should I reject job candidates by phone or email?

A reader writes:

Should you always call to let a candidate know that they won’t be getting a job offer?

Here’s the context: I’ve gotten calls and emails letting me know when I wasn’t accepted for a position. And my colleagues and I all agree that we hate getting phone calls. It’s awkward! If you don’t answer the phone, you’re not going to get a voicemail telling you you didn’t get the job, you’ll get a voicemail asking you to call back. Which means you’ll get excited thinking you’re getting a job offer! And then you’re live on the phone with a hiring manager trying to manage an awkward conversation.

I’ve taken to emailing rejected candidates rather than calling, for these reasons. I take it as a kindness, rather than getting their hopes up for nothing. Maybe it’s a millennial thing, I don’t know!

But recently, a week after I sent the rejection, a candidate sent me a long email expressing her disappointment having gone through a long hiring process only to receive an email and not a phone call. I haven’t responded yet, but I plan to share why I send emails and thank her again for her time.

What’s your opinion on the matter?

Deliver rejections by email, not by phone.

If you call people, you’re making them respond gracefully on the spot to what might be really disappointing or even upsetting news (right after getting their hopes up when they see a call from you, too).

Some people prefer calls, of course. But more prefer emails. And delivering rejections by email is so common that even people who would have preferred a call won’t typically be outraged that they didn’t get one.

That said, there are situations where it’s especially important that your emailed rejection is particularly kind and thoughtful. If someone has invested an unusual amount of time in your hiring process (multiple rounds of interviews, exercises, etc.), ideally you’d send more than a perfunctory, generic-sounding rejection. In cases like that, the note should acknowledge the investment they’ve made, and ideally offer something personalized (such as with feedback on their candidacy, a mention of a particular area of strength, or some info on why you ultimately went in a different direction).

But ultimately, the thing about rejections is that there’s no way to reject people that everyone will be happy with. If you reject people by email, some will be annoyed that you didn’t call instead. If you reject people by phone, some people (way more of them) will wonder why you subjected them to an awkward phone call instead of just emailing. If you note they had a lot of strengths, some people will think you’re BS’ing them. But if you don’t do that, some people will feel the note is cold and impersonal. If you send rejections fairly quickly, some people will feel annoyed or even insulted that you didn’t spend more time considering them. If you try to wait a respectable amount of time so people don’t feel that way, others will be annoyed that you didn’t tell them sooner.

You’re just not going to please everyone. By their nature, rejections sting, and everyone has a different take on what would most minimize that sting for them personally.

If you prioritized your candidates’ experience above every other consideration (which isn’t practical or realistic), I suspect the method that would please the greatest number of people would be to email a rejection that included an offer to set up a call if the person would like feedback. But there are loads of situations where it won’t make sense to offer feedback (and it would be a huge investment of time if you did), so I wouldn’t recommend that as an across-the-board practice (although you might choose to do it with a specific person on occasion).

So … keep on emailing your rejections. Be kind and respectful and personalize them where it makes sense, but emailing is just fine.

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    Honestly, it’s so unusual for a company to actually inform you that you’ve been rejected, rather than just ghosting you, that you’re already in the top 1% of companies simply by sending an email.

    1. Aaron*


      I cannot state how incredibly depressing and discouraging it is to just keep throwing applications into the void for months and years at a stretch, with no information about what happens after that. Was I rejected? Was I considered? Did I do something wrong?

      1. Ann Nonymous*

        I concur. I might as well be launching resumes off the top of a building for all the response I get.

        1. RC*

          It amazes me that they do not let you know you didn’t get the job, even after an interview! It’s happened to me 5 or 6 times in the last six months. And you don’t want to follow up too much because you’ll be seen as a pest. I totally understand not notifying everyone when 100+ people applied for the job, but if you’ve done an interview with the person, it’s just common courtesy to respond and let them know.

      2. Steve*

        I feel this so very strongly. I once applied to a position, had the three round interview. Six full months passed. The company sent me a rejection email. Makes one wonder what on earth is going on behind the scenes.

    2. LegallyBrunette*

      I’ve found that rejection emails like 4 months after applying are the worst. At that point, I’ve either already assumed I’ve been rejected or have completely forgotten about Dawdling Enterprises, Inc., and so a random email to remind me I was unwanted feels like an unnecessary insult.

      1. Yep, it's a Person*

        I got one 8 MONTHS after an in-person, out of state interview. I was like, yeah no duh you rejected me….. Fortunately, I was working someone where else by that point (some place I was much happier at).

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Me too! Dude, I don’t even remember what I applied for at this company. I kind of assumed y’all didn’t want me, lol.

        2. PeanutButter*

          I once got a phone call over a year after interviewing and then hearing crickets. They were asking me if I was still available, and if so, could I start next Monday. Despite that being all kinds of red flags if I was still in the area it would have been almost tempting to show up just to see what sort of wild hijinks had happened to make calling a job candidate 18 months after their interview the best option for them.

          1. Quill*

            I just got a “we’d like to schedule an interview” via email and was like … at what point did I apply to this?

            Then it became obvious that I’m only getting it because they scraped my resume when I googled the company.

          2. Kate H*

            We had kind of a reversal of that on our team recently. A candidate wanted some time to think about it, which was fine, but then she ghosted us. A couple months later, she called up our department head asking if the job was still available. It wasn’t.

          3. Steve*

            That company is beyond disorganized. I admit, I’d be tempted to sign on too, just to see what kind of wingnuts run the joint.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          So did I. I was like, what, did y’all think I was still waiting? Don’t flatter yourselves.

          It was honestly a little bit creepy.

        4. The Engineer*

          21 months for me. Was good for a laugh.

          Still appreciated as most employers just don’t respond at all. Deeply frustrating when pretty much all of them have that shiny ATS that could send an email blast rejection in only a few seconds.

          I just follow Alison’s advice. Apply, interview, move on like it isn’t going to happen.

          1. Chair, Department of Teapot Studies*

            During grad school, I worked through a temp agency one summer (out of six total that I was in school). I graduated and moved to another state entirely in 2010. In 2017, the agency called me and asked me if I was interested in an “exciting” new placement. Seven years after I left the state and 11 after I had last worked for them.

            Not quite the same as a waiting forever for an acceptance or rejection, but I was sort of like, really, you’re wondering after 11 years of no contact if I suddenly want to work with you again?

            1. Snuck*

              When I moved interstate I signed on with a temp agency … they were going to give me lots of work (I have a niche role, with good experience, and useful qualifications) blah blah blah.

              Crickets. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

              THIRTEEN YEARS LATER they’ve reached out…. I’ve left that industry, married a farmer, am now helping run a business across half the wheatbelt in an entirely different industry (similar skill set to be fair) and had two kids (not that the kids are relevant… but they show… how far life has moved!). Thirteen years, and they now want to interview me for an amazing role. Nah. Not interested.

              1. Mongrel*

                “THIRTEEN YEARS LATER they’ve reached out….”

                I must say, that’s one of the good things about the EU GDPR regulations.
                I used to get occasional e-mails from the a variety of job search sites that had my CV from a agency that had since been chain acquired 3 or 4 times and that no amount of unsubscribe would work.
                GDPR regs pop up and suddenly it’s “If you don’t remove me from your lists and stop contacting me my next communication will be with the ICO”

          2. Steve*

            Alison is definitely on point with that. I’ve learned from her, don’t take it personally. We have smart technology and dumb humans operating them.

        5. circuit*

          After applying to an entry level posting, I got a rejection email 4 months later for the principal level job telling me I wasn’t qualified? Obviously I’m not qualified for the Principal level, that’s why I applied to Entry!

        6. Sharkie*

          Exactly! Heck I once got a rejection letter for a company I never applied to… on the other side of the country. That was seriously depressing like at least let me apply!

        7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I got an actual rejection letter in the mail like two months after a phone interview…and this was only a couple of years ago!

          1. Snuck*

            To be fair… recently Australia Post changed it’s postal agreement with all of Australia. Post went from a guaranteed 2 day deliver… to TEN. TEN days to get a letter now.

            Imagine the shenanigans this is creating in legal spaces – all the systems that have to be changed to allow ten days for a bill to reach you before you get two weeks to pay it, the fact that you have to give x days notice on a lease end, or an intent to start proceedings etc, and it was all based around how many days the post could take to reach you. Now we’re all paying for express post to get this stuff here and there on time (expensive) and yeah. It’s quite the mess!

            Two months sounds about right sometimes… ;) Postal services can be a nightmare, that’s why I prefer a “check your email” text, and an email. (This way if it goes to spam it can be fished out)

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Massive tangent alert:

              There’s a rule at the European Patent Office that a letter is deemed to have arrived ten days after it was sent (unless you can prove e.g. with the mail service’s tracking online that it arrived on a particular later day). This is a nearly fifty-year-old rule and honestly a good one at the time because posting from Munich to Edinburgh does take a while and you shouldn’t be disadvantaged by your distance from the Office.

              Only nowadays nearly everybody opts to receive everything electronically, and sometimes it even glitches and lands before the date of the letter (because batch systems I guess). So on 4 Feb you receive a letter dated 5 Feb which for legal purposes can be considered to have arrived on 15th. That’s why there’s lots of questions in our professional exams about calculating deadlines!

              1. Snuck*

                Oh wow… I didn’t realise Europe was forward dating letters!

                Here we date letters (and everything else, particularly anything ‘legal’) with the issuing date, but then have to allow a set number of days for a response. This means an arbitrary delay in delivery dates has affected the ability of recipients to respond within the timeframes.

                Australia Post doesn’t use all of those 10 days, but a chunk. A lot of communications have shifted to email (for example rent inspection letters, which must be received 7-14 days before an inspection in my state) so there’s some control, but it’s forced us into an increasingly online world – every utility now wants to use digital bill mail systems, every one is moving away from snail mail and Australia Post, it’s not necessarily been a good business move by the postal company as their volumes have plummeted. And a lot of us don’t want this much electronic correspondence…

      2. 1234*

        I once got a rejection email 6 MONTHS after I interviewed. It was sent at like 1:30AM local time and they were located in the same city I was and didn’t have any other branch. I can’t imagine my interviewer was out of the country and just happened to decide to send me a rejection letter. WTF.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Had an email hit my account last year that was a rejection for a job I’d applied for…in 2012. I can only assume their email systems were as shocking as they were when I interviewed for the role of IT Manager.

        (We’re talking no virus protection or filtering. None. They said in the interview it wasn’t unusual for them to be blacklisted due to spambot infestations)

      4. Art3mis*

        I got a rejection email Friday for a job I applied to back in October. And it was an internal job. So, yeah.

      5. JustKnope*

        I’ve learned that where I work, that those bizarre rejection emails that come months later are a result of the position being “closed” in our online HR system. Sometimes hiring managers forget to actually close them out, even after they make a hire, so when they go back in to clean up their postings, super old rejections get sent.

      6. Argye*

        I once got not one, not two, but a total of FIVE rejection emails from the same company, all within about 24 hours of one another, all with slightly different wording. It was bizarre. I guess they really, REALLY didn’t want me. It was for a completely remote job in an adjacent field, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted it, so I wasn’t devastated. It was just really odd.

      7. Anonys*

        What’s also annoying is when they send you the wrong form rejection.

        I applied to a company a while ago, did an assessment center, got called back in for an hour long individual interview. It was emphasised multiple times that they do not ghost candidates and would definitely get back to me within a week, hiring manager even replied to my thank you note. Two months later I got a a very generic automated email, from a generic company no-reply email address, that after considering my application, I wasn’t selected for an INTERVIEW (also ironic since I didn’t actually send them an application but was approached by their recruiter). I think in general it’s nicer for even form rejections to come from a hiring manager, a company recruiter, HR, or at least the specific office you interviewed with.

        This was fine for me, as I was uncomfortable with a few things at the company anyway and had since accepted a great offer elsewhere, but while you are still job searching that kind of thing can feel pretty insulting and discouraging.

      8. DustyJ*

        Yes, this! I received a rejection email once, months after I applied. They already put the little line “if you don’t hear from us after 30 days please accept that your application has been unsuccessful” in the job ad. Why go to all the trouble of sending an email to say “GUESS WHAT, YOU SUCK!”

      9. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I once got a call at least a year after having applied for some random campus job. The person who called me was a fellow American student who was going back to the States after finishing her degree, and she was using the last bits of prepaid time on her UK mobile phone calling all of the people who had applied for jobs in this office but had been rejected for reasons she didn’t agree with.

        Which was amazing and kind and a huge amount of work, but I couldn’t even remember what the job was or which of the many versions of my CV I might have used, so I had nothing to connect the feedback to. Plus she called without warning and I was getting ready to walk out the door to catch a train, so it was all a bit bizarre.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


      Last place I interviewed with, said “We’ll let you know in a week”, that was two years ago and I never heard back. And honestly I thought it was the standard procedure. Only time I’ve gotten feedback on in-person interviews was when a recruiter had sent me to one, and the employer would then call the recruiter back to tell them not to proceed with me and why not.

      An email would be great. You’re doing god’s work, OP.

      1. TootsNYC*

        a recruiter had sent me to one, and the employer would then call the recruiter back

        Or, the recruiter bugged the employer to get that answer.

    4. amcb13*

      Seriously–in teaching, it’s common for one of the later rounds in hiring to be prepping and teaching a demo lesson, which is a huge investment of time. In 2009, I was finishing a 2-year grad program that started with “omg PLEASE teach in the city, we NEED teachers” and ended with “oops it’s the recession and like 90% of city schools are on a hiring freeze.” In order to get hired I was traipsing to the literal ends of every subway line in four boroughs (during the swine flu) (immediately following my honeymoon which I spent prepping demo lessons) to teach classes…and I didn’t hear from a single school, even after demoing. I would have LOVED rejection emails.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I actually got a rejection letter in the post once! I was shocked, but also kind of flattered.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I remember the last rejection I got in the snail mail. It was a form letter post card(!) several months after I interviewed, long after I had assumed no job. This was in 2001. I ended up hiring on at that company in 2005 and still work here.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      Yes, this. I had a phone interview then an in-person interview and… nothing. Nada. I babbled on one question, yes, but I was not a dumpster fire candidate or anything, so I thought I deserved at least an e-mail.

      (I was thrown off by getting half a dozen rewording variations on what my spare time activities are, all taken from a printed out list of apparently standard questions – and I am not joking with that – so when the more typical interview questions started I was still reeling from trying to figure out what they were up to.)

    7. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “you’re already in the top 1% of companies simply by sending an email.”

      Oh hell no. It depends on what is written in the email.

      I’m a retired senior citizen. I was hired for seven of my previous jobs before there was such a thing as email. I answered an ad that said “Mail us your resume. Do not call us. We will call the people we are interested in.” They called me. They called me for a second interview. They called me for a third interview. Then I received a letter from them saying that they didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t have experience in the field. (1) Their ad didn’t say a thing about their wanting applicants to have experience in the field. (2) My resume didn’t give the impression that I had experience in the field, so why did they call me one time, let alone three times, for an interview? Receiving that letter did not make me happier than if they had never gotten back to me.

      There was another company where I interviewed, and the interviewer told me that he would make his decision on Friday. He called me on Friday to say that I wasn’t getting the job. He said that it was a very difficult decision for him to make, because it came down to one other woman and me, and he really liked the thank you note I had mailed him, but he finally decided to hire the other woman. He said that it was because when he looked at her list of personal references (we had to submit personal and business references), he realized that he knew a man that she had included. That man just raved and raved about the other applicant, and since he knew him, that meant more to him than the personal references I gave him, whom he didn’t know from a hole in the wall. I didn’t know what to say, so I said that she must have written a really nice thank you note, too. He said that she didn’t send him a thank you note. Receiving that phone call did not make me happier than if I had never heard from him, because it’s no fun hearing that you didn’t get a job solely because of something out of your control. And there wasn’t anything that I could say that I learned from the experience. I mean, I really couldn’t say in future interviews, when asked for personal references, “Please give me a list of everyone you know, so in case I know any of them, I can list him/her/them as my reference(s).”

      And there was the time I called in response to an ad and was told to tell the interviewer on the phone what my qualifications were, how long I had been working, etc., and she would call back the applicants she found most appealing to set up an interview. I was never called, but that didn’t prevent the company from mailing me a form letter saying that I didn’t get the job. What irritated me was that in the form letter was the sentence “I really enjoyed meeting you.” She never met me! She sent me the wrong form letter! That did not make me feel better than if I had never heard from them at all. I was tempted to write back and let them know that they sent me the wrong form letter, but I finally decided not to.

      And I have more examples, but again, I don’t see what’s so great about being notified that you’re not getting a job as opposed to hearing absolutely nothing.

      1. Lissa*

        I think this goes to “you are never going to please everybody.” Many many people say they would much rather hear a rejection than hear nothing, so I think your own personal preferences aren’t really reflective of an objective good or badness of the company itself.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          I really don’t know many people enjoy receiving a rejection letter/email/phone call that says in effect, “We knew as soon as we read the resume that you mailed to us that we weren’t going to hire you, but we decided to have you come in for three interviews anyway just for fun.”

          And I don’t know how many people would enjoy hearing, “We were considering hiring you, but we don’t know any of the people you know. Well, maybe we do, but you didn’t tell us that you know them. But this other person did tell us that she knows someone that we know, so that’s why we decided to hire her.”

          And I don’t know how many people enjoy getting a rejection letter/email that says “I really enjoyed meeting you” when they never actually met anyone from the company. Sharkie complained upthread about receiving a rejection from a company that he/she had never applied to. So I’m not alone in not being happy with clueless rejection letters.

          1. Avasarala*

            Alison points out above that nobody enjoys hearing rejection, period.
            I read your examples as
            1) We had another candidate with more experience, so we went with them, sorry.
            2) We had another candidate with references I trust more, so we went with them, sorry.
            3) We consider talking on the phone “meeting”, so we send everyone this softening language in a rejection letter, and we make sure to respond to every unsuccessful candidate to thank them for their time.

            You can take it however you want, but bottom line is they could say all these kind things and give you all the answers you want but ultimately it’s still a “no” and you’re not going to be happy with any amount of details and niceties unless it’s a “yes.”

            1. Just Another Manic Millie*

              “1) We had another candidate with more experience, so we went with them, sorry.”

              But they knew from the very beginning that I didn’t have ANY experience in the field (and their ad didn’t say anything about their wanting experience in the field), so why did they take up my time with three interviews when they knew all along that they wouldn’t hire me?

              “2) We had another candidate with references I trust more, so we went with them, sorry.”

              Since that was so important to them, I wish they had put in their ad the names of people they knew and said that if we didn’t know any of those people, we shouldn’t waste our time applying for the job.

              “3) We consider talking on the phone “meeting”, so we send everyone this softening language in a rejection letter, and we make sure to respond to every unsuccessful candidate to thank them for their time.”

              I don’t consider talking to someone on the phone as meeting him/her. And I bet you don’t either. Avasarala, when you talk to someone on the phone regarding making a reservation or straightening out a problem or making an appointment or finding out what hours a place is open, do you say later on that you met with those people, or that you talked to them on the phone?

              “they could say all these kind things”

              I don’t think that any of those things were kind.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I’m with Millie on the first one; it was ridiculous of them to call her in three times when they obviously knew she didn’t have any experience. Once I could see, if they thought some of her experience was transferable and wanted to talk to her about it. But three times? That’s inefficient and obtuse.

              1. Just Another Manic Millie*

                Yeah! I had no idea that they required experience in the field, and the possibility of my experience being transferable never came up, because they gave me the impression that they thought I was a suitable candidate, which is why they called me.

                I had ten jobs, and all of them were in a different field. Well, three of them had to do with money – working for a stockbroker, working at a company that bought and re-sold discounted Third World debt, and working at a CPA firm. What’s funny is that the company that called me for three completely unnecessary interviews was a financial services firm. Many years after they rejected me, I found out that my cousin’s daughter got her very first job with them. I told my cousin that the company had rejected me because I didn’t have experience in the field, and I asked how her daughter got a job with them when she didn’t have any experience at all. My cousin said that her daughter had been an intern with them. Well, that explained it. When I went to college, there was no such thing as interns.

                It’s been said that people object to a phone call or email or whatever that lets them know that they didn’t get the job because they’re really angry that they didn’t get the job, and they are latching on to the way the news was delivered as the reason that they’re angry. I disagree, because I was ghosted a number of times, and that never bothered me. I can’t even remember the names of the companies or the industries that ghosted me. But I remember the unpleasant letter and phone calls. And I remember the woman who told me on the phone, “We received your thank you note, but you wasted your time sending it to us, because we weren’t going to hire you anyway.”

    8. Sarah Kay*

      I am especially offended by this when I’ve gone through multiple interviews, done assignments, and taken time off to go interview somewhere. If someone goes beyond an initial phone screening, just give them a courtesy of a follow up. And if I’ve come in and made it to a final round, I better not get a generic rejection email. That is so disrespectful. To be honest, when that happens to me, it says a lot about the company- namely that I wouldn’t WANT to work for people who treat potential candidates that way.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t care if it’s boilerplate, just so long as they send it after I’ve taken the time to interview.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Really? I do tend to get the boilerplate rejections at least. Which at least let you close it out on Indeed.
      I don’t expect anything if I didn’t interview, but it’s appreciated to at least get the canned thanks but no thanks note.

        1. selena81*

          I’m sorry you applied with so many shitty companies.
          For me it has been about 50-50 with the ‘generic email’ and ‘crickets’
          (reading these comments i think it might be an industry thing: quit some money going around and usually only a handful of candidates for each vacancy)

    10. Boldly Go*

      Precisely. I don’t even care if it’s a generic email. Just let me know.

      I understand that they’re interviewing
      Others and will choose the best candidate. (I’m doing the same thing- interviewing at multiple places and will choose whatever is best for me). But don’t say things like “we’ll let all our candidates know our decision by x date”. And then crickets.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t care if they respond to an application. It’s nice, but not necessary. I’ve thrown my hat into the ring with a zillion other hats; I don’t expect a response to that. If I haven’t heard anything for two weeks, I color code it purple for “No Reply” on my spreadsheet and move on.

      But it’s RUDE AF not to let people you’ve interviewed know that they weren’t chosen. RUDE RUDE RUDE. Even a generic form email is better than nothing. Also, I’m likely to mark you down as a rude and shitty company and not apply there again and tell everyone you don’t acknowledge interviews.

    12. selena81*

      Yeah, sending *any* response is already nice. Taking the time to add some personal feedback (insofar as appropriate) makes her god.

      There’s also the simple fact that people *want* to lash out after disappointment (i know i do): they may actually prefer email but still go on a tirade about ‘you should have called’ just to vent some anger.

      btw: i’ve seen companies make you select either ‘phone’ or ’email’ in the application-form. If OP’s company makes applications fill out web-forms she might look into that.

  2. voluptuousfire*

    One can always reject by email but offer a call to discuss feedback, if there’s any that you can really give.

  3. Persephone Mulberry*

    DEFINITELY do not send an email on a Friday asking to set up a time for a phone call the following week, and then reject them over the phone. That sucks a LOT.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      YUP. I’m not speaking from recent experience or anything.

      By that point I didn’t want the job that badly, but all signs had previously pointed to them making me an offer, and then they made me call them back (which is a huge pain in the ass when you work in an open office and can’t find a private space to talk) just to get rejected? Grrrr.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I actually didn’t want the job either, but I was unemployed, so I agonized all weekend over whether to accept a job I wasn’t entirely sure I would succed at, or turn it down. /eyeroll/

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I would have been like, “Actually, I was thinking about emailing you. I don’t think your company is a good fit for me.”


        2. selena81*

          sympathetic *cringe*

          As OP notes: millennials don’t call. I just don’t get why my mom (or any other ‘old’ person) would bother picking up the phone and waiting to get a hold of someone when their email is RIGHT THERE (also on your phone mom, just click on that white-and-red envelop).
          For whatever reason some people’s instinct is must-set-up-phone-call and they can’t get their head around the idea that most recipients don’t particularly care about ‘hearing stuff in-person’: modern-day politeness is more about sending an email that acknowledges them as a person (as in: you acknowledge that the job-candidates put in effort and try to give useful feedback)

    2. Wendy Darling*


      That was the time I burst into tears on the phone with the guy while he was trying to give me feedback, mostly because the feedback he gave me was the exact opposite of the feedback I got from a previous rejection. :(

    3. Internet Commentor*

      I HATE that. And it was even worse because the job paid TERRIBLY and I didn’t want it but was desperate (and by terribly I mean terribly for a field well known for paying poorly, the interviewer was excitedly telling me how they were able to INCREASE the pay to 35K…. it required a master’s and years of experience).

      So there I was sick with anxiety expecting to get an offer for a job I didn’t want, couldn’t afford to take, located in an area I HATED, but I was desperate for SOMETHING, only to then have them say ‘thanks but no thanks’. I was relieved (sorta, still desperately needed a job) but I could have done without the 36 hours of sheer panic.

      I’ve also had it the other way too (more than once) where I see the number pop up and I’m just so excited and then….. Nope. Especially in one instance where I hadn’t heard anything so I’d assumed they’d gone with someone else just to have that moment of “OMG YES!” to then come crashing down.

      Like, I appreciate where they were coming from (you took the time to interview so we should treat you with some basic respect) but also, with an email at least I don’t have to pretend to be up beat and cheery and I can just process the rejection alone and move on.

    4. Sharkie*

      This happened to me! Only they offered me another position- then the manager of that position rejected me because it wasnt his idea to hire me- then he was forced to hire me, then fired me 6 months later because he didn’t like my hair or the way my face was arranged. So glad I moved 1,000 miles from home for that

    5. AliV*

      This just happened to me, except that the phone call was to tell me they weren’t filling the position with anyone.

  4. Michelle*

    We used to send people an actual letter and now we email them. They are notified and we aren’t asked for feedback or hear how disappointed they are. I get it. I’ve been disappointed to not get an offer. We had a few people ask for feedback and when you tell them they want to argue, so we no longer do that.

    1. Burned Out Hiring Manager*

      Same here; I stopped giving feedback because 100% of the time they use it to argue. Which, okay now you’re off my list for future openings, too.

      1. Burned Out Hiring Manager*

        I only email a rejection when the person put actual effort into applying. 90% of applicants don’t read the instructions. If they don’t bother, why should I?

        1. BethRA*

          Really? Because that feels like more work then just sending an email to everyone in the “no” bucket.

          1. Quill*

            Just setup a form reply and be like “best of luck, we’ve gone with another candidate!” and let a computer work down the list… and send the reply threads to a digital oubliette

        2. PollyQ*

          Username checks out… but don’t you want to be better than they were? Just set up a mail-merge, or use BCC to send it to everyone at once.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah, I generally don’t give feedback unless there’s already a connection with the candidate (internal candidate, personally recommended by a colleague, etc) so I can feel confident that it’s not going to turn into an argument or persuasion attempt.

      1. Antilles*

        As a clarification, this doesn’t *entirely* prevent such attempts; there’s usually still a bit of push-back…but much less than with external candidates who have nothing to lose by trying hard to talk back.

    3. Kiwiii*

      One time, I emailed to follow up about a position, and received a somewhat curt “I don’t know anything yet/we can’t tell you anything yet” only to find a rejection letter in my mailbox when I got home. THAT was the worst, honestly.

    4. Macedon*

      I’m okay with either, personally, but I get the sense most people prefer e-mail — slight tangent, but when rejecting by phone, just don’t go out of your way to volunteer feedback if you have none to give. I had it happen a few months ago that someone rejected me on the phone, I thanked them for their time and courtesy and was on track to wrap up the call — then they asked if I did not want feedback. Intrigued by the offer (in my experience, companies like to avoid the liability) and wondering if I’d messed up something so badly they felt I should hear it, I said yes.

      They then proceeded to give me the cliche spiel about how I was stellar, but so was the other person, and they edged out just a little bit (but without saying in what way). They had no advice on how to improve my candidacy.

      Left me a bit baffled, but maybe it’s a new rejection trend to make the company seem more helpful. Either way, I’ve normalized the boilerplate “the other person was just that smidge better” by e-mail, but it’s still weird to get by phone.

      1. H Glitter*

        That’s my struggle with offering feedback. What do you say when the reality is just that the interviewer didn’t have enough energy for the position? Do you say, “Sorry! You just seemed too boring to be front-facing with our customers.”

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Weird. I had a date with someone I met online this weekend and he proceeded to email me (both before and after we met! and before I’d even rejected him!) to argue why I should give him a chance. He obviously doesn’t read AAM or he would know better than to do such a thing.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Lol. Indeed. The irony is that I might have agreed to a second date even with the weird messages before we’d met, but then he blew up the app’s chat with all this random nonsense and I was like, “Nope.” The parallels between dating and job searching are truly fascinating.

    6. Tomalak*

      I can’t remember a time when I got feedback and didn’t find it genuinely helpful for my job search. Even arguing back seems reasonable, if you mean something like “When you say I lack relevant experience, isn’t X years of Y relevant?”. Knowing the answer to such questions can be crucial. The alternative is taking on faith objections that you don’t understand and can’t therefore ultimately use in future.

      I appreciate that recruiters aren’t paid to help people they reject, but you’re doing them a big favour if you do. With candidates who get to the final stage, I would be very miffed if I got no feedback at all and would probably assume that such an organisation doesn’t treat its actual staff well either.

  5. Stormy Weather*

    I totally agree that email should be the rule. I made an exception once when there was an intern I wanted to hire but I couldn’t get the budget and she couldn’t take an unpaid position. I felt that warranted a more personal conversation.

    Also, I have to say I am so happy to see someone care enough to let their candidates know that they aren’t being hired. As someone who just finished a long job search, I was left hanging more often than not. I really appreciate seeing that.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Aw shucks. :)

        Working with interns has been one of the most valuable experiences of my career. The kids I was able to work with were so motivated, so smart. I’m even still in touch with a couple.

    1. LegallyBrunette*

      The situation with the internship isn’t really a rejection – you selected her on some level, but circumstances out of your control made the position she was selected for unavailable. Getting in touch personally to explain the circumstances was a good move.

    2. Lil Sebastian*

      I agree with this Stormy Weather. I usually send emails but if it was an internal candidate I’ll give them a call. I keep the message short and let them know they can connect with me if they have any questions or would like feedback. A decent number do ask for feedback and it is usually a productive conversation worth having because they’re still working for our organization, so it makes sense to invest in their growth.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        That makes sense. An internal candidate is someone you may run into later in another position, so reinforcing a cordial relationship is smart.

    3. Allornone*

      The only time I’ve been called was when when it came down to me and one other person for the position. The other person ultimately got it because I didn’t have enough references (I was working mostly retail at the time, and most retail corporations will only allow managers to confirm dates of employment). But the hiring manager had really liked me and felt bad he couldn’t offer the role. While I prefer email, in that instance, I thought it was nice of him to make the more personal connection.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      That still means that email is the rule – and you made an exception for an exceptional situation.

  6. KHB*

    And some people are the type who respond to news they don’t like by lashing out at you, no matter how you happen to deliver it – they don’t like the message, and they think that by attacking the messenger, they can make it go away.

    The “long email” part makes me suspect that this candidate might be one of those people. In which case, there’s nothing else for you to do but feel confident that you made the right decision.

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Exactly. This totally underscores Alison’s point that basing your methods on the reactions of some candidates is a waste of time and emotional space. To people like that, *any* “no” = crap, and *any* method of delivery you use = “flaming paper bag containing said crap.”

    2. Threeve*

      Even if I got rejected with a text that said “you + job = :(” I wouldn’t send a long email ranting about it.

      1. The Tin Man*

        Agreed. I once was really annoyed to get a reply to a reasonably-timed follow-up a couple of weeks after an interview with the wording “unfortunately it looks like the team is going to pass at this point”. I understood that they’d go with someone else as I was on the lower end of the technical skills they were looking for but that informal language really bothered me.

        BUT instead of haranguing the HR person about professionalism I just vented to my loved ones and got over it. Then took a class and am in a better position now than I think I would have been at that job!

    3. Viette*

      Yeah, it sure reads that way. And in light of that: I can’t imagine that a phone call with that particular applicant would’ve gone so hot either.

    1. Tired of*

      Email, please. I’ve been declined for internal positions several times over the past year, and all but one was via phone (I was ghosted on that one). Additionally, due to a new corporate HR directive, the hiring manager is required to give feedback if asked. So I’m being told I’m not getting the job, would you like some feedback about your interview? I have to be polite, attentive, and strategic while dealing with strong negative emotions. Send me an email, dammit!

    2. Shhhh*

      As someone who has had to hold back tears on two rejection phone calls…yes, absolutely. Email is much kinder.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Well I feel like a jerk. I’ve been personally calling final candidates for rejections. I thought that was the best approach – I figured that if the candidate invested their time in our interview process (always at least 2 interviews), the least I could do was a personal phone call. I had no idea that this was something candidates absolutely did not want.

        1. Snoop*

          I understand why. But as SHHH said, I too, have held back tears and tried to get my voice not to break. I was young (22, first job) but it was really difficult to take that call. Especially because they were telling me how great I was and how they wish they could hire me (I had 10 months less experience than the gal they needed up hiring). :(

          1. Hiring Mgr2*

            I added a 2 :)

            Gosh I seriously just feel terrible. All along I thought I was doing “the best” thing. Can I apologize to all candidates that I unknowingly did this to?! Going forward – how about I send a personal email that is direct and clear, but at least is not a form email? Is that better?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That seems like a good compromise. I’ve gotten those and honestly, they were appreciated.
              I even responded to one, saying “Thank you for letting me know; I hope you found the right person.”

            2. selena81*

              We all make honest mistakes: calls used to be considered the polite option.
              I’m glad to see you taking advice of job-seekers instead of going on the defensive.

              A form letter is acceptable (especially early in the process), something more personal is appropriate if the candidate invested significant time

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I think your heart is in the right place, but depending on the candidates you’re working with, it can be absolutely devastating to a) get your hopes up because why would the company be calling!, then b) have to keep it together to get through a multiple minute phone call, and possibly c) find a private place in their current workplace to take the call in the first place. With the new trend toward open offices it can be really challenging to find a space for a private phone conversation at all, so in my opinion phone calls should be reserved for conversations that require back and forth (negotiation, for example) and also scheduled in advance.

  7. roll-bringer*

    email is better in general except in specific situations – for instance, I interviewed for a number of different internships and assistant positions at one large company, and sometimes HR would call me to deliver a rejection. I didn’t mind in that situation because I knew I would probably be in touch with them again about a different job, so I was happy to have any opportunity to stay on their radar and display professionalism, positive attitude, whatever. (And I work for that company now!)

  8. GitGal*

    I was rejected once after nine interviews in a VOICEMAIL. Worst experience ever. I get wanting to call after the time and effort put in, but…by voicemail????

    1. TootsNYC*

      but…that was an attempt at a phone call. They started out with personalized intentions.

      (It’s one of the reasons I don’t like phone calls, because i don’t want to leave a voice mail)

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Yup. (Unless they called at a strange hour assuming Gitgal would not pick up the phone)

    2. Filosofickle*

      But the alternative, once they decided to call you, was leaving the rejection message or asking you to call back. (Or, I guess, hanging up then emailing quickly?) Calling back only to be rejected is worse! The VM was kinder in my mind, as long as the VM was kind. There wasn’t a great solution to this one once you didn’t pick up.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        100% agree with this. I f they left a message to call back, you probably would have assumed they were offering you the position, then you would be doubly disappointed. Although if I called and wasn’t able to reach the person, I’d probably opt to send an email.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      After (gulp) how many interviews?

      Why wasn’t 8 enough? what the heck. I never had more than three, have heard of maybe 4, 5 tops counting the initial phone screen.

    4. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Nine?! You probably dodged a bullet, if an organization can’t decide if they want me or not after two interviews I’m out.

      1. selena81*

        They weren’t hiring to fill a vacancy, they were hiring to keep the hr-department busy.
        I’ve seen that kind of thing in a lot of forms. Such as when a company posted a very specific job year after year, and when i called them out (on always posting the job but rejecting all applicants) it immediately morphed into an almost similar but more generic job

  9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Don’t respond. Don’t engage. This person has bad judgement, they responded with a long winded email about being rejected in a way they don’t like…gurl. No. You’re wasting your time when you try to sooth those kind of ruffled feathers. I appreciate your thoughtfulness but seriously, please just don’t.

    1. Lynca*

      Yeah I 100% wouldn’t respond back to that. It’s pinging my “this person is unreasonable no matter what you say” radar. It’s not the method you sent the rejection in, it’s that you rejected them.

      The fact they waited a week to send it just kind of cements the bad decision here. It wasn’t even done in the heat of the moment. They /thought/about it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That was my thought process as well.

        I have to wonder if they wanted a phone call because they think that gives them room to negotiate with a person. When there’s nothing to talk about…if you have questions, please follow up with the email that’s totally cool usually. Like if you’re soliciting feedback, that’s the time to do it. But to go off on a long winded rant about not getting a call, yikesssss.

    2. Heidi*

      Agreed. I suspect that the applicant is conflating her disappointment over not getting with the job with the whole email vs phone thing. But to stew about it for a week, then respond at length by email (not by phone! after all that!) is not professional. There are people who think that getting bad news by email is cold and impersonal, but I think for the most part, email is preferable to phone.

  10. CT*

    As someone who was recently applying for jobs, I’d like to add that it’s a lot nicer to schedule rejection emails to go out at a proper time during the day if you tend to work late. I still hold a bit of a grudge against the interviewer who sent me a handwritten rejection email at 2 am the night before my graduation (which fair enough, you don’t need to remember the date, even if you asked me for it, but 2 am!?). No one wants to wake up to that as the first thing they see, and no one wants to be kept awake by disappointment.

    1. KHB*

      This may be one of those things where there’s no pleasing everyone, like Alison said. For me, if I had to choose, I think I’d slightly prefer to get bad news first thing in the morning, when I could take some time to digest it before going out to face the day, than in the middle of the day, when I might be at work or in class or about to walk into an important meeting or exam. But that’s just me, and I wouldn’t expect employers to be walking on eggshells trying to guess and accommodate that preference.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        +1000 I would prefer to get the news early in the morning. I also know someone who got really upset that a rejection e-mail arrived at 3:00 PM her time (12 PM the potential employer’s time) because she said they probably wanted to “rattle her” for the rest of the day until she went home. And it’s like…what? I really doubt any employer is putting so much thought into these rejection e-mails as to have them arrive at any particular hour most of the time, let alone trying to use them as an underhanded plot. People forget that they’re only the center of their own universes.

        1. Allonge*

          Wow. I mean, sure, everyone have your preferences, but if you (general you) have strong ones, then 1. create a specific email address for the job-search and 2. only check it at the preferred time. Reason 209917874 why email is better for rejections: people read it when they want to.

        2. CT*

          Wow, that’s mad! I do feel like that’s a bit of a false equivalence – I was talking about 2am! In a country with a single time zone.

      2. CT*

        Yeah I 100% get it, and if I’d got it at 8-9am I wouldn’t really remark at all I guess. But when my phone goes in the middle of the night, I assume it’s something important, so I got the wave of dissappointment at 2am on a night where I really needed to wake up refreshed. Which I get is a me problem haha, and I appreciate that I was told rather than being left in the dark. But I also don’t think expecting professional emails to appear at reasonable waking hours (unless the plant is broken down overnight or something) is expecting employers to walk on eggshells here.

        Also, I’m UK, so potential employers for me weren’t having to manouevre around time zones etc.

        1. selena81*

          I’d assume that was not caused by someone working late but by batch-emails being send at a certain time.
          And i don’t get why you’d even want to set your phone to notify you when email arrives, at night no lest.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          OH. Ok. I was thinking, like, someone wrote a letter by hand and then scanned it or something, and that just sounded so very out there that I was baffled.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I love that feature of my ATS. We were getting applicants that were flat-out unqualified and I would set it to send the rejection after 2 days. The time varied though – it was usually exactly 48 hours after I reviewed their application, but that was only ever during business hours.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “I still hold a bit of a grudge against the interviewer who sent me a handwritten rejection email at 2 am the night before my graduation”

      A grudge? Wow.

      1. CT*

        Only in the sense that it occasionally crosses my mind when I pass a building associated with the company and tut. I’m not Liam Neesoning anyone here!

  11. Cat*

    We have an ongoing conversation about this with summer associates we choose not to hire. They’ve worked at the firm for usually 8 weeks in the summer, not more. Personally, were it me, I’d still prefer to get the rejection via email with a personal note from the hiring partner and an offer to talk on the phone if they want to discuss why. But our hiring partner feels very strongly he owes them a phone call. I have always wondered if it’s a generational difference.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I am not up on how common it is not to get an offer after being a summer associate. I know it varies by firm, too. But if fewer than half don’t get offers, if the majority do, the minority needs an explanation somewhere. If nothing else, Career Services at my law school would want to know what happened to help spin it in future interviews. Sometimes Career Services will talk to the partner themselves.

      1. Cat*

        We’re a small public interest-side firm so it’s very different than not getting an offer a big firm (which we are up front about in the hiring process.). Last year we gave offers to 1 of 3; the other two didn’t do anything wrong though.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I might actually agree with him, if they’ve already spend 8 weeks working with you.

      It’s a bit like rejecting an internal candidate–you owe them more of your time and attention.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, I think so.

        When I was working as a temp, one Friday I got a phone call at my desk from the temp agency wanting to talk about setting up some interviews or placements for the following week. Yes, my boss had contacted the agency to let me go, without once mentioning it to me mere feet away. Awkward. I think it’s kind/honest/courteous when you’ve actually built up a professional relationship with them to give them at least a short real-time conversation about why you aren’t keeping them, or promoting them, or whatever.

        (it worked out fine in the end because the very next interview got me into a temp-to-perm placement which went permanent and here I am much further along the same flight path sixteen years later)

      1. Cat*

        Hah well part of my issue is that it really stresses it out and the rest of us have to talk them through with him and do miniature role plays. He’s a good guy who takes it very seriously though.

        1. Forsyth County*

          Maybe show him this thread and how many people would rather get an email – and why it’s so much better to most recipients?

    3. miss_chevious*

      When I was a summer, we got the information in a private meeting with our advisor, which I thought was very humane. But I got good news. I’m not sure I would have loved sitting in that meeting if I’d gotten bad news.

  12. Professional Straphanger*

    Email is better.
    I once applied for an in-house position. Didn’t get it, but the manager who made the decision called me when I was on vacation and after she said “we decided to choose someone else” she went on and on about how the committee appreciated the depth and breadth of experience all the different applicants represented and brought to the table, it was a hard decision, blah blah blah.
    All I needed to know was “not you.” Everything else was just bloviating that I think she was doing to make herself feel better, and on top of that I was on vacation so I didn’t want to stand around listening to a justification.

  13. The b**** in the corner of the poster*

    Email is definitely the best. Give me time to process without having to hide my feelings.

  14. Leela*

    OP I’d avoid the phone!

    Already with e-mail, people breaking the news that someone didn’t get hired get angry responses, protests, desperate begging to be considered again and that we made a mistake. You don’t want to find yourself in that conversation with a phone call where you probably wouldn’t hang up as readily as you would just close an e-mail once you realize it’s going to be along these lines, and then you’re stuck on a painful, pointless phone call that really gets the rejected candidate nothing except the chance to blow off steam at you.

  15. TootsNYC*

    If your email had the level of detail and kindness that was appropriate to the candidate’s investment (if no interview, you don’t have to go into much detail; just let them know, but if the candidate interviewed, you should have a little more time investment), then I would take this particular person’s response as being more a reflection of their disappointment in not being selected.

  16. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Alison – does your advice change at all if there has been a great deal of in-person contact between the candidate and the interviewer?

  17. Liz*

    I vote email every time. Job hunting can be an emotional process. Let me keep my dignity.

    The last time I had a phone rejection it was after a telephone interview. I was bedridden with flu at the time and probably didn’t perform at my best. They rejected me over a misunderstanding involving some sort of HR jargon and I practically broke down in tears trying to explain to them, and then had to end the call so I could throw up. I had been job hunting for 3 years, unemployed for 1. It was only my second interview in that time because this was at the worst point of the recession, and it was all too much. Nobody on either end of that phone call really needed to be dealing with that situation in real time. It’s safer to send an email. If somebody decides to send you a lengthy angry/miserable reply, at least you can just delete it.

  18. Jellyfish*

    During my last job search, I’d gotten through the final interview stage with two different organizations at virtually the same time. Based on the window both had given me, I was supposed to hear from each by the same day.

    The one I especially wanted emailed me, asking to schedule a call. I figured this was likely good news because they would just call if it was a rejection… right? I responded to the email and set up the phone call. That half hour stretch waiting for the established call time was more nerve wracking than the whole interview process! (Spoiler: I got the job)

    The other called a couple days later when I wasn’t able to answer. I rightly assumed that it was a rejection, and I’d already accepted the other job anyway. When they got my voicemail, they emailed to inform me they chose someone else. Still, it was a bit disappointing to not be wanted, and I was glad I didn’t answer the phone. It was easier to give a graceful response via email even with my ideal circumstances.

    All that to say – no one likes bad news in any form, but at least in my opinion, phone calls are far more nerve wracking when it comes to job searches.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Had a similar experience. I missed a phone-call at work from a number in the city where I was job searching, with a message from the head of hiring at a pretty competitive place asking me to please call them back as soon as possible about a pretty competitive job. I grabbed my cellphone and stepped out on my mid-afternoon break, walking down the block to a park, and called. “I just wanted you to know,” this person said in quite a kindly voice, “that there were many strong candidates and we have decided not to interview you.” I had to scramble to respond quickly and tell them it was all right. I got nothing done for the rest of the afternoon.

  19. Jaded Millenial*

    My last rejection came by postal mail, and they addressed it to Mr. John Millennial instead of Ms. Joan Millennial. Harrumph.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Wait, is John your husband and they decided you were part of his legal personhood, or did they just completely get the wrong name?

      1. selena81*

        They must have assumed she/he was going through a sex-change: that’s what kids do for fun these days, right?

  20. DirectorOfSomething*

    I literally just got a phone call last week to let me know that I didn’t get the job. This after we played phone tag a few times. What a bummer. I really wish they would have emailed.

  21. Anonya*

    Email is fine 90% of the time. But if you have a strong internal candidate, a phone call can go a long way toward keeping the relationship on good terms. I’ve been a finalist twice for high-level internal positions that I ultimately didn’t get. In both cases, the person selected had some external cache that I really couldn’t overcome/compete with. Finding out via email would’ve felt very harsh, TBH. The phone call at least affirmed that they valued my expertise and that I was a viable candidate, right up until the very end.

  22. Senor Montoya*

    When I was a lot younger and there was no such thing as email, I was not able to keep from crying when I got a phone rejection. Especially when the hiring officer said, We were sure you’d have a lot of other offers. Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, but no, I didn’t have a lot of other offers.

    1. irene adler.*

      I always wonder how such a sentiment is supposed to make the rejection easier to take. Especially when it isn’t accurate.

      1. selena81*

        i wonder if it’s at all sincere (they really thought you were good, just not good enough) or if they just want to feel better about themselves for throwing you back onto the streets

  23. Information Goddess*

    I once got a rejection phone call and 25 years later it is the weirdest thing that’s happened to me with regards to rejections. They called and I got excited only to be told that they went with someone else, BUT they told the preferred candidate’s boss that he should hire me to replace her.
    FTR: they didn’t even post her job.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s a twist I didn’t see coming!

      I’m kind of bummed out that they didn’t hire you for her replacement though, that would be a weird “another person’s gumption got me a job” story, lol.

  24. Maika*

    I recently received a rejection over email. It was gracious and I replied by thanking them for considering me and if they had any feedback on my application, I would be very happy to receive that. They responded that they would be happy to give feedback in-person or via email. I had never been offered that option and so I went with the in-person option and it was really wonderful. It was a really nice way to close the loop on the process.

  25. MayLou*

    Interesting, I wonder whether this is a geographical thing. I think I’ve always received a rejection by phone call after interviews, with one notable exception where they posted a letter. I probably have had email rejections before interviews. I’d be surprised by not getting a phone call after interviewing.

  26. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    I received an email rejection in the fall from a position that I desperately, desperately wanted. Optimal organization, great position for me, opportunities for growth. It was still so much better than if the hiring manger had called, because I undoubtedly would have burst into tears on the phone when she delivered the news, which would have been doubly embarrassing.

  27. HailRobonia*

    Back when I administered academic job searches, our timing was such that we would send out the rejection emails mid-February, often on or near Valentine’s day. I joked that we should send cards “Roses are red, violets are blue, we’re going to hire someone… but that someone’s not you.”

    Honestly though, we only got good feedback from sending out rejection emails – people were used to not hearing at all from universities regarding the status of their applications.

  28. Zona the Great*

    I got a call once where the woman went on and on with no end about why I wasn’t hired. I finally said, “Jane, I got it. Thanks for your time.” I do know she was brand new to HR and to the working world so I hope she learned to be succinct or to just email.

  29. Allonge*

    I think that generally, when someone is rejected, we mostly tend to react in a way that is essentially ‘well, you s*ck too! So there!’

    In that moment, it is very easy to seize on a small detail of the rejection. It came via email. Was a phonecall. In the morning. In the afternoon. Template. Customised. Was signed by the CEO. Delivered by an intern. Not even signed. Sent too soon. Sent too late. Et cetera, ad infinitum, as Alison says.

    NONE of this is really the problem. The problem is that you did not hire them. Has anyone complained that they got a we selected you call early in the morning? Probably not a whole lot of people.

    OP, it is so kind that you take the time to 1. share information 2. provide feedback at all. Go and do it in a way that makes sense to you and your business – email is kinder in many ways. Pat yourself on the back for not hiring someone who wrote you a long complaint for not calling them.

    1. Tyche*

      You are right, it’s very easy to focus on one detail than on the fact we were rejected.

      And I think that because we tend to react in a ‘well, you s*ck too! So there!’ way, emails are better. I’ve received many rejections by email and I thought they were stupid to not offer me the job and they didn’t know better, and I should say something to make them understand and “sh*t” and they should go to hell and and…
      The “best” with email is that you can go to the bathroom, drink a glass of water, go around the neighborhood and then you are enough calm and collected to thank them for their time etc.

  30. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    It may be a good idea to say something at the beginning of the hiring process, such as, “Just so you are aware, we communicate with all applicants via email,” or some such. It’s a bit like really huge employers who put a notice at the end of the job lists that “due to the high volume of applications, we are often not able to respond to all applicants.” For me, seeing that notice means it’s okay that I haven’t hear back from them for eleven years — they TOLD me I wouldn’t.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      In a recent job search, one of the companies asked in their online application portal preferred method of communication with a note that ALL hiring related communication would be delivered in that format. And it was – I chose email because my current employer did not have any good places to take a private phone call in the building – initial contact was an email, scheduling all the interviews was over email, and they even emailed me asking me to call HR/recruiting at my convenience post-interview to discuss next steps. They never once called me during the entire hiring process. Yes…I work there now.

  31. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    Email but personalized – esp if they were a final round candidate. (Though I would still take a phone call over being ghosted, which happens more often than you would expect.)

    1. BTL*

      This. I once got to the final round of a long interview process and got a one-line, impersonal rejection e-mail – pointed out on the feedback call (where I was told it was a tough decision) that this wasn’t really acceptable given the time investment.

      Ironically, just started a new job before Christmas and the person who sent that e-mail started in the same team the next day – don’t think they remember that bit of the process, though!

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      How do you know if you’re in the final round? What I mean is that I went on a number of third interviews at different times in my past, and people would encourage me, saying that meant that I had a good chance of getting the job. I always said that it depended on how many people were called back for third interviews. One time, I was called for a fourth interview, but I said that I had already accepted a new job. I have no idea if four interviews would have sufficed for them, or if there would have been fifth, sixth, or even more interviews.

  32. Bend & Snap*

    I got a rejection text at 7:30pm on a Wednesday from a recruiter who had previously only used email. That sucked.

  33. AnonGoodNurse*

    I worked in a mid-size city in a close knit industry. It’s a pretty big industry nationally, but it’s really small in my town. If a job opens up, I can probably tell you the 15 top candidates and I know most of them directly if not in passing.
    A job opened up and the recruiter (from the East Coast, nor our town) reached out to me on LinkedIn. I had 4 interviews over an 8 week period, including a six hour in person interview. Received glowing feedback and was told they’d be in touch within two weeks regarding next steps. Three weeks went by and I reached out to the recruiter to see if there was an update. He told me two more weeks.
    A month went by and I heard a former colleague had given her notice and accepted the job I was waiting to hear about. (Not surprised, she and I competed for the job I currently have … she’s great and again, small town…) I wait a week and reach out to the recruiter. I have government ethics requirements so I either had to proactively withdraw or have them tell me I wasn’t under consideration any longer. If not, then I was going to have to disclose my candidacy to my agency which I didn’t want to do. I explained this in my email to the recruiter. He responded that he had just heard that the firm was going in another direction, that he was on vacation but wanted to talk to me to give me more detail. I told him no need for a call, that I just needed to close the loop.
    Given the amount of time invested in it, I can understand why he wanted to talk to me on the phone. I might have even taken the call if a) I hadn’t already invested so much time; and b) he hadn’t tried to BS me about “just having heard” when my friend had already accepted the job at least a week earlier. (He was an internal recruiter, so he really ought to have known.)
    TLDR; make sure your candidate doesn’t hear from somewhere else.

  34. Quickbeam*

    I was once a near ideal candidate for a government job. I had 2 licenses in widely differing fields that intersect almost never, except for this job. I went through 4 rounds of interviews and an extensive writing sample.

    I never thought I had it in the bag but I got a really amazing rejection letter indicating that they had been forced to give the job to a candidate who already worked there and was taking a volitional demotion to secure the job. They actually apologized and said if they could have hired me, they would have.

    It meant a lot to me. I got a job elsewhere but I never forgot that kindness.

  35. Burned out lawyer*

    I actually just got a rejection via email today. I thought it threaded the needle nicely – they told me that others had a more direct skill set alignment to the role, which is completely unsurprising to me as I’d applied outside of my usual industry. I replied thanking the recruiter for letting me know. I would have not wanted to have an awkward phone call with someone about this!

  36. Jennifer*

    Email. Please email. This candidate was a one-off. I think the message she sent to the OP was a bit rude also.

    I got a job rejection call once and I do appreciate how kind the person was. She knew I really wanted the job and it was down to me and one other person. But I would have rather gotten an email. I was so disappointed and was trying to maintain a professional tone through the whole call which was very difficult.

  37. TheMonkey*

    My last rejection was via phone…which I appreciated in this case as I’d had a significant amount of contact with the Hiring Manager and it was for a pretty high level position.

    What I did not appreciate was the post-rejection 10 minute elaborate gushing on how awesome the person they did hire was/is and how excited they were about getting said person on board.


    1. Mellow*

      Same thing happened to me a few years ago. Being unemployed and very desperate at the time, it was all I could do to not scream into the phone “WTF is wrong with you?? Do you seriously expect me to congratulate you?”

  38. Allison*

    Email is absolutely fine! Really, it doesn’t have to be more complicated than thanking them for taking the time to interview, assuring them their skillset has value, but that you’ve decided to pursue other candidates. My current company is implementing the practice of adding “if you would like feedback, please reach out to so-and-so” in the rejection emails, so people get feedback on why they were rejected, but only if they want it, and they get it verbally rather than writing which protects the company a little bit.

    I will say, I remember the hiring managers who take the time to let me know why they weren’t going forward. I remember the hiring manager who told me they decided that one “optional” skill is actually going to be a requirement. I remember the manager who told me they wanted someone with experience in their particular industry, and knew the vertical a little better. I remember the guy who scheduled a call with me to update me on the process, and let me know they were probably going in another direction because reasons (I would have still liked a more official rejection when the decision was actually made, but it’s cool). I also remember the hiring managers who ghosted me, and the half-assed rejection template where information wasn’t auto-populated properly. I guess what I’m trying to say is, rejection never feels good, but candidates will remember who treats them like real people, and who doesn’t.

    1. Katniss Evergreen*

      “I guess what I’m trying to say is, rejection never feels good, but candidates will remember who treats them like real people, and who doesn’t.”

      This. It is always a “darn… whelp, time to move on!” when I get a real rejection email that was seemingly sent by a human being (or at least from an ATS programmed by someone with heart). I’m only ever pissed about crappy form rejection emails, form rejections after I’ve spent some significant time and effort, or actual ghosting after I’ve met with people for a position multiple times. Once had people I’d spent hours interviewing with pass by me in the hallway separately and actually ignore me when I said hello – that one stung.

  39. Dankar*

    Oh, I don’t know… I received a rejection voicemail a few months ago. I thought they were calling to offer me the job, so I didn’t take the call, as it was during work hours. Imagine my surprise when I went to my car to listen to the message!

    To top it off, the woman who called had repeatedly told me I was a top candidate, we really want you to apply, etc. etc. and she sounded SO upset in the message.

    1. BethRA*

      imo, that’s another good reason to stick to email. I’ve had more than a few situations where I really liked candidates but wound up hiring someone else that we liked better. I would hate to come across as disappointed or upset to a rejected candidate and put them in the odd position of being made to feel like I”m the one deserving sympathy.

  40. Flora*

    Well, can you also just set an expectation in the interview?

    “We are talking to at least six people, so we won’t come to a decision for at least two weeks. When we do, we will call the successful candidate and let others know by email. If for some reason the process takes longer than three weeks we will email everyone with an updated timeline.”

    Something like that. Then they know what to expect and so they’re not surprised.

    1. ACDC*

      Maybe in a perfect world, but I’ve been in plenty of interviews where they say they will call within 2 weeks no matter the decision. That so far has resulted in being ghosted every time.

      1. Flora*

        Oh sure, you have to set an expectation of what you will actually DO, but I feel like that’s basically a critical feature of managering anyway.

    2. OP*

      I had communicated with all of the candidates via email the entire process. I only left her a voicemail once, after sending an email, to confirm a time change for an interview, because I knew she was in a position that didn’t allow her to check her personal email account during work hours. So that’s why it was extra surprising that she expected a phone call for the rejection!

    3. selena81*

      i’d appreciate the ‘x number of candidates’: of course it’s still a binary decision, but at least i know i can be a bit more hopeful when there are just 1 or 2 other guys left than when i am among 30 others.

  41. James*

    I was taught to always get it in writing–meaning that if someone is having a conversation for which a paper trail is necessary/legally mandatory/useful, you do it via email. A useful SOP, as when someone refuses to email you about something you know that things aren’t entirely above-board! I would think that rejections fall under this heuristic. You have a document that states “This candidate was rejected on this day”, and they have a document firmly stating that they are out of the running.

    Honestly, I’d view someone who objects to this as fairly out of touch. So much business is done via email these days that objecting to using it for this sort of communication seems odd.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s not “below board” to not hire someone. It’s also not personal. People are not hired All TheTime.

      1. James*

        Agreed that not hiring someone isn’t sketchy. Apparently I wasn’t clear.

        Handling official communications via email is a useful general policy, for a variety of reasons. Rejecting someone for a job is an official communication. Ergo, email should (outside special circumstances, obviously) be the preferred way to communicate it.

        The “not entirely above-board” thing was an example of why a general policy of handling communication in writing is useful beyond this immediate application. I work in a construction-related field; I’ve been asked to do sketchy things, or allow sketchy things to be done. Ask for it in writing and you can get a sense of who’s trying to do something they shouldn’t.

    2. selena81*

      sometimes people need proof of rejection for their unemployment benefits: this really sucks if you need to hunt down hr-managers who ghosted you to give you an official rejection

  42. Jonathan*

    I am an internal recruiter for a software company and I follow a couple of guidelines when rejecting candidates. Keep in mind, none of what I do is mandated by the company, but for me, it has worked for over a decade.
    1. If a candidate is rejected in the application process or in the first round of interviews, I send them a form letter letting them know.
    2. If we get to the onsite interview and they don’t get the job, I call them and thank them for their time and let them know that we are passing on their candidacy. I don’t get bogged down into details and I encourage them to re-apply later especially if it was a close decision.

    1. Mellow*

      You call?

      Apparently, you’ve missed the dozens of anecdotes here that express sheer anguish over getting phone calls rejections.

  43. johanna*

    I prefer the e-mails, it’s easier to hide your disappointment. But I’ve been ghosted by recruiters twice lately so I don’t know what to expect anymore.

  44. Chronic Overthinker*

    For me it depends. If it was just a standard interview, then an email is fine. If I’ve had multiple interviews and follow-ups, a phone call would be more appropriate as you’ve invested more time into the potential employee and the call can provide more feedback as to why the candidate was not chosen. Any contact is appreciated, honestly. Prior to my current position I was unemployed and was ghosted so many times it felt like my resume was just sent out into the ether. It felt like it never actually arrived at the desired destination.

  45. Not always right*

    A few years ago, I went on a job interview at a branch office. HR was in another city but in the same time zone. My appointment was at 4:00. I arrived 10 minutes before, and was called back at exactly 4:00.
    While waiting for my interview, I turned off my phone. I interviewed and realized that I had zero desire to work there. That place reeked toxic vibes, and the lady (?) who interviewed me scared the h$ll out of me. Can you say narcissist?

    Anyway, after the interview, I turned my phone back on only to see a voicemail from HR. I listened to it. The time received was 4:25. The message was that my interviewer was looking for me, and where was I? I called back, and of course got HR’s voice mail as it was after working hours. I told them that at the time they called me I was actually being interviewed, and even though I had done nothing wrong, I did apologize for any misunderstanding.

    The next day, HR called to offer me the job. The first words out of her mouth was congratulations and then a very wordy explanation as to why I they thought I would be such a great addition to their company, etc. When she finally took a breath, I politely thanked her and told her that I was turning down the offer, but I wished them the best, blah, blah, blah. Not even 5 minutes later, I received a rejection email thanking me for my interest (HA!) but that they were going to go with another candidate with more experience and other BS stuff. I just laughed for about 5 minutes and gave thanks to God that I dodged that bullet!

    1. 1234*

      I’ve gotten a rejection email from a job where I declined to move onto the next interviewing stage. I just laughed because it didn’t seem like a mass email (small non-profit with no ATS software, I applied on Craigslist)

    2. J Kate*

      I know the form email we use when rejecting an applicant says this stuff. And we use the reject code when an applicant withdraws. You’re supposed to tell it not to send an email in that case but I can see how a new user might not know how to do that.

  46. Dorothy Zbornak*

    I once interviewed to join a new internal team at work (not a job, more like a committee) and got a call afterwards from a colleague who was talking around the subject for several minutes – we had a lot of great candidates among our colleagues, blah blah blah – and it totally sounded like I was getting rejected. But then it turns out I got on the committee? It was like whiplash, so confusing. Way to bury the lede. They should have practiced that speech more.

  47. Fall of the House of Gushers*

    One time, after flying all the way across the country to for a full-day interview at an organization, they ghosted me for four months, then, finally, sent me three different form rejection emails in the space of an hour.


  48. Holly*

    While no one likes a rejection e-mail, nothing made my heart sink like seeing a phone call from the contact person for an internal position, and then having to maintain composure while she told me I *didn’t* get the position. It would have changed things for me if it was like “you were actually one of our top candidates but we decided to go a different way this time, so please try again when there’s an opening!” but this was a position I didn’t even get an interview for!

  49. Another Librarian*

    If you do decide to call, please don’t be eating your lunch while you do it.
    I got a rejection call a few years ago. The woman expressed surprise that I answered, told me she was eating her lunch…and kept eating as we talked.
    It made me feel like garbage.

    1. Katniss Evergreen*

      Ugh why the… sorry that happened to you. They should have just put their garbage rejection in an email.

      1. Another Librarian*

        I’m guessing she assumed she had time to swallow before getting to the voicemail, but why she KEPT EATING while talking to me is a mystery I will never unravel.

  50. De Minimis*

    Please e-mail. My most awkward rejection ever was over the phone, and it was uncomfortable both for me and for the person calling me. My wife overheard it and said it sounded like some kind of bad breakup!

    I’ve had a few other phone rejections that weren’t nearly as awkward, but e-mail is still most preferred for me.

  51. Lime Lehmer*

    I would not call with a rejection.
    But an email is always appreciated. Personally I hate getting ghosted.

    I have used Indeed for hiring and it was simple to send a kind rejection letter, and while it does take a little time, it was not much.
    About 5% of the time I would get a plaintive or snarky email.
    Sometimes I got a why, mainly I got thanks.

  52. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    As Alison said, you’re never going to please everyone. IMO, the best is an email that provides some sort of feedback (if there is any worth mentioning), but even a form rejection letter is better than being ghosted, which happens way too often.

  53. 1234*

    At this point in my life, I’m used to being ghosted after interviewing, sent a form rejection email from an ATS software, sent a form rejection letter from an actual person, and very rarely a personalized one.

    The personalized one was very nice, something along the lines with “Dear 1234, I enjoyed our conversation and as you may recall, we had over 600 applicants for the llama grooming role. We met with 6 candidates, and you were one of them. Ultimately, it was a hard decision but we decided to go with someone else. We wish you all the best in your search.”

    I’ve never once responded to any of these letters. Don’t see the point. As someone else said, all I needed to know was “Not you. Now move on.” *shrug*

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      How do you know that it was personalized? How do you know that they did not have a form letter in which they inserted the following:

      1) the name of the addressee

      2) a very large number for the number of applicants for the job

      3) the name of the job

      4) a very small number of candidates

      That’s what a number of companies that I worked for did.

      1. Amy Sly*

        It’s “personalized” in the sense that they did insert information about the actual job search, instead of going even more generic with “We get many applicants for every position” kind of stuff.

  54. 867-5309*

    We’ve created what I think is a good email template for rejecting candidates after they’ve had in-person interviews. It remains vague on feedback, reinforces our appreciation for their time, says one genuine thing we liked about their background and offers to jump on the phone if they’d like, that way they can ask questions but we aren’t stuck in an email cycle with someone who pushes back on feedback or our decision.

  55. Radiant Peach*

    Rejection is always disappointing but please for the love of god just send rejections so they can let go. I will never understand the logic of the companies that have spent hundreds to fly me to their campus for a 6+ hour interview (in a field that rarely provides travel/accommodations for candidates) and meet with more than a dozen people from multiple departments, just to ghost me!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly this is usually just a massive oversight. They breeze past the whole “tying up loose ends” after they make their final selection.

      I have a couple times where I’ve unintentionally ghosted candidates [I feel awful about it and it’s another reason why I’m extra diligent about not doing that again.]

      You hold off on rejection letters while someone is thinking over the offer. They take a few days and then you get swept up in thinking “Finally, that’s over and now for onboarding this new staff member.” Only you didn’t actually complete the process. Since so often people don’t follow up with you [rightfully so!].

      The second time this happened, I only realized because someone did follow up. Making me feel like a total jerkbag. I had to do the half-assed “I’m sorry, yeah we filled that position.” response and then hate myself some more for the whole forgotten step. Searing it into my mind because of my own morals and principals that say to treat everyone’s time with the utmost respect, so I don’t ever mean to leave someone hanging like that.

      OR they could be awful and not care but I’m sure I’m not the only person out there that’s simply forgotten that step =( Since it’s kind of “over” in our heads and the rest is just “cleanup” work, which sucks for the people who are very much not aware it’s over =(

  56. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

    Well I sure hope this isn’t a sign from the universe. I’ve been in a long hiring/interview process with a company I’d love to work for – I’ve had 3 interviews and completed tasks in between rounds 2 and 3. Friday I got an email saying they would be in touch by phone for their final decision sometime this week and now I am tying myself in knots with anxiety because if they reject me over the phone I have to react gracefully.

    All of which to say, please reject candidates via email, anticipating a possible rejection via phone is unbelievably stressful.

    1. 1234*

      That could also mean “If you get the job, we will call you. Otherwise, don’t expect to hear back.” I don’t see that as “we’ll call you to reject you as well.”

      I hope you get the job :)

  57. L*

    Imagine getting so mad you get a rejection e-mail instead of a phone call you basically write an essay when 90% of job rejections are done by ghosting anyway.

    (Not as much after a “lengthy interview process” but.)

  58. jen hen*

    Email, email, email!

    I have only received one rejection phone call, and it was awful. I’d interviewed for a job I had a lot of interest in, and really felt that I knocked it out of the park. About a week later, I see their number pop up on my caller ID. Excited, I assumed it was either a request for a second interview or a job offer. Nope, it was a rejection. A really nice rejection, but I still had to sit there and be polite and act like I wasn’t crying while they detailed all the reasons I would have been great, but they had decided to go with someone else who had a bit more experience.

  59. Art3mis*

    I’m going to join the chorus of email over phone. I once got three phone calls from the same person telling me I didn’t get the job. Each one was more awkward than the first. How do you say “Yeah you told me already” I didn’t want to burn any bridges so I just said OK thank you for letting me know each time. I guess she didn’t realize she’d already called me, an email could have been in her sent folder to confirm. That or she REALLY wanted me to know that they were most definitely not interested.

  60. The New Spider Boss*

    Thank you for emailing… I got a rejection call in an airport lounge and was so upset that I promptly burst into tears and then threw up. It was beyond embarrassing. An email would have been much easier to take.

  61. Quill*

    The practical considerations of delivering a reply in a text based form are that it doesn’t require a person to find a quiet place (to call, listen to voicemail) is accessible at any time of day regardless of your candidate’s schedule, and it’s far more considerate for hard of hearing or deaf candidates, while still not excluding blind candidates (assuming your company emails aren’t formatted so atrociously that a screen text to voice reader cannot parse them.)

  62. Marvel*

    I had an interview a few weeks ago with a guy who told me he always calls to let people know they didn’t get it. I think I said something like, “well that’s nice of you,” but I wish I hadn’t because I was privately thinking “oh nooo, don’t do that.” Not sure how I could have reacted in the moment without coming off as weirdly argumentative, though.

    It turned out to be a bit of a moot point in any case though, because I never got a call, and they were trying to hire by the end of the week. It became clear about halfway into the interview that, though I was highly qualified, it wasn’t the right fit for my career goals, so I’m reasonably certain that I didn’t get it. But I’m still all paranoid that one of these days I’m gonna have to deal with an awkward phone conversation about not getting a job I wouldn’t have accepted anyway… hopefully I just fell off their radar entirely.

  63. Ana Gram*

    I *always* do rejections by email. I would absolutely hate to hear that I didn’t get a job I really wanted over the phone and people can always call if they want to have a conversation. Few people do, actually.

  64. writerbecc*

    I went through 3 rounds of interviews for a position I was really qualified for, and then nothing for 2 months. I finally emailed after the New Year and asked for an update and was told “Oh, that position was filled…HR should have told you” only they didn’t.

    I don’t know whether it would be worth it to leave a Glassdoor review, though.

    1. OP*

      That was my experience the last time I interviewed before taking my current job. I was a final candidate (of three) and really wanted the job. I knew the department director personally, so I shot her a quick email along the lines of “any updates?” She called me immediately and said “OMG HR DIDN’T CALL YOU?! They were supposed to call you!!!” and then told me that the ultimately offered it to an internal candidate with no experience because I surprised them and they thought I’d get bored.

      So yeah, email it is!

  65. short'n'stout*

    Some years ago, I was rejected by being called in to meet with the hiring manager. As in, we interviewed, and later she contacted me to set up another meeting without saying what it was about. Thinking it was a follow-up interview I dressed up and went to the meeting, where she told me they wouldn’t be offering me the position. It was an internal appointment and she knew me slightly, so maybe she thought she was being nice.

    The same hiring manager recently interviewed me for another role, and tried to reject me by phone. I missed the calls, so she emailed (apologizing for doing so). I much preferred being rejected by email.

  66. Elizabeth Proctor*

    Email for sure. My husband once got a voicemail to “call so-and-so back to discuss your XYZ offer.” There was no offer, it was a rejection. Definitely do not do that.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      This happened to my spouse as well. It was devastating and awkward. Don’t call, no matter what good intentions you have. Just send an email rejection. If you want to be extra considerate, send a custom email instead of a form email, but don’t call to reject.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        I still don’t know how an applicant could distinguish a custom email from a form email. I remember reading on another website that people said that their companies sent out form emails that looked like custom emails to all of the applicants they didn’t hire, telling them that it was such a difficult decision to hire someone else, and they were really sorry, and they would keep their resume on file in case another position turned up. They said that this letter was sent to everyone, even those people they wouldn’t hire even if someone held a gun to their head.

        At one job, there were two finalists for an open position. The office manager told me that she decided on one of them, and she said that she was going to send a rejection letter to the other one. I begged her not to send the letter. I told her that I just hated receiving rejection letters and phone calls, and I much preferred being left in the dark. She sent the letter anyway. And a few days later, she complained to me that the woman she had hired had called her back to let her know that she was going to stay at her present company. I reminded her that I had begged her not to mail the letter to the other woman. So she called the other woman and said, “I know that we rejected you, but the woman we really wanted decided not to work her, so would you like to work for us?” The other woman said no, because she didn’t want to be someone’s second choice. I didn’t blame her one bit.

        I might have been someone’s second choice any of the times I was hired, but I never knew it, because not one of the people who ever hired me ever went out of their way to let me know that they didn’t want me (by calling or writing to me), only to come back and sheepishly admit that their first choice didn’t work out for whatever reason.

  67. AnonyMouse*

    I think the person saying they wished they were called is just upset and probably spiraling a bit with the long winded email. I don’t think they would have actually preferred a phone call.

    I will say though, please don’t call a candidate to reject them after checking references because they’re going to get their hopes up that you have an offer for them and not know what to say in the phone call. And then when the candidate finally gets their emotions under control and sends as polite of an email as possible asking for feedback on their interview, don’t set up a time to call them only to ghost them. This may or may not be from personal experience. So happy I’m not job searching anymore!

  68. M*

    If you were never invited for a phone screen or interview, then no answer is your answer! I don’t understand why employers send these insulting rejection emails to all applicants, often long after you applied. I just got one today and although I did remember I had applied at some point, it was at least two months ago and I’m 1) no longer interested, and 2) no longer available!

    On the other hand, companies who actually had to you come in for several rounds of interviews and don’t bother to send personalized rejection notes should be ashamed of themselves. I was in the running for a VP position last summer and made it to the final round. Ultimately I lost out to a stronger candidate, which didn’t bother me that much; however, I was not OK with finding out via a generic note from a “no reply” email. Also, three months later, their HR (who apparently had a short memory) cold-contacted me on LinkedIn to introduce himself and send an unsolicited job description for another position…. when I replied and gently reminded him that we had met only a few months ago when I interviewed for Position X, he didn’t even reply. So lame!

  69. MissDisplaced*

    Nowadays, definitely by email!
    Even a boilerplate form rejection “we’re moving on with other candidates” is appreciated so that you know where you stand and can close it out and move on.

    If you’ve invested a lot more time with a candidate, such as a finalist, you might want to consider a bit more personalization or specifics regarding your ultimate choice. It can be helpful to know if it was a skill or experience you’re lacking, but I personally don’t really expect that.

  70. Quilted Anvil*

    Academic here. This is likely profession- and, even within that, discipline-specific. When we are hiring tenure-track positions (30-year veteran speaking, numerous Search Committee memberships, some as Chair), the SC Chair always emails semi-finalists with a status update and always calls finalists personally. We announce in our email correspondence with our finalists that they should expect a call to update them on their candidacy after the on-campus visits. The personal call is important to us when we ask candidates to invest a flight out to our university, a hotel stay, and a daylong Campus visit (interviews, teaching demos, etc., the expenses for which we reimburse). The calls to finalists who don’t get the job (they are part of a candidate pool of over 100) are the most traumatic I have made as a professional, but, without exception, the candidates appreciate them. It’s a professionally-specific thing, but I have never had a candidate (of whatever “generation”) complain about it, regardless of the awkwardness of the interaction. Again, this is likely profession-specific.

    1. Mellow*

      But you’ve given the candidates a heads-up that you will communicate updates by phone. That allows them to manage their expectations, i.e. a phone call isn’t necessarily an indication of moving forward’ and they know this ahead of time.

      As for no one complaining about it, how can you be so sure? That you don’t hear complaints doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I mean, come on: at least some of the candidates are unemployed, and a rejection can be gut-wrenching. Certainly, you’re aware of that.

      Aren’t you?

  71. Dr Chin*

    I went for an internal promotion once and had the support of my TL (to whom I would have become a same-level colleague) and my manager (to whom I would have become a direct report – alas, he was on leave when the recruitment happened). I’d gone for it previously and been told that I met the criteria, and only missed out because a uniquely qualified external candidate had emerged (true, she was quite the find, and very good at the job – but she was leaving the job for family reasons), and I felt my second interview had gone well. I heard nothing for seven months, the role wass left vacant, and then one day, a guy from another department was being brought around and introduced as the new Teapot Maintenance Scheduler. I’d briefly met him when he’d been in Teapot Inspections. He wouldn’t have known I applied, but it was still insensitive and unprofessional to say, to my face, “I didn’t even apply, but none of the applicants met the criteria, so here I am” and I felt like a piece of crap for the rest of the week.

    I’d have killed for an email.

  72. Bookworm*

    I’d go with email but most important: let the candidate know.

    One of the most obnoxious things about job hunting are companies that refuse to talk to you at all to reject you. Even something as simple as I wasn’t the best fit and wishing me good luck would be useful. And even knowing they weren’t going to move forward because I wouldn’t give my salary history is good to know in knowing the company sucks.

    However you choose to deliver the message, please remember that simply letting someone know is important and sometimes is enough. It’s nice that you actually thought about this, though!

  73. Lissa*

    This is a lot like breaking up with someone. While there are obvious terrible things to do, there is really no perfect way and because there is no universally acknowledged good way, a LOT of people will focus on the method because what they are really upset about is the dumping/rejection. Even in this thread we have people who would rather hear nothing than get an email, people who have specific preferences about what time they get it that clash with each other, people who hate the idea of getting a voicemail and others who don’t mind, etc.

    I think a majority of the time when someone is bitter about *how* they were rejected, it’s a form of displacement – a pretty mild and reasonable one, and I’ve definitely felt the same. “If they just had delivered this bad news in a different WAY, it would have been OK!” But really it would never have been OK.

  74. Snuck*

    I’m in Australia, and generally have hired in a range of technical positions, with a few mass internal placements, a number of mass external placements, some entry level and some clerical type stuff. Some of these roles have had hundreds of applications to process, and some have had just a few.

    When it’s just a few I would email out the rejections for all but the short list an hour or two before I rang to offer the role to our top candidate. I would then (if they were indicating they’d accept) email the rest of the short list that were now a no. If the top candidate needed time to reflect I’d email the short list saying “We are close to making a decision, and I wanted to reach out to you and thank you for your time, please bear with us” messaging. All of this would be done within a week of interviews, and usually less.

    When it’s mass recruitment, and internal… it’s similar to above. With everyone receiving an email, copying in their managers (these people needed their managers to approve their transfers before applying). I would also ring or email the short list candidates (check their calendars first! And thank them individually for their time and it would be a nuanced email “We loved your X and Y, and would welcome applications from you again, this time the pool was very strong, if you can gain some experience in Z your application for a similar role would be stronger” sort of messaging. These are our future candidates for future roles for sure, don’t want to lose them!

    When it’s mass recruitment and external… I’ve gone either as above. Or I’ve sent out text messages saying “Thank you for applying for a role with us, we have sent an email to your email address with an update” so it’s not lost in spam. If these are being done in waves don’t wait, send them out en masse every few days as candidates hit a yes/no pile. If it’s yes, but interviews are going to take time… send a text AND email with “We’re working through a large number of applications are would like to talk to you, please give us time to process it all, and we will follow up with you by x date” and this stops all the follow up nonsense calls. (Or lets you knock people out for not allowing you time to consider their application on your own timelines.)

    Clear communication, keep good candidates in good form, retain them as future resources as best you can.

  75. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

    I’m going through this right now. I’ve had 3, yes 3, phone interviews with this company and an in person interview and they said they’d be making their decision ‘this week’. That was 2 weeks ago with nothing being heard. I know that’s not a long time, but I’m already assuming I haven’t gotten it. Don’t really mind though. Something felt ‘off’ and I need carpal tunnel surgery, so I’ll just wait and start looking again once I’m healing. LOL!

  76. St. Lucia*

    I had applied for an internal position and a big promotion, a position for which they had reached out and solicited my application (I’m in academia). The main interviews were on a Thursday, then on Thursday evening there was a dinner with all the Faculty candidates and the hiring department, and on Friday there were general meetings with the Various working groups – 2 full days of interviewing. On Friday evening 11 pm – the head of the Department doing the hiring (who I didn’t actually know personally) sent a TEXT to my personal cell phone (He must have asked someone for my number) saying he wanted to “touch base” as soon as possible, and asking when we could schedule a phone call. I thought it was really weird, but texted back immediately, and we scheduled a phone call for 9 am on the following morning, which was Saturday (I was puzzled since I had already “heard” through my network that I probably hadn’t gotten the job. I thought maybe he changed his mind or the other person who applied had turned them down, or ???).

    Anyway, I rearranged my weekend plans so I could call him at 9 am Saturday. On the phone, the department head immediately told me I hadn’t gotten the job, and it had gone to a colleague instead. Since he was on the actual phone, I decided to ask for feedback: “what important qualifications did my application lack, that so-and-so had?” I knew that I had more qualifications than my colleague who had gotten the job, so I was really curious how they would get around not selecting me for the job. Usually there are key criteria for such positions that aren’t publicly announced which are used to steer hiring in a desired direction. The Department head was totally unprepared for my question, hemming and hawing, and then he said (literally)“…it had NOTHING to do with the fact you are a woman and he is a man! NOTHING AT ALL! I am very pro-woman! Everyone knows that! I am so, so pro-woman! Also, everyone on the selection committee agreed Dr. So-and-so was better for the role, the decision for who to hire for the role WAS UNANIMOUS! Yes UNANIMOUS!!!! Everyone agreed totally, including Dr. Blah and Dr. Blah-blah (people I had previously worked with who were on the selection committee).” He went on and on; it was really pretty awkward. So of course, I concluded that I didn’t get hired for the role mainly because I am a woman, and I also knew that there was a lot of controversy on the selection panel about the decision (probably the department head had pushed through his preference and ignored the recommendation of the committee).
    After all this —- you may wonder why this guy so urgently needed to talk to me. I was about to find out! While I was trying to end this awkward phone phone call as quickly as possible, he insisted on continuing – because he had a big favor to “ask” of me. As part of the application for the position, each applicant had to write a 2 page outline of our priorities, goals, and plans for the position. Yes, you guessed it! He and everyone else really liked my detailed plans for the position, which I had worked very hard on putting together and which I knew were very solid. So yes – he had called me on a Saturday to ask me to carry out my plans for the position anyway, while remaining rank-and-file faculty, while letting the guy they had hired take the credit, and without being given the actual job/leadership position I had applied for. My response was stunned silence for a minute, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very professional from then on. I started with “why in the world would I do that?!” And ended with “I will have to think about it, but probably my answer is no”. On the whole, I would have preferred an email rejection.

    1. OwlEditor*

      @St. Lucia
      Oh my word! That is the worst! It isn’t because you’re a woman, but can we steal your ideas?

  77. It's a No From Me*

    I once coordinated interviews for several candidates in our profession who were applying for a part-time gig as a television expert. Our professional hiring committee had narrowed it down to 3 candidates but the final decision was completely in the hands of the television network. There was one candidate in particular who I really liked, had a good rapport with throughout the application process, and hoped would be chosen. He wasn’t. I felt I owed him a phone call to break the news to him. Unfortunately, he responded awfully. He was enraged and took his anger out on me during a phone call I will never forget many years later.

  78. the one who got away*

    The last time I called someone to let them know I had gone with another candidate was years ago, and honestly I’m still haunted by it. We really, really liked her but the candidate we ultimately hired was one of those rare ones who was just exactly what we were looking for. She would have been a fine addition to the office had he not applied.

    I called her and she was clearly so excited thinking she was getting the offer, and when I broke the bad news (as gently and kindly as humanly possible) she was heartbroken and it was AWFUL. She had been looking for work for a long time (she had not told us this in interviews and it would not have mattered, it only came up in this call) and had such good feelings about this one and asked if I had any feedback or tips because she just couldn’t understand why she kept coming up short. And truly I had nothing besides “the other guy was a better fit.”

    This was at least ten years ago and I still tear up thinking about it. I put her in an awful position of having to react to what was, for her, devastating news. She was as professional as she could have been under the circumstances, but she was just so sad and when our call was over I closed my office door and cried. I hope she found something soon afterward. I’ll never make another rejection call again.

    1. 1234*

      Did that position ever open back up at your company? Or, did another position open up where she could’ve been a good fit? If so, I would’ve invited her to apply again.

      1. the one who got away*

        I actually left before he did, but if I were still there I totally would have reached out to her.

  79. Elizabeth West*

    Email. Email, email, email. The last rejection I got was by phone.

    Them: “Hi Elizabeth? This is [HR person at job I really wanted].”
    Them: “We really enjoyed talking to you,” blah blah “but…”
    Me: F*ck. *gets off the phone as fast as possible, probably sounding very awkward because I was about to cry*

    Don’t do that. Don’t. I HATE it. Just send me an email so I can mark my spreadsheet while cursing your name for eternity.

  80. QuietRiot*

    Email, please. I recently was passed over to go to the finalist round for a position in my office where the person leaving it (my supervisor) and most others in my office, as well as the company, had expected me to succeed him. Not only didn’t I get an email, but I was invited to meet with the new grandboss and the hiring manager so they could tell me how valuable I was, etc. Oh – and the meeting was first thing in the morning so I got to go back to my office and work the rest of the day. It was humiliating. I’ll never treat a candidate like that.

  81. OwlEditor*

    I had someone call to inform me I was rejected. It was not a pleasant experience and I really wish they had emailed. It was awkward. What do you say? “Thanks for rejecting me and calling me to tell me that”?
    My favorite emails are the spam ones about an interview scheduled tomorrow two states away with a map. Surrrrrrre.

  82. Degen from Upcountry*

    The last time I was called with a rejection, I just kept repeating, “Ok, thank you.” “Ok, thank you.” She just kept seeming to have more to say! I think that the reason is they couldn’t meet my salary requirements and she was sort of apologetic and kept talking, but then said things like “It was a very strong candidate pool” which was confusing considering… it was pretty clear they couldn’t meet my salary requirements.

    Honestly I just really wanted to say “I SAID GOOD DAY!” and hang up.

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