashboards of cars in the parking lot next to our building, and ranting in the boulevard across the road). The police were helpful and proactive in protecting us and ensuring the candidate got the help he needed.

        When my friend got death threats after rejecting a guy on OK Cupid they refused to lift a finger.

  4. chocoholic*

    A little off-topic but there is a book by Greg Churchman called “Daterviewing: Similarities between Dating and Interviewing that Helps you to Hire the Right Candidate”

    I went to a local HR group presentation on this topic years and years ago, it was a fun presentation. They had an interview set up like The Dating Game. It was hilarious.

    1. requiredname*

      This really explains how weird ice breaker questions that can be fun on dates (“what if you were a lion, who would you eat first”) made their way into interviews ;)

      1. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

        And I’d automatically say, “Whom.” And that would probably be the end of the date.

        If I were to have an online dating profile, it would include something like, “Must use proper grammar and spelling in complete sentences. The Oxford comma is not optional.”

        1. Snargulfuss*

          I once included a line in an online dating profile about correct grammar usage being important (and attractive) to me and many of the guys that messaged me commented on it.

          1. Anonymous 40*

            Well don’t leave that hanging! Commented on it in a positive way or in a whiny, offended way? And were the comments grammatically correct?

  5. Sarah*

    Well, I would now like someone to start a blog where she sends out “thanks, but we’ve gone with another/more qualified applicant” emails on a dating site and posts the responses she receives.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s basically what one of the messages on the first page of ByeFelipe does. She hasn’t been around much, is she mad? No, she’s been seeing someone so not checking the app. Cue piles of vitriol.

  6. Lore*

    I agree, but to add another level of nuance, I also think that not replying at all to an initial message is similar to a job posting that states “you will only hear from us if we are interested in your application”–which I have no problem with in either context. I think if you’ve engaged at all, then there is a responsibility to reply: If you’ve been corresponding with someone on a dating site, or certainly if you’ve met them, then I think you do need to close that door (as, absolutely, you do–and so many companies do not–with someone you’ve interviewed or even phone screened for a job).

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      That’s honestly the way I think about it. I don’t really expect to hear from employers if all I’ve done is submit an application – the job market is still packed and I know responding to each and every applicant can be prohibitive when you’re getting hundreds of applications. But if I’ve taken the time to get dressed up and give you an hour of my time, I’d like at least a perfunctory “thanks but no thanks.”

      1. Sarah*

        Totally agree. The absolute worst are when somehow I’ll receive rejection letters up to A YEAR after putting in an application and not hearing anything back. (Academia is weird, y’all.) At that point it’s just salt in the wound. If there’s been a phone or in-person interview, a rejection note is nice, but otherwise I think it’s optional.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Same here; I don’t expect a response to an app beyond an auto-reply that they received it, or something on the website where I applied saying it went through. And lots of times I don’t even get that.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I always reply to job applicants, but it depends on the circumstances.

    1) If an applicant merely applied, she gets a form rejection letter after an offer has been made and accepted.

    2) If I ask for writing samples but not an interview, a personalized rejection letter.

    3) Any meeting in person gets a personalized rejection letter. Maybe a phone call if I really like the person and want her to apply to something else.

    With online dating, if I got an obvious form letter, I didn’t respond. When my friend did online dating, she would find multiple profiles of men who wanted women to contact them first if those women were interested. She did so with the ones she liked, but she’d never get a response. Now that’s rude.

    1. Fictional Butt*

      Ok, I’ve seen “I don’t message first” on so many profiles, and it really irks me! Maybe it makes sense for straight guys–I know they send tons of messages with very low response rates–but I am a lady who dates ladies and I see it a ton. I don’t really understand the point. If you are refusing to perform the most simple task of sending a message, but expect me to message you, why would I ever think you’d be a good partner? What other aspects of the relationship are going to be 100% my responsibility?

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I don’t understand it and I don’t much sympathize with it. Of course this is scary and awkward–that’s why we’re all here! Having said that (as a bi lady currently dating straight men), I tend to prefer people I message first over those who message me. I think it’s because in deciding to message them, I already know I like the idea of them at least a little, while that might not be true from people who contact me.

      2. nonegiven*

        My son is socially awkward. He has never gone on a date. He was already discouraged because he’d been turned down every time he asked someone out in person and I think it was few and far between. He was in a play in college, in a dancing scene the (smart ass) reviewer said he treated his partner like she was radioactive. He considered the people in the theater group to be his friends.

        My sister bought him a subscription to eHarmony. He got really discouraged. He said what is the point if they never answer? I think he was probably messaging a very limited number of women. Like maybe a handful the whole time he was on and probably one at a time. I don’t know what he was saying but he is very articulate and respectful IRL.

        I tried to explain to him that every woman on there was probably getting an unmanageable number of messages and what happens if they try to answer any they are not interested in. Also, that some of those types of sites, they may think they’ve taken their profile off because they started seeing someone, but it’s still up anyway so they aren’t even checking for messages. He might need to message hundreds to get a handful of answers.

        I think it’s going to take friends fixing him up to even get him started dating, now. It’s not like he’s living in my basement, either. He is a successful developer making 6 figures and owns his own home. He’s just given up.

        1. Fictional Butt*

          How old is he, and what kind of relationship is he looking for? I think of eHarmony as being for people who are ready to get married ASAP. If he’s just getting started in the dating world, he should be using Tinder or OkCupid.

          Although, if he is really that socially awkward, you are probably right that he will need his friends to set him up. I’m pretty introverted and a little shy, and I love online dating because I feel awkward asking someone out in person, and I don’t meet a lot of people in my day-to-day life. But you do need to be good at talking to strangers, and willing to go hang out with someone you’ve never met.

          1. Megan Johnson*

            I second OkCupid. I’m married now but it was a reasonable scene when I used it.

            1. Definitely Anon*

              Okcupid is one of the more versatile online dating sites (and it’s free!). He might want to consider messaging more people and lowering the stakes. At first, just try chatting to people. I’m not saying message people that he knows he would not want to date, but they don’t have to be absolutely perfect either.

          2. nonegiven*

            He’s 40, straight, Christian, doesn’t smoke or drink. (How did that happen?)
            He was hoping to eventually marry and have a family, but I think he’s aged out of anything but meeting someone who already has a family. Must love cats.
            I don’t think he’s ever met a person he doesn’t consider a friend, it just doesn’t get past that.

            1. Alice*

              Ha, that’s the EXACT kind of guy I spent most of my 20’s desperately searching for online – even the age range, I always wanted an older husband. All I ever found were guys my age who just wanted sex, and guys who claimed they wanted families but either didn’t take me seriously because of how much younger I was, or were just saying that to get sex and didn’t consider me hot enough to be the younger trophy girlfriend. (I’m not fat or hideous, just somewhat plain.) I’m now just about past childbearing age and have a house full of cats and reptiles with a guy 5 years younger than me who doesn’t want kids (and we’re too poor anyway so it’s moot).

              Sometimes I think life would be better if everyone who wanted a relationship was entered into the same computer system and an AI matched us up. Please tell your son there ARE girls like 10-years-ago-me out there, if he’s willing to accept someone who is only average looking.

            2. NaoNao*

              Well, from your brief description, my best guess is that he’s a sweet guy who is maybe not giving off enough romantic vibes or making enough clear moves that result in romantic feelings from women.
              If he’s Christian, he *totally* should be checking out the church! Churches usually have a vested interest in getting their members together and will often have singles’ groups, mixers, etc.

              I also urge him to focus on becoming comfortable with himself. While his 6 figure income may be a factor, most women are looking for:
              Attraction, chemistry, and, to be frank, sexuality that complements their own.
              Emotional openness and generosity (gone are the days where women are okay with the “strong but silent type”) meaning, a deep, natural, real friendship that underlies a romance
              Values, desires, and goals that match or complement her own. If he’s a bit of an old fashioned guy (for example, he wants children and a SAHM mom, church every week, traditional gender roles) it would be best to look amongst women to whom that is desirable and appealing.

              When sweet, reasonable looking guys can’t seem to find someone no matter how hard they try, my theory is:
              One of two things is “off”.
              The “picker” (meaning they are selecting the wrong women from the jump, mostly based on strong immediate physical attraction or some intangible quality “she seems so fun!”)
              The approach (meaning they are coming off odd, desperate, needy, weird…whatever.)

              I too second Dr. Nerdlove, as well as Captain Awkward’s dating advice!

              My one last piece of advice for the son:
              Consume media made by women.
              Books written by women.
              Movies made by women.
              TV shows written and produced by women.

              This does not mean girly, “chick lit” movies, shows, and books. It means whatever you would normally watch or read (sci fi, mystery, whatever) consume a version made by women. If you want to understand women and be part of their world…see what they’re saying!!

        2. Ms Ida*

          He might be interested in this book “Data, A Love Story” by Amy Webb . It is an interesting read about how the author realizes she is not targeting men that actual match up with what she wants in a husband. I wonder if having this kind of “manual” to approach online dating would help your son? If i am ever dating again I will reread and follow at least some of the advice.

          From the Amazon Description:
          “After yet another disastrous date, Amy Webb was preparing to cancel her JDate membership when epiphany struck: her standards weren’t too high, she just wasn’t approaching the process the right way. Using her gift for data strategy, she found which keywords were digital-man magnets, analyzed photos, and then adjusted her (female) profile to make the most of that intel. Then began the deluge—dozens of men who actually met her own stringent requirements wanted to meet her. Among them: her future husband, now the father of her child.”

          1. Zahra*

            Didn’t she do a TED talk as well? I recently listened to a TED talk on that very subject and strategy, but I can’t remember who was talking.

        3. DecorativeCacti*

          I can’t speak for eHarmony, but if it’s anything like, it’s basically useless. There was a lot to sort through, but I found OKCupid way better.

  8. Anlina*

    Totally agree. The dynamics between hiring and dating are completely different.

    Do not for a second feel obligated to reply to messages on dating sites. In this dynamic, no response is a response. And given the high likelihood of abusive responses if you’re a woman dating men, no response is usually the best, safest response.

  9. K.*

    “But a really big part of it is the reality that most women doing online dating quickly learn that if they send polite rejections to men who contact them, they’ll receive an enormous number of hostile and even abusive responses.”
    This. Straight men have their fellow straight men to blame for this. This is why I don’t respond to men online if I’m not interested. I got too many vulgar, rude, abusive responses to polite “thanks but no thanks” messages. Life is too short.

  10. AMT*

    My understanding is that a lot of guys shotgun copy/pasted introductions to hundreds of women and that women tend to be deluged with messages on these sites. You’d probably spend all your time replying if you were determined to reply to everyone. Employers have actual staff members who are paid to do this stuff—plus, online systems usually have a method of quickly mass-emailing rejected applicants, which dating apps don’t. (Yet.)

  11. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Yeah…and sometimes it crosses over from hostile to creepy REAL QUICK.

    When I first started online dating, I’d genuinely try to reply to everything. One guy did not take the rejection so well. He got openly, and aggressively, hostile. I stopped replying and reported him (I’m sure I was not the only one). His profile got shut down. Then for a long time after he would create a new profile, message me either “I wanna meet you” or “I’m gonna meet you” and each time they would subsequently shut down.

    That experience is enough for me to decide to NEVER respond with a rejection. Ever.

    1. Liet-Kynes*


      1. Not the Person I Think I Am*

        Because most of you are sweet and wonderful and adorable and treat us well. Alas, you are overshadowed by the few belligerent assholes.

        And because you have a penis.

      2. TootsNYC*

        because, to borrow a phrase, “not all men.”

        (Seriously, though–“not all men” is proof of how bad the awful ones are; it’s proof of why we should be even MORE condemning of the jerks. If the majority of men can be reasonable, then the ones who aren’t are even more out of line.)

  12. seejay*

    I’ve done the online dating thing quite a bit. As a woman, you will get far more messages than you can reasonably deal with, and honestly, you will become overwhelmed trying to politely decline most of them. I tried to be nice and write back to all of them, but really… you just *can’t*.

    As a general rule of thumb, I followed these guidelines:
    1) If someone came off looking crazy or demanding: delete with no response
    2) If someone from #1 contacted me again: delete with no response, followed by a block
    3) One or two line “hey baby” or whatever contact: delete with no response
    4) Message that was obvious that they didn’t read my profile: delete with no response
    5) Message with no opening to continue a conversation (ie, no questions or expressing interest about themselves or me): check their profile, if interesting and some matching, proceed with caution, else 50/50 delete with no response or respond with decline
    6) Message with actual conversation and questions, interesting catch phrase: check profile, look for matches, respond accordingly

    If someone was a nearly 100% mismatch with me, chances are I wouldn’t respond even if they sent me a great message… I had enough wackadoo guys who would send me a really positive sounding message and when I’d check their profile, they were totally the opposite of me, so I’d respond nicely and say that I wasn’t interested since it was clear that we weren’t a match, then they’d go off on me because somehow they’d formulated that I was their soulmate. After a half dozen of those, I just stopped responding.

    So in short: be a decent match, actually have a decent enough starter message, and don’t come off as demanding and expecting me to marry you and have your children and I’d probably respond. Everyone else gets deleted. It might filter out the non-crazy ones as well, but it’s better safe than sorry. :(

    1. k*

      This was basically the method I lived by. For note, I had success with online dating (a handful of short relationships that with nice people, and eventually meeting my husband online), so I feel like I was doing it right.

      In addition to being careful of weirdos, I feel like it’s also kinder not to respond if you’re not interested. If someone doesn’t respond, it’s not happening. Writing back to say you’re not into them feels a bit like you’re rubbing it in. Making the first move can be hard for people, even if it’s online, and puts you in an emotionally vulnerable spot. No matter how nice your message is, it would be hard not to take it as “You suck so much I wanted to take the time to tell you that you suck.”

      1. Fictional Butt*

        Right. When I message someone, I don’t have any emotional connection yet, so if they don’t respond I don’t even have to think about them again. I don’t need to know they’re not into me–that’s the default. We’re strangers!

        It reminds me of the time I responded to an ad by someone who was looking for an apartment/roommate, and she sent me a detailed explanation of why she didn’t want to live in my apartment. Not enough bathrooms, not close to the right bus line, etc. I didn’t need that feedback! Nothing about the apartment was going to change, and it’s not like I would get ready for her to move in if she never responded.

        1. not my usual alias*

          Aw, see, I would have wanted to tell you “It’s nice but I need my own bathroom and it’s too far from the bus” so you didn’t think I rejected you because your furniture was intolerable and your dog was untrained. But that’s just me projecting.

      1. Zombii*

        Try photoshopping your profile picture into oblivion and be less honest/hide your “crazy.” I tried it and it worked for me—unfortunately, the vast majority of messages were from tools who would never be able to handle me anyway or who “didn’t realize you’d be so fat in person.” ;(

        That’s ancient history though: I currently have no online dating profiles. I met my s/o at work like a normal person (neither of us work there anymore, it was a terrible company) and she’s the best thing that’s happened to me yet.

  13. Squeeble*

    In addition to Alison’s points, a job application typically takes a lot more time and effort than a message on a dating site. It’s considerate to respond to an applicant and acknowledge the work they did, even if you’re not going to move forward with them. Unless the person on Tinder or wherever has sent you a long, personalized message, it doesn’t seem worth it to respond if you’re not interested.

    1. Karo*

      100% this. When I was online dating, messages that showed that they had read my profile – i.e. the applicants that prepared – generally got responses. Ones that consisted of “hey” or talking about dry humping (wish I was making that one up) got ignored.

      1. Squeeble*

        Me too! The reason I responded to the man who would eventually become my husband was that he sent a well-written, engaging, personal message to me. Not just “hey babe whatsup”

      2. Ange*

        I did choose to ignore one from a guy based solely on his username – but I feel that if your username is your penis size, then we are probably not compatible, because IMO that is one of the last pieces of information about you that I need, not the first.

    2. Starbuck*

      “it doesn’t seem worth it to respond if you’re not interested.”

      I’d counter that it’s really never worth it to respond if you’re not interested, even if the message seems thoughtful. The benefit to you is zero either way; it’s entirely a favor to the other person, and often it’s a favor they’ll turn around and castigate you for. No thanks.

  14. Liet-Kynes*

    “So is it different? It feels different, because it feels more like I’m rejecting a person, well, personally, rather than saying they aren’t the right fit or we had more qualified applicants”

    No. Here’s the thing about online dating: it forces you to be methodical about rejecting people who, if you were meeting people in a bar or a meetup group or work or whatever, you would reject automatically. Or not even reject – you’d just sort of self-sort into different little cubbies. You’re “personally” rejecting every guy/girl you don’t approach at a bar, or don’t continue a conversation with, or behave civilly but disinterestedly towards until they get the hint and gracefully exit, or whatever. But none of those cues actually exist online, and so you have to actually write it out. Or, if you’re kind of a dick, you just sort of ghost them and stop replying.

  15. ByteTheBullet*

    You can assume that most job applicants put effort into their applications, but I would never assume the same for guys on dating websites. Many have a standard phrases (or a couple of standard phrases) that they send to as many women as they possibly can.

  16. Anon for this*

    Oh man, I constantly want to phrase my dating interactions in logical business talk! …There’s just not enough ROI here for us to keep seeing each other. Or I’d love to explain supply and demand to another guy who isn’t putting enough effort in to match up to his competition …There’s a large supply of incredible guys who set up thoughtful dates and don’t send “hey” messages to me so it’s made my demand threshold pretty high. Just as I’m sure there’s a ton of awesome girls you can meet who are responsive, free to “hang out” last min & actually initiate things. I just don’t think we’re going to reach an equilibrium; heck I don’t even think we’re on the same graph! (Too bad he asked me out in person and I have to see him weekly…) I’ve definitely had an itch to explain the law of diminishing returns to a stage 5 clinger before, too! ANYWAYS, I think the key is that if you’re on an actual app or site, you don’t need to respond to anyone. But once you move to text or have gone on a date, it’s kind to let the other person know the spark wasn’t there or whatever x reason is that you no longer wish to see them. Just think about how you’d like to be treated – no one likes to be ghosted and left wondering what happened after you’ve both invested enough time to meet up.

    1. Rainy, PI*

      Or I’d love to explain supply and demand to another guy who isn’t putting enough effort in to match up to his competition

      “Dick is plentiful and low-value.”

  17. Mike C.*

    As far as replys go, the huge difference in my mind is that replying to a job application usually requires a customized resume, a new cover letter and whatever horrible online application system your company uses. Yeah, you should at the very least send an email saying that the application has been received and that I’m out of the running.

    Creeping out on women by sending them pictures of your genitalia online doesn’t require nearly as much work. Feel free not to respond. (Or even report those creeps to the website at large.)

  18. DecorativeCacti*

    To be fair, I’ve never applied for a job involving “doing it doggie style” so I guess I don’t know if “kill yourself f****ing b***h” is a professional response to being turned down for that type of job.

    (I did meet my boyfriend online dating; he was not the one who told me to kill myself.)

  19. Bobert*

    I think a good rule for both interview and date rejections is to base it on where the candidate is in the process. Initial contact (sending a cold message or submitting a resume) requires no response. You have invested very little time\effort and there is little-to-no reasonable expectation you will receive a response if rejected. If you have actually had phone contact (pre-date phone screening or a phone interview) or maybe exchanged multiple emails, the person probably deserves at least a quick, casual rejection. If you had in-person contact (a date or interview), most people would agree that you definitely owe the person a rejection. But sending a rejection after initial contact (other than maybe an automated response in the case of a company) opens you up for potential headaches. In most cases, you don’t want to hear from the candidate that thinks they were unfairly disqualified.

    But to play devil’s advocate, you constantly hearing stories in job hunting and dating where being overly persistent ultimately pays off. “She told me to get lost but I kept asking her out for months, she eventually said yes and now we’re married with kids”. The perception between being persistent and stalking could depend on the people/companies involved, even if the behavior is identical.

    1. voyager1*

      The keep asking her out and she finally said yes stories are great and romantic and make great movies and fiction books. I would go with 99.999999998% of women mean no and they mean no and that means stop asking.

      Employers may be a little different, probably going to depend on the personalities involved. of the applicant and the hiring person. But again if they give a firm no, move on.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        The keep asking her out and she finally said yes stories are great and romantic and make great movies and fiction books. I would go with 99.999999998% of women mean no and they mean no and that means stop asking.

        Yeah, all those movies and books are bad for everyone. I wish someone had explained the reality of it as clearly and directly as your second sentence when I was in my early teens. My son will learn it from an early age.

        And reversing it, having been a hiring manager, an applicant who wouldn’t take no for an answer would irritate the heck out of me. Not only would they not get another chance at the current job, I also wouldn’t consider them for future postings either.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wouldn’t either. Or anyone who got mad–they’d go on the shit list immediately.
          Not an applicant, but a guy came into OldExjob one day to ask if he could set up one of those candy machines in the break room, the ones you see with Hot Tamales and Runts in them. Though we had snack machines through an established vending company, they didn’t want those independent people setting up shop in the facility (and I think some of those are scams). When I politely told him the company didn’t allow it, he went off on me. Um, no, dude.

    2. hermit crab*

      The thing is, though, you only hear those persistence success stories when they end up being successful! It’s survivorship bias. But of course, people always want to think that we will beat the odds.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Ha ha I was going to comment this!

        I have a bunch of stories like this too. The NYT Vows section is also full of people who before it ended up working out, they broke up or parted ways for a while, or always kinda liked each other but it never seemed quite right with the timing, or were dating other people or something. As my mom likes to say “People break up.”

        I try to think of it like don’t get your hopes up but also keep an open mind.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I think as a society we are getting better at teaching both sexes that no means no and yes means yes and there is no need to play “hard to get.” Prior generations of women were told to say no a few times and wait for him to keep asking so that you didn’t look “easy.”

    4. Liane*

      My take on the “Gotta get ’em back at all costs” & “Gonna make Hot Person mine” subgenres of love songs & rom-coms is:
      Binge watching/listening to ease the pain of rejection or a break-up? Go right ahead if you think it might help.
      Mistaking the script or lyrics for advice on handling those woes? Never-Ever-EVAH

      1. requiredname*

        Ha. I have been known to repeatedly tell One Direction on the radio that is it not possible for someone to steal your girl, short of kidnapping.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Just to play anti-devil’s advocate, I knew someone who ended up married like that. She divorced the guy – and it was a very ugly divorce – after nearly fifteen unhappy years. Turns out, guys who don’t care what you think before the marriage don’t suddenly turn into attentive, egalitarian partners afterward.

      Here are other stories you hear about: women who moved hundreds or thousands of miles away, left jobs, or cut off ties with friends because they were trying to get away from a guy who was sure that if he just ignore her “no” long enough, they’d live happily ever after.

      You also hear stories about women who end up beaten or dead because they had the temerity to seek help from others, like the police, in getting a man to listen to them saying “not interested”.

      So maybe let’s not romanticize this stuff with “stories”.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Came here to say what you did in your first paragraph – my response was going to be that “and now we’re married with kids” is not necessarily a happy ending. It could actually be the exact opposite.

  20. Peep*

    I’ve always thought online dating was so similar to the job interview process, that I’ve been completely unwilling to do both at the same time. (I’ve been job hunting essentially on and off since 2009, aside from a two year period of 2011-2013, and JUST recently started a permanent, full time job with benefits! :D If I had to choose, finding a good job definitely won out.) I hate writing cover letters, I hate looking at job ads… I always feel bad for not responding, since I hate not getting a response as well, but… I also don’t enjoy “BUT WHY” responses all the time.

    Now that I finally have a (permanent) job, I thought I’d go back to online dating… but I’m starting to like my free time to myself without any more of the “job hunt” feel. Guess it’s time to enact my backup plan: a cluster of tiny houses on a plot of land with my friends and all of our dogs.

    (Seriously though, this has been our unofficial plan for like 5 years, and it’s called Spinster Row.)

        1. nonegiven*

          If both our husbands go first, my sister and I will move in together with our cats.

  21. Aunt Vixen*

    If you’re hiring an employee, in most cases you’re eventually going to hire someone even if it turns out you’re settling for someone less than super-ideal. If you’re … hiring … a boyfriend, you’ve got a vacancy – but the position can stay vacant forever as long as you don’t find anyone you’re even interested in interviewing. Er, meeting. So the situations are similar but not entirely congruent.

    I too met Uncle Vixen online, after sifting through many “resumes” and receiving a number of bad “cover letters” and going a fair few bad “interviews.”

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      Oh and I meant to say, my personal rule was that I didn’t have to reply to anyone who contacted me, but if I heard from someone after we’d met face to face and I wasn’t interested in seeing him again I’d reply and say so rather than ghosting. (Reply once. The guy who replied to my polite “thanks, good luck out there” with a request for a lot of detailed feedback on how the date could have gone better got radio silence. This isn’t a workshop, dude.)

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        “This isn’t a workshop, dude” Yesss! I’ve had multiple guys ask for detailed feedback (or try to convince me that I’m wrong – about my own personal feelings on compatibility) when I’ve sent them a “It was nice meeting you but I don’t think we’re a good match, best of luck!” message. I know ghosting is not cool, but man, if people in general took polite rejection better then maybe it wouldn’t be the huge thing that it is.

        I’ve done online dating on-and-off for a couple of years (with some success – at least one longish term relationship and few positive short ones in btwn) and I can honestly say I have never had a guy gracefully accept a polite rejection. I’m sure there’s guys out there that do, and I know that I have myself, but I have yet to witness it in person.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Ugh, I had one once who asked me for feedback. I said, “I just don’t think we’re a good match,” and he replied, “That’s not an answer. You need to tell me what was wrong with our date. Was it my pictures?” and various other questions. I don’t remember where I gave up– this was about 15 years ago– but COME ON, man.

        Was yours named Jeff?

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          I honestly don’t remember. I will say that after he asked me for a detailed critique and I didn’t reply he did not message me again – to ask again or call me names or anything at all. So I count that as one and a half tries it took to get him to take no for an answer, which is actually pretty good, comparatively.

    2. Allison*

      Same is true the other way around. I can do just fine as a single gal for a good long while, but I can’t go very long between jobs without seriously clearing out my savings or having to turn to my parents for help. So when I’m job hunting, it’s crucial that I find something quickly, and rejection e-mails give me the closure I need to get over the job and keep applying to others (I still will keep applying, but if I think I’m a strong candidate for a really great job, it can slow me down mentally).

    3. Mookie*

      Exactly. Not everyone may agree, but I believe any adult who needs to earn a living to survive is entitled to one — the way we get there is complicated and off-topic here — and that the norms that govern the getting-hired dance should be polite and professional and assume the same on the part of the applicant. People are not entitled to romantic and sexual partners, ever.

  22. Winger*

    As a gay man, I have used such apps for hooking up as well as to find dates/relationships, and I think there is still a similar dynamic going on.

    I reply to every message I get, unless it is just an unhinged rant or unprovoked insult or something. I just say something to the effect of “thanks for the message, I’m not interested but good luck.” You can go into more detail if necessary but it’s rarely necessary. I tend to do this relatively quickly and not get sunk in a swamp of “hey” “hey” “hows it going” “good you” “fine whats up today” “not much” etc etc. Perhaps you are using sites where this is less of an issue.

    Anyway, yes, I always reply.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Gay men have a much more functional hookup culture than straight people, though.

  23. anon4this*

    I am a guy but have used online dating a lot in the past. I don’t think anyone is required to respond to any message at all. As a guy I could tell if you were just responding to be nice, but still a “not interested is a not interested.” I could take a hint but most guys probably can’t.

    As a guy I always tailored every message to a specific profile I was sending it to. I took the time to read the profile. I took the time to spell check and grammar check my message. I would some days send 10 or more messages and sometimes I would go a week or month with out sending a message. A lot of guys do use the shotgun approach just because of the ratio men/women on most sites is pretty bad for a guy.

    A thread on an open thread day of crazy online dating stories probably would be a hoot considering the diverse and large population of AAM readers. :)

  24. Bend & Snap*

    I’ve been dating a Tinder match for about a year and a half and he’s lovely.

    But I had so many dudes trot out their kink in the first intro and then get ragey when I declined to participate.

    Like hi, I’m 35 and I’m into XX do you like that? No thanks dude. It’s super fun to get called a frigid bitch by someone with an obscure sexual preference that I don’t share.

    1. nnn*

      Ugh! I’m all for disclosing kinks and other dealbreakers at the earliest possible moment (far better than to have it come out after an emotional attachment has been formed) but the rage when you’re not into it is ridiculous. The point of early disclosure is to find who’s not into it!

      1. Bend & Snap*

        but like not in the introduction. Let’s get through the hi, where do you live, what do you do, what are your hobbies first. I don’t like diving into sex talk off the bat because frankly, strangers aren’t sexy. To me, anyway.

        And kink isn’t a deal breaker either. But being a jerk about it is.

      2. saddesklunch*

        Also if your kink is that specific and that important to you maybe a more specialized site is the place for you?

  25. Fictional Butt*

    I don’t think I have ever received a written rejection on online dating, and I don’t think I’ve ever cared. Usually I send a message and then forget about it (and I don’t even send that many messages!). If they respond and are interested in chatting, cool. If not, I literally do not even notice. I think getting an explanation of why you aren’t interested in me would be odd, actually. I don’t need an explanation, it’s not like I’m going to change based on popular demand, and I don’t really care why some random internet stranger isn’t into me.

  26. CaliCali*

    I think one big difference is that typically, people NEED employment, but they don’t need a date. So when you politely let someone know they won’t be considering you as a candidate, it’s to also let them know “don’t hold out any hope here, so keep looking elsewhere until you find what you need.” In theory, that’s a bit of what dating rejection is too, but people can typically keep paying their bills, have a roof over their head, and afford to eat whether they get a date or not — which is why it’s not really rude to just ignore someone on a dating site who is casually gauging interest.

    I think the comparison is more parallel the further along you are re: dating — I think if you’ve been out with someone a few times and it becomes clear it won’t work, you at least owe them some communication around why you don’t think it should continue. Just as if you had two finalists after a couple of in-person interviews, you should definitely let the losing candidate know they didn’t get the job.

  27. Rebecca*

    “Hi, I’m not interested, but wish you the best.”
    And if you get harassed, block, block, block!

  28. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

    The pool is larger, and the bar for qualified applicants is lower. Far fewer people will self-select out than with a job.

    1. Mookie*

      And that is weird to me! :)

      Sexual partners need to be trusted, and life partners are there for life (you anticipate, anyway). That’s a big responsibility. In comparison, an employer-employee relationship seems much more casual, many more things one can overlook.

  29. De Minimis*

    I was sending automated rejections at work to applicants that weren’t getting an interview, and got an angry e-mail in all caps almost immediately! Thankfully it was sent to an e-mail alias that is automatically forwarded to me, but it was quite a shock.

    Guess we made the right decision on that one. One of the other people at work who saw it [it was forwarded to her too] tried to tell me she thought it was probably a bot, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

  30. AnonLee*

    What a fun, interesting question/post! I enjoy the levity, Alison! :)
    Somewhat off topic (though related to online dating), I just matched with a guy on a dating app that I’ve matched with previously (we both have a tendency to delete our accounts/profiles ad then create new ones).

    The weird thing, though, is that prior to matching on the app this time, I had texted him about commissioning some work (he is a tattooist and I’ve been follow his work for quite a while). I messaged him on the app, and he said he knew I was the same person (Eeek!)

    We’ve not spoken on the app since and have only had brief communication in regards to the tattoo I want, but I’m supposed to go to the shop for a consultation soon. I’m nervous! Do I flirt? Do I act like we never matched on the dating app? Is it awkward to be essentially “hiring” him because of the dating app?

    Online dating is a crazy, weird field, my friends.

    1. Not the Person I Think I Am*

      This reminds me of the time someone reached out to me and then I realized he was the guy in the apartment across the courtyard from me. Ack! He’d seen me take the trash out in my fuzzy slippers, with last night’s mascara under my eyes! He knew way too much about me before we’d even met. Delete!

      But you are in the perfect spot to find out what he’s all about on a professional level, to decide if you want to go further. Good luck, and keep us posted on how it goes.

  31. requiredname*

    I think there might be a difference in some of the more open dating sites, and the ones that do serious matchmaking. In the more serious ones, it kind of is like a resume and matching people based on that, and you do go on dates with kind of the idea that you’re “interviewing” for a more serious relationship or marriage. And in those cases, yeah, you do get pressed a bit to respond, especially in declines. But that’s a case where actual time and effort went into it and it’s much more targeted, it’s not someone throwing a bunch of lures into a stream and seeing who bites.

  32. all aboard the anon train*

    It’s not just straight women. I’ve definitely received some angry responses from other women, though they tended to be more passive aggressive than violent the way the messages I’ve received from men have been.

    Interestingly, I got more angry messages from men when I didn’t respond, and particularly to those messages that asked me if I was interested in a threesome or for details about my former female partners or about some kink (I received a lot of messages about kink and my profiles have always been pretty tame).

    The only time I send a rejection when dating is if we’ve been on one or two dates and I don’t think it’s going to work out. Otherwise, I moved away from the website and just stick with apps where you both have to like each other to get a conversation started. It’s so much better than OKC and the like.

  33. Snargulfuss*

    I read an article somewhere (I wish I could find it to provide a link) that said something to the effect of women tend to be more selective in online dating. As a result, men tend to message lots of women in the hopes that they’ll get a response or two back. So I wouldn’t feel concerned about responding to everyone, most men probably aren’t going to think it’s rude if you don’t. That being said, if someone writes a particularly thoughtful message you may want to respond to thank them for reaching out.

  34. theletter*

    While I agree that no one should receive or send nasty messages on the internet, I think the reasons for not replying with a rejection should simply be that while most people value critiques and feedback on their resume and professionalism,While I agree that no one should receive or send nasty messages on the internet, I think the reasons for not replying with a rejection should simply be that while most people value critiques and feedback on their resume and professionalism, getting a personal rejection from a stanger is a bit harder to take. Even “I decided to go with a different candidate” is too harsh. Considering that most online rejections occur because of appearance, unrequitered lovers of all genders would probably rather pretend that their message got lost in the interwebs than hear what their unimpressed recipients actually think. Plus, you might want keep those doors open, should this letter writer upload some new pictures or update their profile and suddenly become much more appealing!

    I think this goes for While I agree that no one should receive or send nasty messages on the internet, I think the reasons for not replying with a rejection should simply be that while most people value critiques and feedback on their resume and professionalism, getting a personal rejection from a stanger is a bit harder to take. Even “I decided to go with a different candidate” is too harsh. Considering that most online rejections occur because of appearance, unrequitered lovers of all genders would probably rather pretend that their message got lost in the interwebs than hear what their unimpressed recipients actually think. Plus, you might want keep those doors open, should this letter writer upload some new pictures or update their profile and suddenly become much more appealing!

    I think this goes for situations where you’ve gone a date or two and feel that you don’t click – If you’ve only met for coffee once or twice, it’s not worth it to send a rejection letter. Again, it feels like a personal critique from a stranger, and for most adults, it’s not worth the emotional rollarcoster! You’re better off just pretending that everyone got really busy at work all of a sudden. While I agree that no one should receive or send nasty messages on the internet, I think the reasons for not replying with a rejection should simply be that while most people value critiques and feedback on their resume and professionalism, getting a personal rejection from a stanger is a bit harder to take. Even “I decided to go with a different candidate” is too harsh. Considering that most online rejections occur because of appearance, unrequitered lovers of all genders would probably rather pretend that their message got lost in the interwebs than hear what their unimpressed recipients actually think. Plus, you might want keep those doors open, should this letter writer upload some new pictures or update their profile and suddenly become much more appealing!

    I think this goes for situations where you’ve gone a date or two and feel that you don’t click – If you’ve only met for coffee once or twice, it’s not worth it to send a rejection letter. Again, it feels like a personal critique from a stranger, and for most adults, it’s not worth the emotional rollarcoster! You’re better off just pretending that everyone got really busy at work all of a sudden. where you’ve gone a date or two and feel that you don’t click – If you’ve only met for coffee once or twice, it’s not worth it to send a rejection letter. Again, it feels like a personal critique from a stranger, and for most adults, it’s not worth the emotional rollarcoster! You’re better off just pretending that everyone got really busy at work all of a sudden.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Considering that most online rejections occur because of appearance.

      I don’t think this is really true. Sometimes it’s appearance, and that does matter. But people can be put off by spelling, by a cut and paste shotgun message, by a boring or weird profile or just a diametrically opposite profile, by phrasing that makes it obvious the writer didn’t look at their profile, by an opening that is too crude or corny or generic or boring.

      The parallel to work would be someone deciding the only thing holding back their job application is This One Thing They Can’t Help, when there are really many factors in play.

      Caveat: I got married before online dating was a thing, so this is hearsay.

      1. Karo*

        I got married as a result of online dating and what you said is accurate from my experience. Sure there were some guys that I rejected based on attraction, but there were many more that I thought were attractive and I rejected them because they didn’t know the difference between there/their/they’re, or made it clear they were just looking for a hook up, or had some very different religious convictions, or whatever.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        You’re not wrong, not at all.

        I got a nice hello message once from a guy who looked decent; he was attractive in a bland, clean-cut sort of way. I checked out his profile and the first line of it said, “The most important relationship in my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ.”

        Now that’s fine and dandy if that’s what you’re looking for (and I wondered why he wasn’t on Christian Mingle instead of OK Cupid). I sent him a very polite rejection something like “Hey, thanks for messaging; you seem really nice but I don’t think we’d click; I hope you find somebody wonderful.” I did not get any bullshit back and I really do hope he did find somebody wonderful. :)

        Could I have gone out with him anyway? Sure. But I’d begun a rather sharp move away from organized religion, and I knew from that first line of his profile that there was no freaking way we would ever be compatible.

    2. Rainy, PI*

      Even if it were true that “most online rejections occur because of appearance” (and I don’t think it is)…so what? I get to have preferences. You get to have preference. We all get to have preferences. Nobody owes someone else a chance to get into their pants. That’s absolutely not how any of this works.

      1. seejay*

        I’ve totally rejected some profiles based on appearance. Why should I give someone a chance for a romantic pairing when I can tell by the pictures that there’s no physical attraction based on their looks in their pictures? Physical attraction is based on physical appearance and if someone’s outside appearance doesn’t turn my crank, why am I going to carve out an hour or more as a courtesy date when I know it’s not going to go anywhere? Sure, I *might* be surprised but I know myself well enough to know it’s highly unlikely so why waste my (and their) time?

        There’s 100% nothing wrong with rejecting a potential date/matchup based on physical attraction/appearances if you’re looking for a partner or hookup or something physical.

        1. Beholder*

          Admittedly this is long after the fact, but I felt like I really wanted to speak to this point-of-view, since I hear it from a lot of people and really feel like it can vary!

          I’ve been dating someone for a bit over a year now, and I met him online, but in a friendly capacity at first, not with intention to date and without either of us seeing what the other looked like. We struck up a really great friendship– we share more interests together than any other friend I’ve ever had, he is kinder, gentler, and more respectful to me than anyone I’ve ever dated and the majority of platonic friends as well, we share a sense of humor and creative outlook and several other things. We’d become fond of each other in a more-than-platonic way and expressed this eventually to each other, only agreeing AFTER that to show each other photos of ourselves.

          Now, part of this is because he’s just not practiced at taking good photos, but the first picture he showed me (and the only one I would have for a few months) was not a picture I would EVER have “swiped right” on, or sent a response to on any dating platform. Luckily, I thought back to times when I was younger and had dated guys I didn’t have a physical attraction to but had had physical chemistry with, and I also knew that the closeness and compatibility we had in every other way was more important, even though I was interested in a physically intimate relationship as well. A few months later, he sent a better picture, and soon after that, we spent time together in person, where I discovered that bad initial photo notwithstanding, I was more physically interested in him than anyone I’d dated before.

          I’m sure people vary, and if someone really feels put-off by someone, that’s probably different, but I think there are absolutely times when the first impression of an appearance in a photo does not necessarily define how a person will really feel when with them.

  35. Sketchee*

    I love Allison’s reasoning. The responses are worth avoiding. In an applicant situation, you may not be investing in a company if its not a match. You’re still investing in your reputation. In a personal context theres less of a concern there.

    On this point: “I’m rejecting a person, well, personally, rather than saying they aren’t the right fit or we had more qualified applicants”… I do think that if I’m not a match I am saying you aren’t the right fit or qualified in the way I’m looking.

    At the same time, it doesn’t make then a bad person just because they are not right for me. And while I think most people are good, it’s not practical to have the “you’re a great person” discussion with every single person.

  36. Orlando*

    As I see it, in online dating, people are posting their profiles, let’s say “cover letters”. And then everyone assesses each other. So the dynamics are different. There are the safety issues that other people have mentioned.

    Please don’t pounce on me for this, everyone, but job hunting has actually always reminded me of these 18-th century marriages, where the man has the power of choice, whereas the woman has only the right of refusal. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but there you go.

    1. Mela*

      I think that’s a reflection of the power dynamics/imbalances that are inherent in both scenarios.

      1. Orlando*

        No, I have a point, I promise. The different dynamics mean it’s much easier to harass an average individual person than a company, thus making it okay and sometimes necessary to reject dating candidates, but not okay to reject job candidates.

        I could have sworn I had written at least two paragraphs explaining this in my original comment in great detail. My brain cells are all over the place, apparently.

  37. Rainy, PI*

    I online dated for 5 years and learnt the hard way not to respond to people I wasn’t interested in dating. If you commonly date women, they tend to lash out somewhat less at overt rejection, but they still sometimes will do so. Men, however, are frequently angry and verbally violent when rejected, even politely. It’s not worth the risk.

  38. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

    I also met my wife online, but it was in 1996 and it was a very different online world then.

    A friend who is online dating (or more realistically, trying to date…) said he’s gotten a couple of replies when he said “Thanks for the reply, good luck!” to rejections, that basically thanked him for not losing it and being nice. I guess they were learning about the rejected DB syndrome.

    Really, a lack of reply = rejection; it’s understood. If you engage, you are inviting the crazy in.

  39. intirb*

    I think the main difference is that, generally speaking, you’re only looking for one romantic partner, but companies often hire plenty of people over time with larger turnover and much more varied job descriptions. Sometimes a candidate isn’t a good fit for a particular job, but they might be a good fit for a different position or in a few years with more experience.

    So practically speaking, a company rarely wants to totally burn a bridge with a potential employee. In fact, burning bridges with many potential employees will make it really hard to recruit talent later down the line. Sure, it’s *possible* that some time down the line, a formerly rejected romantic partner might be more compatible, but it’s a lot less likely, and your future anticipated needs are much smaller (one person, maybe).

    1. requiredname*

      “Apply again in five years, I might have a romantic opening for the position of Senior Executive Vice President Of Diaper Changing”. ;)

  40. Mela*

    One thing that I think should be similar is level of contact-ability. I’m sure we’ve all noticed the trend in job ads that the applications are sent via a generic email or portal, rarely an actual person’s individual email, and generally no other contact information is given. In my experience at least, when they call you for the phone interview, it’s a generic headquarters number that shows up, and if you call that number back, it’s their main line, and you won’t be immediately connected to the person who initially called you.

    All of that can and should be applied to online dating as well. I hear these stories of getting d**k pics constantly and I had wondered how that happens–none of the platforms allow images to be sent. Then I realized people were jumping into texting/off-site communications. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and it doesn’t mean it’s your fault if someone gets aggressive or sends pics etc, it does make it easier to become a target. I don’t even tell people my (extraordinarily unique) first name until I’m sitting in front of them at coffee. I don’t give them my phone number until after the first or second date, usually by texting them from the number they’ve sent me in their offer to move things offline. I’ve been doing this for 7 years and have never had any issues. I imagine many of the guys who have ghosted pre-date picked up on my intentions and figured I wasn’t going to be amenable to their antics.

    1. seejay*

      I tried to keep communications to the platforms, but the problem is that a lot of them wind up being not very easy to use or have a lot of limitations. You want to start sending pictures or sharing more information, but because of the dating platform itself, as you said, you can’t send photos. Or you want to write more detailed emails/letters but you’re limited to the messenger service. Or you’re blocked at work or whatever else.

      For the most part, I keep initial contact within the confines of the application/platform at least until I’ve established an inkling of trust, and then I move it to a “safe” email address that’s one removed from my personal email address. But I’m also paranoid with a background in computer forensics and IT security and cyberstalking, so I have a lot more safety precautions set up than the average bear, which did cut down on any actual incidents spilling over into serious territory. A lot of people don’t actually *know* how to do this though, which is why they wind up becoming a target.

  41. TootsNYC*

    Back in the late 1980s, when I was a pretty new manager and working at a small place, the method of choice for advertising jobs was the NYTimes classifieds.

    I had a job opening and got three boxes of letters. Boxes that were a little bigger than a standard banker’s box.

    I didn’t answer them all. I absolutely couldn’t have. I couldn’t even really open and scan them all, though I tried (I lived in fear that I missed someone good). And as I opened them, I realized that the percentage of appropriate applicants was somewhere about 4%.
    Some of those people were SO far off in terms of suitability that I don’t think they deserved an answer, actually. Sort of along the lines of “just because you send me a wedding invitation doesn’t mean I owe you a gift.”

    I think that’s a little bit like online dating: The answer to the “ad” is more like a mass mailing.

    So, even in some job situations, I don’t think it’s necessary to answer everyone. It *can* be done so much more easily now, so OK.

    To me, for jobs, it depends on how you come to me.
    – As one of many who saw the job in a massive job-posting site? I don’t think you’re owed any answer. If I can do it easily, sure. Maybe w/ that NYTimes thing, I should have had thousands of postcards that I could hand-address to send to the unsuccessful candidates.
    But at that time, when *I* applied for jobs, I didn’t expect to hear back if I wasn’t a candidate, and I was always puzzled when my fiancé/husband would complain that he’d sent off a letter to a Times ad and hadn’t heard back at all. I thought, “It’s obvious, they don’t need you. And you don’t have enough of a link to them to demand their time back.”

    – As a referral from someone? Absolutely, you get a “no thanks, good luck” email.
    – As someone who went to the trouble to figure out how to get to me? You’ll get a “no” answer, partly out of respect for your gumption and to keep me from getting more emails from you

    1. Borne*

      Regarding wedding invitations, my granny said RSVP means Remember to Send Vedding Present.

  42. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I have never done the online dating thing, having been married for 44 years, in my current relationship for two before that, and another one for a year or so before that. So I cannot compare the two.

    Nor should anyone. Yes, it’s fair, proper, and professional to give an acknowledgement for anyone who applies for a job – not doing so is rude, and not doing so could – as stressed in other threads – come back to haunt you. This is especially so when you bring people through an interview cycle, they invest their time – and you discourteously don’t reply.

    In an online dating situation – yes, people don’t reply if their interest isn’t piqued. And that’s that.

    Likewise – interviewing candidates for job situations SHOULDN’T be like dating. You seek out a potential employee for what he/she can do in the workplace for you and your company. You seek out dates for companionship, friendship, and possible romance.

    Two completely different things. Most of all – I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the most successful football general managers of all time = Al Davis, of the Oakland Raiders (AFL, later NFL). Reiterated about taking in players who can win, but other teams don’t want, and also added this =


    Same with the workplace. Not so with dating.

  43. Corporate Cynic*

    SO MUCH THIS. My friends and I discuss all the time how many parallels exist between dating and job-searching.
    On a somewhat related note, here’s an opening line I ignored on a dating app once: “Do you like pancake?”

    1. KellyK*

      Ha! That just makes me wonder what he was thinking. Was it totally random? Is he offering to make you breakfast? Does pancake have some hidden meaning I’m not aware of, and probably don’t want to know about?

  44. TheBard*

    I dabble in online dating, and I do not respond to guys I’m uninterested in. In part because it’s just too many, but also because I don’t want to engage with someone when I’m not going to change my mind, and, from my perspective, there is no good that can come from it, as there’s an unsettlingly high likelihood that the response will be really unpleasant/abusive/creepy. Best case scenario is he goes, ok, have a good one, but I really feel like my not answering _is_ an answer. If I wanted to talk, I would have. Most dudes never follow up, though some send a second or third message, and I also ignore those. It rarely gets past that. I did respond to one guy who would. not. stop. messaging. with the polite “thanks, but I don’t think we’re a good match” and then he wanted to know why (several dealbreakers in his profile and also an inability to read the room). I didn’t answer and he finally left me alone.

    With job applications (which I’m also doing right now) I don’t expect a response to an initial submission. (Though it would be nice for the ones that have weird online systems to send you a “yup, your application made it through” form email). If I’ve had a phone or in person interview, I do expect a “thanks but no thanks” email. And if I actually go out with someone, I would absolutely send (and expect in return) a kind rejection if I wasn’t feeling it. If you’ve actually met someone, it’s really the polite thing to do. But, yeah, don’t answer the ones you aren’t into. Just don’t.

  45. Anon1010*

    If you are interested in exploring this connection between dating and searching for work, please read Andrew Kay’s essay in the philosophy magazine, The Point, called “Pilgrim at Tinder Creek.” He delves deep into this topic within the particularly fraught realm of the academic job search. I highly recommend reading it! You can find it on magazine’s website,

  46. no one, who are you?*

    I’m about to marry a guy I met online. Before he came around I did online dating for probably 10 years. I’ve met so many frogs.

    I basically had a policy of always responding, even if just to say no thanks, unless there was a clear unshakeable dealbreaker. I got harassed a few times but I learned to shake it off, report, and block. My favorites were the gentlemen who would message me hoping to hook up, get rejected, and then call me fat. It’s like…the worst thing they could say to me was the truth? Okay then.

    My fiance got a response because in one simple and silly sentence, he demonstrated that (a) he had read my profile and (b) he was intelligent and well-read. Hard to turn that down.

    1. KellyK*

      My favorites were the gentlemen who would message me hoping to hook up, get rejected, and then call me fat. It’s like…the worst thing they could say to me was the truth? Okay then.

      Yeah, that’s always hilarious. Like, yes, yes, I am. I was when you messaged me to hook up too, and it wasn’t a problem for you then. Was there something wrong with your eyesight then that just magically cleared up when you heard the word “no”?

      Gross as it is, I’m pretty sure there’s a thing where guys specifically message fat women because they think they’ll be desperate. So when that supposedly desperate fat girl rejects *them,* they flip out and want to put her back into her place.

      1. writelhd*

        this is definitely A Thing, sometimes even done fully intentionally, and it’s called “negging.” Just…ick.

  47. Squirrel*

    I’m kind of surprised no one mentioned this, but the anonymity of online dating can fuel bad behavior, especially in big cities. In contrast, many job fields are small and word can get around if someone is rude in response to a rejection letter, especially as people use their legal names to apply for jobs. So I’d expect more politeness in general when speed dating or hiring in academia, and less politeness when dating online or hiring for an entry level sales job advertised on Craigslist.

  48. Shadow*

    I don’t know why you’re trying to compare the two. They are so different. looks, character flaws, and personality are far harder to change than what’s on your resume.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      You can, however, change your profile! Or your ‘interview’ / date behavior. You could be the same person and honestly present yourself in different ways. I see lotssssss of parallels between the two, although, of course – one is business. (See my anecdote below…)

      I do want to make sure people do understand though, that not accepting an overture from a romantic prospect is not a rejection of them or reflection on them as a person. There are so many ways in which declining a potential date is NOT personal, and I wish those ByeFelipe dudes would understand that better.

  49. Abby*

    I’d say people are more likely to handle rejection of a job application with a bit more grace because it could ruin your professional reputation pretty quickly. At the very least, you’d end up blacklisting yourself with that company. If the industry is small enough, word might travel and related companies may also decline to engage.

    With online dating, the risk of getting blacklisted from a ton of potential dates just because you were a jerk to one is much lower. Unless a lot of people on OKcupid are sharing notes (which I’m sure happens, but not to the scale of entire companies), being a jerk to one prospective date is unlikely to hurt their chances at hooking up with another.

  50. StartupLifeLisa*

    Dating is verrrrrrry personal and requires putting yourself out there for a totally subjective evaluation of your attractiveness & worthiness. Obviously rejecting a date offer doesn’t ACTUALLY mean that you’re saying “I find you ugly and undeserving of love,” but it can feel like it to someone who’s especially sensitive. Whereas just ignoring a message lets them have the ability to think “well, she’s probably not on this app anymore” or “she just didn’t see my message” rather than “she’s not into me.”

  51. OP/anon for this*

    OP here. Thanks, Alison, for answering my question, and thanks to the commentariat for chiming in as well.

    I’m relieved to hear this answer! I was hung up on wanting to Do the Right Thing and respond to everyone, but Alison and the rest of you convinced me it wasn’t necessary, primarily those who said:

    -I’m not getting paid to do this in my personal life like I am in my job
    -people expect a response in a business relationship and it makes the company look good to do so
    -women are culturally pressured to do the emotional labor
    -in y’all’s experience, men are likely to respond negatively, and almost no one will respond positively, to a polite rejection

    I’ve only sent one actual rejection email, and the guy did write back and he wasn’t gross or abusive, but didn’t seem to understand. He’d previously indicated he was really into sports and a couple other things I’m not, and he wasn’t into the stuff I was into. We’d exchanged a few messages so I wrote, “I don’t think we have much in common, but…” and continued a previous thread. He wrote back to say that I couldn’t possibly know how much we had in common because these sites don’t mean anything and it really depended on chemistry. Thanks, yo, I’d never heard of that concept before.

    Shoutout to whoever first mentioned Bye Felipe because THANK YOU.

    fwiw, I did say in my ad “I will connect the best with someone who is funny and smart and has read my profile. Writing ‘hey ‘sup’ isn’t going to get a response; please show me you have a specific interest in me as a person.”

    If it matters, the site in question is Fetlife. I left that out in case it created any bias in either direction, but now that y’all know, does it matter to your answers? My ad sought dates and longer-term play partners, not random hookups.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Hi OP! I kind of love stuff like “he wrote back to say that I couldn’t possibly know how much we had in common because these sites don’t mean anything and it really depended on chemistry” because that kind of pushy behaviour instantly erases any awkwardness I feel about it.

      I was talking to someone on Fetlife when I dabbled in it and was wary about meeting up. When they started telling me I shouldn’t be wary because x and y I was like “haha nope, bye.” (We’re talking meeting up for coffee but the fact that was their reaction basically confirmed my wariness.)

      I do think Fetlife has attracts a high number of ‘splainers, but really it’s not different enough to change the advice from vanilla dating sites. I also think it’s kind of personal, as discussed above that you can’t please everyone so just do what makes you comfortable and don’t be nasty about it. IMO.

    2. Mela*

      I think to your last point, it’s not that men are most likely to respond negatively, it’s just too high of a chance for it to be worth it. For me, I’d say about 30-50% of the time I get a negative response, but that’s with limited rejections to those who I presume to be less horrible.

      FetLife is actually trying to move away from being a “meat market” (that’s the term I’ve heard used hah) and is more like a regular social network than a straight up dating site. So I think the clear communication about what you’re looking for is even more important. But overall, I don’t think the dynamics of people on either site are more or less different, same amount of aggression and hostility amongst both kinky and vanilla populations. Oh and obviously the sexual talk will probably come up sooner rather than later, but I don’t think it’s outrageous to expect it to be kept out of the beginning exchanges, or at least the first message.

      1. no longer on fetlife*

        I joined Fetlife back in 2009 and even then, they swore up and down that they were a social networking site, not a dating site. They said that was the reason that they only let you search users by location, not age, gender, or anything else that would be pertinent on a dating site. Still didn’t stop people from using it as a dating site and I don’t think they ever will.

        1. OP/anon for this*

          Before I posted my comment I considered putting in some disclaimers about fet not being a dating site – but I thought it would lead to a debate about that that was too off-topic for this forum!

          You’re right that fet is mostly a social network. In this case, I posted an ad in the local personals group for my area, so in this specific case we can refer to it as a dating site for these purposes.

  52. Lars the Real Girl*

    I wouldn’t compare online dating messages to job applications; I would think of it more as an unsolicited sales email to your work(or personal) account. If someone sends a form sales pitch about teapots, but we already have a teapot supplier, or we don’t even buy teapots – I wouldn’t feel an obligation to respond. (Individualized sales calls/emails a little different and may require a quick “no, thank you”, but cold calls/emails fall easily into the discard pile.)

    The difference really being the relationship that has been built. When a candidate takes the time to put together application materials, writes a cover letter, sends those in – you’ve entered into at least a little bit of a business relationship. When a teapot sales guy sends the same email to 500 business, he’s really only expecting responses from those interested – same with the “hey” message on dating sites.

  53. Audiophile*

    For someone in the thick of the online dating world, the similarities are not lost on me.

    As a woman who has received her fair share of hostile responses, including a guy who accused me of not “giving us a chance,” after we’d texted but never met and then proceeded to call me from various numbers for weeks, I’ll take ghosting any day over another situation like that.

    I’ll even take the arrogant guys who tell me it’s my loss that I’m not interested. I don’t think I’ve ever said this to a guy when rejected. It’s quite bewildering.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Bewildering, sad, and scary. I’m sorry you were harassed like that. Fragile masculinity is a rough thing to experience – I can imagine that’s true from both sides, but that doesn’t make it better when you’re on the receiving end of the vitriol.

  54. ArtsNerd*

    Ooh! Is this the right thread to brag about the job application I received that included shirtless selfies and a mention “no children”?

    Because online dating or job app, that get’s a “no reply” from me… only one includes a helluva lot more laughter and memorability.

    1. Anlina*

      I’ve done some global hiring, and recall receiving some resumes that included info like marital status, children, and religion.

      I assume that it was a matter of different hiring conventions in different countries, but really, I only need that info for dating.

  55. VivaVirago*

    When I first started using online dating, many moons ago, I was so very polite! I did send messages back to each person, and actually the responses I got were almost uniformly incredibly aggressive and rude. I had no idea how fat / old / ugly / stupid I was until I started regularly rejected male advances. *eye-roll*

    So yeah. For my own self-care, I just stopped replying when I wasn’t interested.

  56. Solo*

    Yeah, I’d say the very real potential for hostility accounts for most/all of the reason _not_ to reply to each message individually.

    But I think there’s also a factor about how long a window is generally a reasonable window to reply. When I’m looking at online dating, I generally expect a response within X amount of time or assume that the person has ghosted on me. (That time varies, but let’s just say 1-3 days for an initial response with no prior communication.)

    On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for a business’s first response to a job application to come weeks after the initial application. Even after an initial phone screen… or a final interview… you may go a week or more without a response and that is _perfectly normal_. Whereas the cultural norm in dating is that style of communication means [S]He’s Just Not That Into You.

  57. Tinderific*

    Met my fiance on Tinder. Made the whole process so much easier since I could choose who I wanted to talk to (sounds superficial, but you can tell quite a lot by the photos people choose to post of themselves (guys who only post mirror selfies while looking intense just aren’t my type). You can’t win in the debate over whether to respond when you are not interested. I got hostile responses no matter what I did (i.e. for ignoring messages and for saying thanks but no thanks).

  58. writelhd*

    I think the similarities would be mostly in the fact that the prospect-to-rejection cycle in both (dating and job searching) might be a lot faster, and thus is an emotional roller-coaster one must ride more frequently, than what used to be before the internet intervened, generally by increasing the supply greatly (of job applicants, job postings to apply for, potential dating partners approaching you, AND potential dating partners one could approach.) In online dating in particular it seems like one deals with rejection so much more regularly (and also has more choices, so can be more selective in who one accepts, though in general with less information about the person) than one did in old fashioned dating. That can wear on you from both ends, and create jaded behavior in interesting ways, like resume spamming job postings or messaging a huge net of people without adequate prior research in hopes ONE sticks, or being more prone to acting irrationally because the constant rejection wears at the human failings tied in to the ego. (Not an excuse at all for being a jerk or pushy or entitled, but, noting that human failings can come out more easily under increased strain.)

  59. It's-a-me*

    Good afternoon Joaquin,

    I write to you today regarding your application to be my date this Friday. I regret to inform you that at this time you have not been selected, as we do not feel you have the necessary qualifications or experience for the role. We invite you to apply for further roles in future, when your personal profile has progressed accordingly.

    Yours sincerely,

    Hey Joaquin, thx for applying for that job, sorry not interested in you, I like taller employees, cya later! -Wakz

  60. LilySparrow*

    I think the phrase “part of the job” is the key here. A hiring manager’s job is to give time and attention to applications and applicants. There is an obligation because of the role.

    Socially, nobody is obligated to converse with strangers unless they want to. Just showing up on a site doesn’t mean you owe anyone a response, any more than showing up at a pub means you owe a response to everyone who tries to get your attention.

  61. Ann*

    I think we need a glassdoor type place to share the reactions of men (and some women) I see reported here.

  62. BunnyMom*

    I’m a female online dater. I used to feel it rather rude/akward not to reply, but when I did, they would sometimes reply with an argument and it just became a pissing contest. (As an aside, I never reply/write to men who INSIST on a reply – scary control issues there.)
    If it’s a paid service, I just think they assume that you’re not a paid member and, consequently, cannot reply.
    Actually I prefer it when uninterested parties don’t reply to my emails- that way I can maintain a shred of dignity and assume they don’t have a membership.
    Unless it’s a freebie site, then

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