when rejection letters get condescending…

A reader writes:

I applied for a job online for a large corporation that was a bit of a stretch and step. I sent in a resume and a fairly short “cover letter.” I have a stable job but am always looking for a chance for a better role.

About two weeks later, I received the rejection letter below. I thought you might enjoy it. It says I should be disappointed but I am not. I am chuckling inside about this letter.

Thank you for taking the time to apply to BIG COMPANY and going through our hiring process. We appreciate your interest in joining BIG COMPANY. As you go through the process, we take the time to review your professional background and experience and make sure that they align with what’s needed for the role. Though your achievements are impressive, they didn’t exactly line up with what we’re looking for in this particular job. We want you to know that there are three main reasons as to why it might not have worked out and some have nothing to do with you:

• Timing: sometimes it just doesn’t work out for the role you want and what we have available. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t qualified or capable of handling the role.
• Shift in priorities: we might have decided to go in a different direction based on changing business needs.
• There might have been a more qualified candidate for the role.

We understand that being rejected is always disappointing no matter how far along you’ve made it in the process. But, don’t let it hold you back. Your relationship with BIG COMPANY. doesn’t end here and there are some things you can do to open yourself up to other possibilities:

• Refer back to ____ to take advantage of valuable content in articles and videos that will help you bounce back. Also, get practical guidance and general career advice related to our hiring experience and what to do after you submit an application—all information you can use in the future, whether at BIG COMPANY or beyond. Simply log in with your Careers website credentials.

• Continue to search and apply for other job openings by visiting our Careers Website. We’re constantly adding new positions that may be a better fit for you.

We wish you the best of luck as you continue your search and we hope that this won’t be the last time we cross paths.

As terrible rejection letters go, this one actually isn’t that bad. It’s definitely patronizing, and it reads like someone very well-intentioned wanted to help job candidates but didn’t execute the idea quite right and ended up being condescending instead. They shouldn’t assume that you’re devastated or that you need help managing your feelings; it’s enough to simply deliver the news politely.

But oh there are so many worse ones out there (like this or this).

{ 124 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      It is pretty much what Alison writes all the time about rejections, just that this is coming from the company. The advice up until the therapeutic part is quite kind and reasonable.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      It’s terrible because it’s supposed to be business correspondence. Imagine if you put similar drivel in an e-mail to your boss or coworkers when you had to deliver bad news. Or if you put similar reasons into a letter to a vendor that you weren’t interested in their product. The best you could describe this (and similar rejections) is unprofessional.

    3. Specialk9*

      I thought it came from a very kind place, and had useful info.
      Just because this particular OP somehow is the unicorn in a haystack who isn’t disappointed by rejection doesn’t mean they’re jerks for knowing that 99.99999999% of people would be. They didn’t say “devastated” even though that’s true for many as well, they just said “disappointed.” OP is looking to be offended.

      1. LBK*

        I think it’s actually *more* condescending to say that to the people who are disappointed – who wants to be comforted by the company that just rejected you? You don’t ask your ex for help on getting over them.

    4. LBK*

      I think the first half is fine, basically just the standard rejection letter but with elaboration on the usual “we found someone who was a better fit” line. But the second half is a liiiiittle presumptuous about the candidate’s reaction to being rejected, which I think is stepping over the line. I don’t know that most people are looking to the company that rejected them for direction on where they go from here.

      Similar to the first part being an expansion of standard rejection language, the second piece almost feels an expansion on the usual “We’ll keep your resume on file in case another position comes up that you might be a match for” line, but they went about it in the wrong way. It feels like they’re assuming the candidate will be champing at the bit to apply to this company again and only certain companies can pull off that assumption without sounding full of themselves.

    5. Adele Quested*

      Advice, unless explicitely asked for, is often unwelcome and perceived as presumptuous.

      Part of that may be that even otherwise generous and well-meaning people might be extra sensitive in a difficult situation and tempporarily lack the patience to search for the most charitable interpretation.

      Another part however is also the usual low quality of that kind of generic advice usually given in such a scenario. This letter for instance is clearly boiler-plate and mostly stating the obvious. The problem with giving generic and obvious advice is that it can make the receiver feel like you don’t trust in their own intellectual abilities at all.

      I have certainly given a lot of unwelcome, uselessly generic and obvious advice in my life and it’s not necessarily because I thought the receiver was too stupid to think of it themselves. It was usually because I wasn’t thinking about the specific receiver at all before sharing my wisdom. Sometimes I just like the sound of my own voice too much to consider the actual substance of my contribution. Taking that extra step to examine whether my information might actually be relevant to someone else’s specific situation is just that sort of effort I haven’t always taken. (Still working on it.)

      I will gladly believe the person who drafted this rejection had the best intentions. They might have been disheartened by curt and formal boilerplate rejections in the past, and thought they could make an improvement. But I think this effort is based on a rather severy misunderstanding as to what most people find so disheartening about the usual standardized rejections – it’s not the the curtness, or the formality, but the boiler-plateness of it all, the lack of acknowledgement of the receiver’s individuality. That’s not changed by adding more copy. More copy just means giving people more to be potentially offended by.

      As I see it, you can either keep it short and standardized, or you commit to actual individualized feedback with specific and actionable areas of potential improvement. And the latter thing is, in my opinion, a completely unreasonalbe expectation towards any one without an explicitely pedagogical mandate.

  1. Runner*

    I think I missed something. I don’t see an issue with it at all, unless it’s trying to be too nice and encouraging of the candidate to apply again in the future. Maybe all rejections should be one sentence.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s the tone of “we know you must be DEVASTATED by this, but don’t worry, we will try to soothe your feelings for you.”

      Like I said in the post, it’s not terrible. But it’s a little off.

        1. MommyMD*

          Nor do I. I pick up a tone of you are probably disappointed and that is generally correct. I think the letter comes from good intentions. People can become very down searching for jobs.

          1. JamieS*

            I think we all agree many people become frustrated when job searching but I don’t think that means a company’s rejection letter should be written with the assumption the average candidate is on the brink and will likely be irreparably devastated because they didn’t get the job.

          2. MK*

            It may be generally correct, but it’s not the rejecting employer’s place to try to soothe you. The person who “hurt” you, however unintentionally, is not the right one to offer comfort; most people’s reaction would be to tell them to stuff it.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            Yea I definitely heard the ick too. That line stuck out. It’s a job rejection, not cancer/divorce/death.

          2. JulieBulie*

            Yep, that jumped out at me. Sheesh. Surprised they didn’t include the phone number of a suicide hotline.

        2. Five after Midnight*

          I disagree. The letter is totally over a top and drips with “it’s not you, really!” attitude. It’s definitely not as bad as some examples Alison linked to, but it tries too hard to explain away the rejection and pushes too hard “here is what you can do to feel better” stuff.

        3. Fafaflunkie*

          Neither did I. OP should be thankful that at least BIG COMPANY actually sent her this email, to at least inform her that:
          • we found someone else, and
          • we have other opportunities
          Which is usually a lot more than most companies would give you. Usually you’d just be ignored as a rejected applicant with the wordage in the hiring ad that says “we appreciate all applicants, but only those being considered will be contacted.”

  2. CAA*

    I think the first paragraph and set of bullet points are fine. It only goes off the rails when it gets to “But, don’t let it hold you back” up through “all information you can use in the future, whether at BIG COMPANY or beyond.” If they would just rewrite those four sentences, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.

    1. Cobol*

      It wouldn’t have bothered me. With regards to tone, at some big companies (e.g. Google, Starbucks) it would be in line with their voice.

      1. CAA*

        I just think it comes across as presumptuous to assume that you would let their rejection hold you back and that their online materials can help you find a job somewhere else. It’s kind of them to offer, but they could word it better.

        It’s a bit like when Alison prints examples of great cover letters. Some people are completely turned off by the same things that others think are great.

    2. Fergus’s Girlfriend*

      I actually kind of liked it because it was well-meaning, but a few lines were a bit over the top.

  3. Carlee*

    “We had many qualified applicants. You weren’t one of them” is officially the worst rejection letter (from Brown, where I applied to grad school 20+ years ago) ever… and I can still quote it from memory.

      1. seejay*

        I got told by a very high end university that my chosen major wasn’t my strength and I should look into a completely different program because I had done so badly at my previous attempts at a different school. The problem was that they worded it so insultingly, it was a huge ego blow and pretty devastating.

        I wound up going back to my original university and into the same program that I apparently “wasn’t very good at” and graduating with honours and I’m about to finish the grad program from one of the top universities in the US for the same subject.

        Kind of laughing at “not your strength” now.

      2. Mookie*

        That’s kind of what I like about the rejection letter here: ‘apply as many times as you like!’ Provided they’re actually fine with that it’s helpful information, although perhaps not to the OP who wasn’t really banking on this role in this company to begin with.

    1. Carlee*

      Fwiw, I got into the other four schools I applied to — on full scholarship), so didn’t take the rejection too personally :-)

    2. Lady Kelvin*

      I got rejected for a grad program where they explicitly told me I should pursue a different field because I wouldn’t succeed in the one I was interested in. Interestingly enough, I have been very successful and just met the guy who told me I should quit. I’ve become extremely successful but that letter is always in the back of my head making me question if it’s real or just luck.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It might be fun to ask the guy what he saw that made him think you couldn’t do the job. More of an “I’m curious” question Vs a confrontational question.

      2. CM*

        I was in a grad program where I struggled for a little while at the beginning (after having been out of school for a while, working in the same field) and when I asked my assigned faculty advisor for advice, he simply said, “Some people aren’t cut out for grad school,” and turned back to his computer. Eff that guy, right? And yet, his voice has always echoed in my brain, along with the “incompetent” whispers from my male undergrad peers, despite years of glowing performance reviews. I eventually left computer science and changed careers, and at the time I would have given you a million reasons that had nothing to do with gender, but looking back, this was definitely a big factor. Now it’s a relief to be in a job where I don’t constantly have to defend myself. But for a long time I felt guilty about leaving.

        1. Specialk9*

          My interpretation of your head advisor’s behavior is he just found out his spouse was cheating on him, or some other such personal life blow that makes one hate the world and want to spread the misery. It likely had nothing to do with you at all. Cold comfort though!

        2. The Strand*

          CM (Cookie Monster?), I had a situation like that, too – also computer science. A male professor, when I asked about the requirements for a course, suggested I wasn’t qualified. Turns out he had 30+ male students – not a single female! – many of whom had nowhere near the quals I did. There was one advanced female student in the program, period – who luckily, was considered “one of the guys”. He was a selfish, sexist jerk, just like your advisor sounds like. There is a deep vein of insecurity in some of the guys I took CS classes with, which is why they worry about other people’s competence, instead of getting their own stuff done.

          I sincerely hope you are enjoying what you’re doing now.

      3. JulieBulie*

        Of course your success is real. You need to do a ceremony where you burn that letter (or a symbolic representation of it if it’s not available).

        Either that, or frame that letter and hang it over your desk.

    3. PainScientist*

      Wow. I mentioned my Stanford rejection letter below (didn’t see this thread originally) and it was positively cuddly in comparison.

  4. Observer*

    Alison, you must have a real collection of “interesting” rejection letters. Not just the condescending ones. Do you ever just look at them for a laugh?

  5. A Good Judge, Apparently*

    I remember one that praised me for my good judgement in applying at Company before saying thanks but no thanks!

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      That’s funny on one level, but also speaks to the arrogance with which companies often treat applicants.

  6. Bea*

    I think this is just fine, it’s encouraging people to not assume that rejection from their current application means they have no chance at working for the company. We have had many questions about “can I reapply after I was rejected?” questions all the time. This literally is saying “Yes, please do so.” O.o

    I see how it may sound patronizing in places and it’s really wordy but it’s not bad.

    My favorite is still the time I got 2 rejection letters from one place. One was pretty well thought out and the other one was “you’re not what we’re looking for, good luck.” it was a bizarre switch in tone and again, two rejections!

      1. Bea*

        I can see where that could come off as obnoxious, I skimmed over it enough that I didn’t specifically notice that part!

      1. Bea*

        Same interview and I know for a fact they didn’t interview many candidates. Part of the interview was her telling me that she had very few resumes to consider given most responses were from people who weren’t in the right line of work.

    1. LBK*

      I can understand that impulse but I think this is almost pre-answering the question too much. Just a simple line saying “We have a wide variety of roles and we encourage you to apply for any other open positions you’re interested in” would suffice. It’s friendly without assuming.

      1. Adele Quested*

        Yeah, maybe that’s the actual problem with the wording – the kernel of useful information gets buried in the drivel. I agree with another poster below that I probably wouldn’t have been offended, because I wouldn’t have read the whole thing, but that also means I would have missed that somewhat relevant point.

  7. Gina Linetti*

    I hardly ever get rejections from jobs I’ve actually applied for. I get plenty from jobs I never heard word one from, though. I suppose it’s easier to simply shoot off a form email to someone you’ve never had to sit across a table from.

    1. Laura*

      Me too. I have an Access database of all the jobs I’ve applied to and in the “Result of Application” section I have “Nothing” for all of the jobs (I also put “No call or email as of *today’s date*” in the Notes section). I’d consider my self lucky just to get that email.

  8. Ted Mosby*

    I recently had an interview with a company I was really excited about, until an informational interview with an alumni from my school a few days beforehand raised some red flags. Then the interviewer did not make any contact with me, at all, the entire time we were together. She mumbled questions into the table. It was one of the most uncomfortable professional experiences of my life. I called my partner and told him there was no way I was taking off another day of work for a final round interview if I was offered one, which I doubted would happen.

    A few days later the recruiter scheduled a half hour call to reject me and then repeatedly tell me how sorry he was, how he knew this must be hard to hear, how I should try not to be TOO sad, and that my first round interviewer had adored me and he would love to see me reapply in a few months. I let him talk for a full ten minutes before I finally told him I had to go. My only regret is that I’m pretty sure he interpreted me as being too upset to talk further and get more feedback on my communication style.

  9. kas*

    I find this unnecessary. They could’ve left out everything after the second last sentence in the first paragraph and ended with the very last paragraph.

  10. Persephoneunderground*

    I think it’s just overkill- it seems to assume you must be really invested in the job or unemployed and desperately seeking work. Especially giving all the general “job hunting” resources reads like they’re assuming you are in an intense job search and will be terribly discouraged. But of course, you can’t know why someone applied or how invested they are at this point- you know the old saw about assumptions.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      That’s how I see it too. It is overkill, laying it on way too thick. It should be short, sweet, and to the point.

  11. MommyMD*

    That is not a bad letter. There are some suicidal people out there dealing with prolonged job searches. Though their words and advice may not apply to you, it certainly may apply to many others.

    1. Gingerblue*

      I’m in the depths of an extremely depressing, multi-year job search. I’m spending this evening on job applications, and realized this week that I no longer really expect to ever find something in my field. I feel awful, constantly, about everything, and have for a long time now.

      No, this letter would not make me feel any better. Stabby rage, more like. I know how a damn job search works, and I have some suggestions for what they can do with their notion that their rejection will “hold me back” if not for their platitudes, which will help me “bounce back” from the undoubtedly crushing despair being rejected by them specifically. In general, it’s not a hiring committee’s privilege to tell applicants how to feel, and trying to is just as likely to make people feel worse rather than better.

      It’s not the worst I’ve seen, certainly, but it feels like a pat on the head from an uncle you never liked much.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        Gingerblue, just want you to know I’m feeling your pain. I am coming up on 2.5 years of fruitless searching and am also concerned I won’t be able to find another job in my field.

        Thank you for sharing. Knowing I’m not alone in this experience is somehow comforting. I hope something changes for both of us soon. Hugs.

      2. JulieBulie*

        “Pat on the head from an uncle you never liked much” is such a vivid and accurate description!

      3. nep*

        Sorry you’re having such a tough time. It sure is tough to keep at it. I feel you. So often it occurs to me just to give up, as if every step is futile. Ugh. (But I know I can’t — for where would that get me?)
        I sure hope something will come through for you soon.

      4. Fresh Faced*

        I’ve just passed a year and a half with my job search and I 100% feel your first paragraph Gingerblue. I think I wouldn’t have minded this letter if it was one of the first rejections I got. But after a year and a bit it’s very condescending. Any rejection letter that assumes I must be devastated that I didn’t get to work for COMPANY or goes on too much about how COMPANY has super high standards that I didn’t meet gets some pointed rage from me.

      5. Jennifer Thneed*

        > In general, it’s not a hiring committee’s privilege to tell applicants how to feel

        This. I dislike this from people I actually know in person!

    2. fposte*

      I think it was probably drafted with good intentions, and I don’t find it as horrible as Alison does, but I think their visible attempts to manage people’s emotions are misguided.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      It takes a certain kind of arrogance to assume that not getting a particular a particular job is soul-crushing and requires “bouncing back”.

      It’s completely another level of arrogance to assume you can manage someone else’s mental illness through a form letter.

      Seriously. wtf.

  12. Frustrated Optimist*

    I think all companies can omit the helpful advice to keep checking their web site for new openings. No shit – how do you think I found out about this one?!

    Also, as I’ve written before, a large company in my area sends rejection e-mails with “Thank you for your interest in [Company]!” Please omit the exclamation point. It’s not happy or exciting news by any means.

  13. MiaRose*

    For me, this comes off a bit off-putting and weird. The paragraph after the bullet points is patronizing, and there’s just, well, too much placating that falls short. But, again, I’ve seen much worse, and I’ve seen better. I just think some people would like this kind of letter, and some would not, and it would depend also on where people are in the job-search process. The good intentions are there, but just not executed well. I just prefer a polite, tactful, but straightforward rejection.

    I think Gingerblue said it best, about it feeling “like a pat on the head from an uncle you never liked much.”

  14. Collingswood*

    I’ve gotten two rejection letter that really stand out. One, for a job I’d applied to 2 years before (and wasn’t still waiting on), and one that wasn’t too bad on its own, but had my annotated resume stapled to it.

    1. Bea*

      That reminds me of the one lady who handed me back my resume and took back the job description she had handed me during the interview.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Bea–your story is the reverse of a rejection I received. I called about an advertised job. I was asked 3 questions, including if I knew Mandarin and if I had experience on a particular kind of equipment (don’t remember the 3rd question). My answer to all 3 was no. To my surprise the man asked me to come for an interview. I handed him my resume, he asked me the same 3 questions he’d asked on the phone, and the answers were still no. He laughed and said I wasn’t qualified for the job. I still wish I’d taken my resume back and said I’d rather give it to someone who would actually consider me for the job.

  15. Agnes*

    Yeah, I get paper rejections all the time that say things like, “We know you must be disappointed, but we can’t print everything we get.”
    I’m generally a “be polite- no need to be crabby” person, but don’t tell me how disappointed I am. Your journal isn’t the only one out there. Just send me the reviews if you have them, and get back to me promptly. I’ll deal with my emotions, whatever they are, thank you.

    1. namelesscommentator*

      I think it’s nice to acknowledge feelings. Nobody likes to be told no. But if you submitted a piece, presumably you wanted it published… So it doesn’t seem out of line for a rejection letter to acknowledge that this wasn’t the outcome you wanted.

      I think the OP rejection letter is over the top but more in a way that the writing needs to be tightened and tone adjusted, not that it’s bad messaging.

      1. attie*

        I think “we regret to inform you…” carries enough acknowledgment of feelings without making assumptions. There’s a reason it’s the standard.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Alison and the commenters around here routinely recommend letting go of expectations when you apply to jobs. So, if you follow that advice, you won’t be disappointed by rejection. So yes, it is an assumption that those who were rejected are disappointed.

        It’s absolutely kind to acknowledge feelings. But you don’t know someone’s feelings from an application and you certainly can’t address everyone’s feelings in a form letter.

  16. emmylou*

    On one hand, I hear the issue in “you must be feeling…” — and on the other, as far as these things go, it’s trying to be hopeful. I think the varied reaction to this underlines that there really isn’t one good way to reject people — there is very little that will actually make you feel *better.* A rejection letter inherently can’t be comforting or take the sting out, much like you can’t feel better by talking to someone you’ve broken up with about how much you miss them. Being rejected sucks, but I’m of the opinion that it’s better to send something neutral and polite, even if it feels cold or impersonal to some people, or something that aims at being warm, even if it irks some, than not to send anything.

  17. AsItIs*

    I’m surprised it didn’t open with the word “trigger”. This is likely written this way because they’ve had applicants saying how traumatized they were at getting a rejection letter. Poor diddums need protecting. /rolling eyes so hard it hurts

    1. XIX*

      What an unpleasant attitude to take! I hope your day improves and you feel less rude and inclined to lash out at strangers on the internet.

    2. Mookie*

      “Poor diddums” people trying to earn a living and taking it so personally. That’s not what’s going on here but the scoffing you’re doing here is weirdly cruel. It’s perfectly fine to take job-hunting seriously and be down in the dumps (or worse) when you’re not finding work.

  18. Green*

    The number one thing HR departments that was to be courteous can do is not make you type in the start/end dates, references, addresses of very former job and every place you’ve lived in the last decade before automatically screening you out for not including some key word.

    If you have a respectful application process, then you can just say, “Unfortunately, you didn’t get the job” and I’m good, thanks.

  19. Ramona Flowers*

    I’m going to disagree with everyone who thinks it’s fine. It’s okay I guess, except it’s written like they think you’ve never ever applied for a job before and don’t know why someone might reject you. Also, the assumption that you’re disappointed when you might not be.

    It’s not exactly bad. It just could have been less condescendingly worded. There’s a big difference between informing someone that they can log on to the website in too much painstaking detail and just reminding them that it’s there.

    1. Willoboughy*

      I suspect this has a lot to do with the nature of the job and the candidates. I can see this being a response to the responses they get from a lot of immature and inexperiences applicants. It may actually fit their needs well.

      1. MicroManagered*

        That, or by “BIG COMPANY” they mean like really big company… like Big 4 for accounting majors or something. It’s not an appropriate rejection letter for like, a fast food management position, but if BIG COMPANY knows their candidate pool are having their final scene in Flashdance, all-or-nothing moment, I could understand a letter like this.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          My impression was that this company thinks that a significant number of the applications will also be customers, so it’s laying it on a bit thick to keep them from having bad feelings toward the company.

          1. Adele Quested*

            Strong whiff of ulterior motives. “We didn’t pick you, but we still can be friends, right? Please keep buying our products/don’t badmouth us on social media.”

            I’m not sure I really fault them for trying, although I would certainly prefer people to assume I’m professional enough not to take a rejection so personally.

            1. Greg*

              There is evidence that candidates who are treated poorly by employers are less likely to buy that company’s goods or services in the future. But the solution to that is to treat them respectfully throughout the application process, not come up with some clever boilerplate in your rejection letter.

    2. JulieBulie*

      A letter this long should be helpful. Instead, it’s a grab-bag of general advice which may or may not apply to the applicant. I mean, “there are three main reasons as to why it might not have worked out” means “here are a lot of words which might be irrelevant.” That’s not helpful.

      A brief rejection is all that is needed. If they want to give advice, maybe they could just put that kind of stuff on their website and provide a link in the letter. But the grief counseling is way too much.

      But I think Oranges & Lemons has a good point that this might be an attempt to smooth things over with applicants who are potential customers.

  20. CM*

    I think this would be fine if you delete this paragraph:
    We understand that being rejected is always disappointing no matter how far along you’ve made it in the process. But, don’t let it hold you back.

    and the description of job-hunting resources as helping you “bounce back.”

    From the company’s point of view, I think it’s too encouraging. It sounds to me like they’re trying to head off conversations with rejected applicants who want some handholding. But for that 1% of people (I made that number up) who feel entitled to the job and keep following up about it, I think this makes it sound like the company wants to have an ongoing relationship with them and so it’s appropriate for them to keep contacting the company and expecting to work there.

  21. Puffyshirt*

    To me, this is proof positive that you can please everybody. We have seen similar posts with job candidates feeling like a rejection wasn’t personal enough, or that the company didn’t care enough, or they weren’t willing to help provide resources. Then, there are the folks that just prefer a direct and to the point message. It showcases the reason many recruiters just write the best rejection letter they know how to and have to use it in bulk, not going back to try to personalize for every person. It’s an impossible task.

    1. Adele Quested*

      I don’t see that much of a contradiction here. Of course people who want a personalized rejection wouldn’t be happy with this letter – it’s clearly a template too, and it won’t read less like a template just because you add more paragraphs and talk about feelings.

      I absolutely agree with you that recruiters shouldn’t be expected to personalize every rejection. I just think it’s more respectful to be honest about that from the start, and not expect to fool anyone with a bit of window-dressing.

  22. PainScientist*

    This actually reminds me of the rejection letter I got from Stanford when applying for undergrad. All about how a massive propotion of applicants had 4.0 GPAs, they couldn’t accept everyone who was qualified, they encouraged us to try again at Stanford someday (said that their current academic Dean had been rejected from Stanford for undergrad!). It was a little condescending but not horrible and it was important for the type of perfectionist student I was when applying to colleges.

  23. EmilyAnn*

    The candidate only got far enough in the process for a generic form letter. Why is it so long? The generic explanation, the condescending stab at sympathy, it’s all so silly. “We’re not proceeding further with your candidacy” is good enough for almost every job. It’s the only information a job-seeker needs to know.

  24. Yorick*

    The three reasons they give are too vague to be meaningful. They should cut all that (and the stuff after) and just say they’ve decided to move forward with other candidates.

  25. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    I didn’t read this as condescending at all. If you’re not disappointed at being rejected for a job… idk, I would think you’re probably lying. :) Disappointed isn’t a synonym of “devastated” or “suicidal.”

    This letter was written with two explicit goals: first, to tell a person they’re not being hired kindly. Accomplished! The second goal is to give people a place to start if they want to ask “how do I get a job here in the future.” Which is a really common thing to ask! They’re taking their (yes, generic) feedback that you normally have to email and bug a hiring manager for, and just giving it to you up front. The long term goal might even to be to improve their candidate pool over time.

    I swear, this is an example of something most people would agree would be wonderful to do in theory (wouldn’t it be great if companies gave you a list of resources you could read after you were rejected, if you were interested in improving your application for next time?) and then ya’ll dismiss it unless it’s executed 100% perfectly. I honestly don’t even read any of the wording as clumsy or condescending; it’s just friendly.

  26. Katie Fay*

    All three are amusing because they assume the candidate wants the role and wants to work for the company when the reality is there is interest and a willingness to invest time to learn more and a summary of experience (the resume) is provide to possibly initiate a conversation about their needs and the respondent’s possible ability to meet those needs. That is it! We all have applied for positions and after learning more, continue with our search.

  27. nep*

    Featured letter is not bad at all compared to a couple of letters I received in the last few months. Yowzer, employers — you need to wake up and stop sending condescending letters that sound as if written for an insecure pre-teen.

  28. Ann Onimous*

    I think this is a rejection letter that may read as very kind to someone looking for their first job. Or, even first non-retail job.

    I actually got a similar rejection letter, after going through 3 separate interviews and 2 online tests. It bolded and capitalized the fact that I was not in face receiving a rejection, but a postponement. Not once but twice. Considering over 3 years have since passed without a peep from them, I’m starting to think they WERE being at least a LITTLE condescending. Heh.

  29. MessyButKind*

    I had a boss once who was in the habit of sending “rejection letters” that were long lists of advice on how to improve the candidates’ job searching skills, and how to revise their resumes. Not unlike what someone above described with the annotated resume in the mail. They would say things like, “we’re not going to interview you at this time, because of these 375 mistakes in your resume.” She would then complain that we didn’t get enough qualified candidates applying for open positions.

  30. little fish*

    Where I used to work, the HR department would mail a form rejection letter to all applicants. ALL applicants. Including the person they had hired. At least they were running a few weeks behind with the mail merge, so I was already working there by the time my rejection letter arrived, and I could bring it in the next day to confirm with my boss that I really was hired. They had the organization logo upside-down on some of the new hire paperwork, which should have given me fair warning that computers were not their best thing.

  31. Penelope Le Cat*

    I get why this rejection letter is patronizing and on the surface it can be difficult to see it. Rejection letters usually don’t bother me, but I recently got a very nasty one, dripping with condescension. It was for a job with a former employer, I had left on good terms, but the HR director was a bully and we never got along, so he took this as an opportunity to be jerk. I had applied for a job there 6 months ago, I heard NOTHING, the person they hired has been in the position for 3 months, if they were going to send a rejection letter, at the latest it should have been when the new hire started. I KNEW that he heard through the grapevine that I had since then gotten a new job, so 6 months later he sends a rejection letter AFTER I have started my new job, timed right after an email that I was cc’d on by a former coworker was circulated at their organization (I am still working in the same sector). This is a SMALL organization, so it is a dig that 5 months later he sends a rejection letter and it sounds like something written by Trump sounding like this, “we had TONS of applicants, TONS!” Um no, they had a total of 3 applicants, I am still in the loop with people who work there and I knew that HR was upset that they only got 3 applicants and of the three I was actually the most qualified, but whatever. Then he adding in lots of talk about how awesome they are, and then at the end, “Good luck finding a job!” And I know full well that he knew that I already had a new job, his timing was purposeful.

    I tore it up and threw it in the trash. I’m not going to let it bother me, but the fact that he went out of the way (knowing him, I KNOW it was intentional) to do that was very intentional. You can tell when someone is being a jerk, just to be a jerk, and this is exactly the way he was when I worked there. And yes, I’m glad that I did not get the job and return to a toxic workplace.

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