is rejecting people by phone more respectful?

A reader writes:

I am just finishing up a highly competitive hiring process. We flew in the top two finalists for in-person interviews this week and have decided who we’ll extend an offer to. My question is around best practices for notifying the other finalist that she didn’t get the job. In the past, I’ve always called finalists who did in-person interviews to let them know they didn’t get the job, as that seemed like the most respectful thing to do, but every conversation I’ve had like that has been awkward, if not rough, as the finalist has clearly been devastated and ended the call quite abruptly.

Simply sending a rejection email doesn’t feel right for someone who’s made the substantial investment (in terms of time and energy; we cover all expenses) of flying in for an in-person interview, but I’ve wondered if the phone call can be unhelpful in its own right because it doesn’t give the person privacy while processing what’s usually disappointing news (and their emotion is often evident in our brief conversation). Is there a better way to handle these situations? Maybe emailing to ask when would be a good time to call to update them on the hiring process in a way that sounds formal but not enthusiastic, so they can better anticipate what’s coming? Or does that just draw out a process for which there is no great approach in terms of minimizing the blow?

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Can I ask a new hire to use a nickname since we share the same first name?
  • Candidates seem scared to submit travel expenses

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. NOK*

    The good ol’ Bad News Sandwich is what’s called for here IMHO:
    – Friendly but not TOO friendly email asking for a phone call
    – Phone call with the bad news in question
    – Follow-up email reiterating your gratitude for their time

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Very much not a fan of sandwiches of any sort when delivering news or feedback. Personally.

            1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

              One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had was a grilled sandwich with brisket and mac and cheese on Texas toast. In Texas, naturally. Amazing!

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I’ve made a grilled cheese with pulled chicken and caramelized onions before…Delish!

      1. IFindThisInteresting*

        I agree. I would hate to get an email that essentially adds hours of extra angst and anxiety to my life so that I can then still have the super awkward conversation that I didn’t get the job.

        Honestly, a very thoughtful, clearly non-automated email suffices. You can always offer the candidate the opportunity to follow up over the phone if they so choose.

        1. Loulou*

          I agree, it just prolongs the process and I would much rather just know as soon as they’ve made the final decision, rather than waiting for a call.

      2. Sleeve McQueen*

        Yes to actual sandwiches, no to bad news sandwiches. I pitch for new business and can tell when someone says a bunch of nice things as a prelude to “No”. I really want to interrupt and say “get to the ‘but'”. If you want to give me some nice feedback, I will be in a better mindset to take it on board when I am not waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      Don’t agree at all. The first email would definitely get my hopes up and make the rejection much much worse. A nice polite and friendly email saying no is the way to go.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, if you’re scheduling a phone call with me you want to make sure I have time to discuss start date, logistics, etc. To have that and then be rejected is too much.

      2. Rose*

        Agreed. Rejection usually comes as an email and is rarely a long discussion so asking to talk on the phone in advance seems like a cruel way to get someone’s hopes up. I’d be high anxiety high hopes the whole time.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yes, this. Or “a decision has been made – please log into your application portal to check status”.

          If it’s a position that has a lot riding on it especially getting someone’s hopes up and then having them to manage their disappointment in front of you isn’t nice. A personalized rejection email, though, that says something nice and specific about the applicant and the application is, however, appreciated. (I had a rejection from a tenure-track job posting, and the rejection basically said that they found my application very strong, but they were really looking for someone with active work in a specific sub-discipline (which I have no experience working in), and they encouraged me to apply for future open positions in the department as they might arise.)

      3. Chilipepper Attitude*

        100% this! The first email would get my hopes up. Then the bad news call would be worse than a surprise call with the same bad news.

    3. Laura-Jane*

      Nope. Pointless waste of time. Send the email rejection. Anything else will just get hopes up (emailing to set up call) or be awkward (rejection call). If you want to offer a feedback call you can, after the email, but be sure to get the rejection across clearly in the email. Anything else is unnecessary.

    4. Artemesia*

      Sandwich is fine, but in the email. To expect someone to plan a call and maybe rearrange their schedule to be rejected is cruel. Arranging a call sounds like ‘to get our initial job offer.’

      write a personal email with something positive; the bad news; and appreciation for their time, acknowledgement of how difficult the decision was.

      Don’t keep them hanging when the decision is ‘no.’

    5. FYI*

      No way. A friend had a company call her and schedule a phone call like that. Of course she thought she got the job. What else would she think?? Then they left her waiting for 20 minutes, didn’t apologize for being late to the call, and told her she was passed over. Rude from top to bottom.

      1. FYI*

        Oh, and the call was scheduled for 7.30 pm on a Friday night. She was east coast, company was west coast. She had to cancel her plans to listen to a rude rejection.

        Just send a frickin’ email.

    6. louvella*

      I would be horrified if this happened to me.

      I have been rejected by phone, which sucked, but scheduling the phone call in advance? So much worse.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        It happened to me and it was awful. I can take not getting selected, especially when the job I was applying to was a reach. Scheduling -and then having to reschedule when the other person was too busy- the call felt like a preliminary offer. The call was short and awkward made so much worse when I was anticipating a very different call.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        At my previous job, a recruiter scheduled a video call with me to reject me in person. And was so bubbly about saying that “she just thought it was so much more personal that way”. Ugh…girl, bye.

        1. allathian*

          That’s horrible, I’m sorry. Even a scheduled phone call would be better, because then you presumably wouldn’t have to make an extra effort to look your best on video.

    7. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

      Yeah, going to add in not agreeing here. I’ve had that exact process run on me and it did not make me feel better, it only got me excited about the call and then even more disappointed versus if I’d just gotten a nice polite rejection email. Sending the email only after I’d gotten all wound up for a call and then kicked in the butt with the call being a rejection, that’s just a little extra squeeze of lemon juice on the wound.

    8. Asenath*

      I’d hate that. Long experience of sandwiches have left me with the conviction that anything friendly or positive is setting me up for criticism, and if I got a friendly email asking me for a call after a job interview, I’d be convinced I had the job, and all the more devastated when I was told I didn’t.

    9. Gingerblue*

      This makes my skin crawl. If a hiring manager is so grateful for my time, why are they making me schedule a call and stress about what they’re hinting will be unwelcome news just so I can have the dubious pleasure of trying not to be audibly upset while they spout platitudes at me? Why was this not an email? Does this person think I need or want them to manage my emotions about being rejected for me? How incredibly condescending.

    10. MicroManagered*

      I would 100% expect the email-to-set-up-a-call to be because I’m getting the job. This is a terrible approach.

      If your high school bully applied for the job and you want to maximize their rejection sting, this would do the trick.

      1. Gingerblue*

        If this happened to me, I would absolutely be wondering if the person on the other end were taking pleasure in it.

    11. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      Nope. Nope nope nope. You are thrice wasting a candidate’s time with this sh*t sandwich.

    12. Nah*

      Tell me you didn’t click through and read Alison’s reply without telling me you didn’t click through and read Alison’s reply.

    13. Marthooh*

      Yeah, no. I’m not going to read an email about a job offer and think “Hmm, that seems friendly…but not too friendly…guess I better not get my hopes up.” And getting a slice of toast for breakfast, a chef’s salad for lunch, and another slice of toast for supper is not the same as getting a sandwich.

    14. Dark Macadamia*

      Nope. I once spent a whole day playing phone tag at a theme park, while on a family vacation, only for them to give up and reject me in a voicemail. A single email, maybe with an offer of a follow up call if I want one, would have been much kinder.

    15. Fluffyfish*

      The sh*t sandwich as I call it, is a pretty terrible technique all the way around for two reasons.

      One – it buries the lede. Why would you give someone hope only to dash it? It’s mean even if your intent was to be kind.

      Two – it softens a message that usually shouldn’t be softened. This reason in particular for managing problem behavior in employees. Good bad good is often taken that the bad isn’t really a big deal. And for candidate rejection purposes it comes across real disingenuous – oh you were just great but yeah we didn’t want you. thanks for coming. Logically candidates know that’s how it goes but in the moment of rejection they’re not thinking fondly of you.

      Do not call me. I don’t want to have to fake through not being disappointed.

    16. Sunshine*

      Yeah, this is not a good use of the sandwich. As Alison said, you would get the email and get your hopes up. It would be incredibly odd.
      The only person I recommended the sandwich to was a person on the spectrum. After a presentation by a library discussing the library’s accomplishments, my friend blurted out “I would not have cataloged these items that way.” The things the library was doing were very impressive so it seemed rude.

    17. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Yeah, no. *angry face emoji*

      I’d be mad as hell if somebody pulled this on me. Spitting nails mad, to the point where I might have to hang up abruptly to avoid saying something regrettable.

      If an employer doesn’t want to hire me, I appreciate their having the courtesy to inform me (we all know how many don’t bother), but please, spare us both a f***ton of awkwardness, and do it IN WRITING. Gah.

  2. River Otter*

    “ Maybe emailing to ask when would be a good time to call to update them on the hiring process in a way that sounds formal but not enthusiastic, so they can better anticipate what’s coming?”

    Heh. Someone did this to me. I had already accepted another job, so I just emailed them back and said I was no longer looking for a position.

    I actually did not appreciate the email requesting the phone call. I appreciate that they did not call me out of the blue, but they could have just emailed a rejection. Don’t make me find time in my schedule so that you can reject me!

    I think you will find that people are all over the map on this end no matter what you choose, somebody will wish you had done it differently.

      1. KRM*

        This. If I’m asked to carve out a time for a phone call about a job, I’m going to clear half an hour assuming that I’ll be going over logistical details for an offer–because why else would they need a phone call? If I rearrange my schedule and get told that I didn’t get the job, that’s going to suck so much AND I’m going to be mad I went through the trouble of scheduling the call in the first place. Just send an email.

      2. Another freelancer*

        Exactly. Maybe the OP could send a rejection email (that is CLEAR it’s a rejection) and invite the rejected candidate to call if they have any questions, but that isn’t necessary.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          That’s what my company does. I usually include some role specific feedback and offer a phone call if they want to know more.

      3. My Useless 2 Cents*

        +1 and also seconding “Don’t make me find time in my schedule so that you can reject me!”

    1. LaLa762*

      THIS! You want me to schedule time for you? OF COURSE I think I got the job.
      Send me a polite e-mail.

    2. Jora Malli*

      I think your last sentence is right on the money. There’s not a method of delivering unwelcome news that is universally accepted by everyone, and on some level, since the news is unwelcome, any method of delivering it will be unpleasant to the recipient. Just be polite and kind in whatever method you choose and you’ll have fulfilled your obligations.

    3. Nanani*


      Scheduling a call makes sense for “you GOT the job” – because of course there will be logistics to hash out regarding things like starting dates and all that.
      Rejections have no good reason to be done on the phone now that email exists.

    4. D*

      Yeah I would be really annoyed by this. A personal and kind rejection email that includes the OFFER of a phone call to follow up if they want would be nice, but doing the rejection itself in the phone should be avoided.

    5. EddieRocksOn*

      This. I recently got rejected from a job after making it to one of the final stages. First they emailed to schedule a call, then started out the call by asking me about a recent trip I took and an article they read about the place I visited – all just casual conversation. And then after 5 minutes told me they weren’t moving forward. It was a complete waste of my time. A short but sweet email would have worked perfectly.

      I’m sure the person thought they were forging an authentic connection with the casual conversation opener, but it felt disrespectful of my time.

  3. Anonymous Educator*

    100% this:

    I also wouldn’t email them to set up the call. That’s likely to get some people’s hopes up and make it all the more disappointing when they hear the news, and people are likely to be so eager to hear whatever you have to say that they may cancel plans or rearrange their schedule, and then be annoyed that they did that just to hear a rejection that could have been emailed.

    Someone close to me had that happen to them, and it wasn’t great. I think the hiring manager had good intentions and was really trying to convey “We liked you,” but setting up the phone call did, in fact, make them think they are getting an offer, and it was devastating and, frankly, awkward to have a conversation on the phone about not getting the job.

    Just send the rejection email.

    If you want to be personal, write a personal rejection email (instead of a form email).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah send me a rejection that tells me you remember talking to me….at all…and we’re square

      1. Koalafied*

        Exactly – show respect for the time I invested by making it a personal email rather than a form letter, but just rip the band-aid off instead of dancing around it.

        1. Elenna*

          THIS. If you want to show respect for their time, make it a personal rejection email, and include an offer to call and discuss *if they want to*. But don’t get their hopes up by asking for a call without further explanation.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I’ve had this happen to ME, and it’s the worst. Compounded by the fact that it was a Friday email asking for a Monday phone call, so I got to stress out about it for an entire weekend.

    3. kittycontractor*

      Seriously, just email me the rejection. If I’m going to have a little cry I certainly don’t want to be trying to manage the reaction of the person rejecting me (which is exactly what I’ll try to do).

    4. cubone*

      God bless my partners employer who emailed them at the end of the interview process: “do you have time for a phone call? We have good news for you!”


    5. Autumnheart*

      I think it’s very good advice to send a personalized email that appreciates the candidate for their time. If I’m getting the silver medal in a job competition, that’s how I’d prefer to learn the news. I can absorb it in private, plus at least I have closure, so I know to move on with my search, and that’s good enough. No method is perfect, but I think “personalized email” has the fewest downsides.

  4. Waterbird*

    I might be in the minority here, but I’d much rather get rejected via email. I recently went through a pretty extensive interview process (~2 months with several rounds of interviews) and received a call from my recruiter when I was rejected. When I saw her number pop up on my phone, I expected it to be an offer or some other positive update, so I was pretty devastated. If I’m going to get rejected, I definitely prefer for it to happen over email.

    1. The Original K.*

      I agree. I also don’t really want to have a conversation about why I didn’t get the job. I’ve been in this situation and it was hard to get the hiring manager off the phone. She told me they’d hired someone else, I said “oh, OK, thanks for letting me know,” and she replied that there had been a strong candidate pool and blah blah blah, and I really just wanted to hang up. Via email I can simply respond “Thank you for letting me know. Best of luck to you” and end the interaction.

      1. Waterbird*

        Exactly! I had no desire to have a conversation about it. Let me be sad in silence!

      2. MsM*

        Easily the most painful interview-related interaction I’ve ever had was the call I had to schedule to learn I’d been rejected for a job I already knew I wasn’t getting after the interviewer (who would’ve been my supervisor) was super-unhappy with one of my answers and basically shut down for the rest of the conversation. She asked if I had any questions like she wanted me to beg or acknowledge my (alleged) mistake, and I was just like, “…No, I think we’ve covered all we need to cover here. Best of luck.”

      3. Elenna*

        This. And in case the candidate does want to talk about it, the email can also include a line like “let me know if you want to discuss this further and we can set up a call”. But start with the rejection in the email.

    2. Cimorene*

      I don’t think you are the minority. I think the people who want a phone call to be rejected are. A personalized email is fine! It is not offensive!

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, I don’t think there are all that many people who’d prefer to have to respond on the spot.

    3. Asenath*

      Yeah, me too. An email I can read privately is the way to go if you don’t want to hire me.

    4. Temperance*

      Not in the minority. I would be so annoyed to have to take a call, get rejected for a job that I want, and then be professional/gracious about it.

    5. londonedit*

      Yeah, definitely not in the minority. I don’t mind speaking to people on the phone, but I would hate to have to deal with a job rejection on the phone. You can’t help but get your hopes up, especially if they’ve emailed you specifically to set up a call – that feels like you’re going to be having a conversation about a job offer. And to then have to do the whole ‘Oh, no, that’s fine! Thank you for calling! Best of luck!’ thing while actually being really disappointed? No thanks. It’s just going to be really awkward for everyone involved. Absolutely send people a personalised email if they’ve gone to the trouble of coming in for an interview, but don’t phone them. With an email you can read it and absorb it in your own time, and you can think about how to respond. Don’t put people on the spot with a phone call if it’s going to be bad news.

    6. allathian*

      I don’t think you’re in a minority, at least not on AAM.

      Last time I interviewed, I got to the final interview and took the aptitude test, but didn’t get an offer. The hiring manager called me out of the blue to tell me that I didn’t get the job. It helped that I was on vacation that week, so at least I didn’t have to try and focus on my job again afterwards. Getting a rejection is usually pretty devastating, even if you’re ambivalent about accepting a job offer. I’m quite happy in my current job, but I just applied and interviewed to test the waters. This happened about two years ago, and they wanted the new recruit to work from the office, while everyone else was WFH at least part time, when my employer let everyone who possibly could do it WFH.

  5. Combinatorialist*

    I think the best thing to do is to send the rejection via an email and make it warm and appreciative of their time (but still clearly a rejection). And then offer to set up a phone call to provide feedback if you have feedback you are willing to provide.

  6. Hiring Mgr*

    I think these days the email to set up a phone call without any other info is more likely to be seen as a rejection than getting their hopes up.. (so may as well just send the rejection)

    1. Another freelancer*

      I disagree. I have been ghosted many times by hiring managers. If I get any closure through my job searches, it’s a rejection email. If I got an email about setting up a phone call without any additional details, my imagination would run wild and I would probably think I got the job. I do agree that sending a clear rejection email is the way to go.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Who would think, “company wants to talk to me, they did not say why, must be a rejection!?”
      If anyone is taking the time to call me and ask me to take time out of my day to schedule a call, that sounds like they are going to make an offer.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    I once worked with three Amys and two Kates and it really wasn’t that big a deal. Don’t ask your employees to use nicknames.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, I’m confused why the LW thought this was something that was a problem. I’m sure there are equivalent names for kids nowadays, but when I was a kid we’d often have four Jennifers in a single class. Jennifer A, Jennifer C, Jennifer M, etc.

      As an adult, I work with at least five guys named Matt. A lot of them end up just going by their last names with the people they work with day-to-day, but if you’re not on as familiar footing with them where that feels comfortable, it won’t kill you to refer to Matt F, Matt K , Matt R, etc. when you need to differentiate them in writing. If you need to tell them apart to external stakeholders, full names are fine.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        When I was in fifth grade, there were three of us with the same first and middle names and last initial (and two of us had last names that were only two letters different). I spent the school year answering to “Two” :P

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          When I was in 7th grade one of my classes had five people with my first name. I started to use my middle name, just because I didn’t want to be part of a herd.

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          My high school class of 50 had two boys with the same first and last name. Luckily their middle initials were different. (They were not related in any way)

          Conversely, I have only met 2 people in my life with the same first name as me. It wasn’t until I joined the working world that I ever went by a nickname. (My mom said I refused to answer to a nickname as a kid but I just don’t remember anyone ever trying.)

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            There was a combination like that two years above me at primary school – let’s say they went by “Clark B Kent” and “Clark T Kent”. This was fine at primary school where everyone knew each other and they didn’t tend to get mixed up, but rumour had it that when they were applying for high school, someone saw the names on a list, didn’t clock the middle names and thought that one Clark Kent had been added to the list twice. On the induction day, the story goes that everyone’s name was called to assign them to their new form, both stood up when someone called out Clark Kent, and it took a lot of convincing that they did, in fact, have the same name.

          2. Me*

            Yup, I distinctly remember one time in high school when the office made one of those announcements calling for a student to come to the office, except they had to specify Katherine Black the Junior… because there was also a Katherine Black the Senior. But like, you just identify people if you need to.

          1. Me*

            Ha, my parents are friends with two couples named Mike and Judy Miller. They have to identify which couple they’re talking about every time!

        3. EddieRocksOn*

          I work in an office of 15 and we have 3 Matts. I especially enjoy sending an email to all three and starting off with, “Hi Matts!”

        4. allathian*

          In first grade, there were three other girls with the same first name, and two of them also had the same last initial as I did. I don’t understand why we didn’t just start using middle names, but I and another girl started using our family nicknames at school instead. That worked until I’d outgrown it by middle school, but by then there was only one girl with the same first name in my class, and we went by name + last initial.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Exactly. At OldJob, we had two people named Esmerelda and one other person with my first name. None of us were named Jennifer. We managed. There were a few amusing instances when I was criss-crossed with my namesake (me: technical dept, her: decidedly NOT the technical dept for my specialty) but it never took long to sort out.

      3. Esmeralda*

        IN college one year our dorm had these students on one short hall: Karen, Karen, Karyn, Kari, Krystal. We were sure housing had done it on purpose…

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          It was a running joke in my first year that one hall at my university had lots of variations on the Katherine/Kate/Kat theme. They handled it without any enforced nicknames.

      4. GeorgeFayne*

        At my office we had so many “Jane”s at one point (and a couple with the same last initial) that one of them was “Jane 5”, since “Jane M” already was taken.

      5. EchoGirl*

        I think this kind of thing can come as more of a shock to the system if it’s not something that’s happened to you all your life. People with really common names get used to this kind of dynamic pretty early on, but when you have an uncommon name such that this is not something you’ve ever encountered before, it can take a little getting used to. That said, I agree that the confusion OP is concerned about is unlikely, since for everyone else besides the people whose name is in question, it IS the same whether the name is common or not.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      We have so many duplicative names on my team that people joke about having a name twin being a hiring criteria (it’s obviously not). Sometimes, we have to pull out last initials/names, but context usually does it for most people. It is hardest for new people, but, if you’ve been here five minutes, you know that asking Bob about your expense report is Guacamole Bob and not Bob A., who handles accounts receivable.

      1. workswitholdstuff*

        It’s a running joke in our service too about name twins. We’ve tons! Usually solved by using intials, but we’ve one hilarious ‘twinning’ with two people with same first name, surnames beginning with the same letter and they’re both about the same height and build, with similar hair colour.

        (their first meeting when they also had similar glasses was hilarious…)

        One is directly in the service I work for – the other is in a department we all work closely with. So we use ‘Museum’ and ‘Parks’ as the indicator (or, ‘your ? or my ? ).

        It normally all pans out in context, but will never not be amusing!

      2. Just another Courtney*

        My team has this unofficial criteria too – and not the usual name suspects! One of the names is like the 1470th most popular women’s name, and we have 3 of them (out of 25 total). I’m on two teams, and last summer we had four Courtneys between us (1274th most common women’s name).

        And yet, we all get by just fine.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      At one point the team I worked on had a Paul as our supervisor and were working with a client where the supervisor of their team was also Paul. I think we went with Paul C and Paul H, or sometimes ‘our Paul’ and ‘your Paul’. There was an occasional “wait – which Paul?” which usually worked itself out pretty quickly.

      1. quill*

        Or when you have cousins in law and you have to say things like “Brittany’s John” and “Lizzy’s John” to know which 40 something year old dude you’re talking about.

    4. soontoberetired*

      I’ve had 4 Jims, two Jeffs, and 3 Bobs at the same time. context is everthing. I now work with 2 Gregs, 3 Ryans and 2 Amys. Sometimes we have to clarify the Gregs or the Ryans but never the Amys.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I recently was dealing with 2 Kevins, one our QC lab tech and the other technical support from one of our suppliers. One time, I even had both of them in that lab, when the tech support man came up to pick up a sample.

    5. extra anon*

      I once worked in a department with four Laurens, and 3 had the same last initial. 2 of the 3 with the same last initial had the SAME MIDDLE NAME. It’s just not a big deal to use a (full) last name to be clear about who you’re talking about.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        That middle name was Ann/e, or Marie, or Louise, wasn’t it?

      2. Irish Teacher*

        When I was in 1st to 3rd year (12-15 years old), there were two girls in my class called Ciara, both of which had similarish sounding second names. Think MacDonald and MacDonagh. It still wasn’t a big deal.

      3. Jg291*

        I have a kind of uncommon name for women but it can easily be spelled 3 different ways. The male equivalent can only be spelled one way. Someone with my same exact spelling of my name was hired as my assistant. It was a 1000 person company and we were the only two people at the company with that name. We managed with last name initials. Honestly it was easiest for me because I knew I wasn’t talking about myself and the third person!

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I have never in my entire life gone by any of the various nickname versions of my given name. If someone called out using one, it would not occur to me to respond. I have in certain specific (and not recent) circumstances been called a nickname, “Hersh,” off my last name, but in any general sense I wouldn’t react as this being my name, and this wouldn’t feel appropriate for a work setting. But as others have pointed out, this is a fake problem. People work it out organically.

    7. Her name was Joanne*

      I worked at an org where both the CEO and a member of her C Suite were both named “Jane.” Since the CEO was there first, she was Jane 1. My boss, the other Jane, instead of referring to herself as Jane 2, would always say she was “Ruth number 2.” Always snickered to myself when I’d hear her introduce herself that way.

    8. I Wore Pants Today*

      I’m a woman with a very common first name. At one point, there were 5 of us, and somehow my nickname at work morphed into my last name, which is a very common man’s first name. It actually doesn’t bother me that I’m now “George” instead of “Amy.” I think it will work itself out however the office culture sees fit.

    9. Jora Malli*

      The Four Weddings and a Funeral TV series has a character who runs a shop, and both of her employees are named Tony. She calls them Tony 1 and Tony 2.

    10. Jessica Ganschen*

      We have a bevy of Jons, Johns, and Jonathans in our department, a couple of Teds, and a Brendon and Branden, as well as a trio who are the equivalent of a Mark Smith, Michael Smith, and Michael Jones. I’m just surprised I don’t encounter more Jessicas, since those of us who were named so at the height of its popularity are largely well into our careers.

    11. Academic Fibro Warrior*

      In my father’s very large family, we have half a dozen Kevins, as many Ellens, at least two women with the same exact name first middle last, and several Katherines. Family events were rarely confusing because we basically put identifiers in front of all the shared names (Dublin Kevin, Alabama Kevin, your
      aunt Eileen, my sister Katherine, restaurant Ellen, retired Brian, whatever actually differentiated us). When life changed we changed the identifiers and we had zero trouble separating who was who. People find a way.

      1. Me*

        Yeah, my family is like this. It’s a bit of a running joke that everyone has the same name as someone else, to the point that my dad once called the operator trying to find his first cousin Howard’s phone number… and the operator accidentally gave him his second cousin Howard’s phone number. My stepbrother and brother-in-law have the same first name, and we make do. Honestly, it’s no weirder than a kid calling both sets of grandparents Grandma and Grandpa and having to identify which ones at times.

    12. Autumnheart*

      Heck, I work in a large national company, and at several points in my tenure, there were multiple people who also had my first and last name in the global Outlook directory. At one point there were 6 of us!

    13. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have the same first name as my boss. The OP seemed worried that people would not realize which was boss karen and which was just regular old karen.
      It is not difficult to be clear which karen is the manager and which is not. We have not had any confusion.

    14. AcademiaNut*

      Also, I’ll point out that people over 60 are generally perfectly capable of handling knowing more than one person with the same name. Probably more so than people under 30, given that baby naming in English is a lot more varied now than it was 60 years ago.

    15. ceiswyn*

      I work in a small company, and oh, the entertainment when two people have the same first name…

      Firstly there was the John situation, which was solved by calling them John I and John II. We had a whole set of conversations when John I left, and John II decided to remain II because it felt like his ‘work name’ now.

      Then there was the time we hired a Katherine, known as Kate, when we already had a Kate on staff. After long negotiations Katherine refused to either be Katie or Kate II, so Katherine it had to be until Kate left, whereupon Katherine immediately laid claim to the nickname.

      This is not the only reason why I changed my name to something unique, but I can’t say it wasn’t motivational :)

    16. Nesprin*

      I once had a class of 120 with 6 Stephanie Nguyens and any group of 8 people will have at least 1 Nick. It’s fine.

  8. Essentially Cheesy*

    Any phone call after extensive interview processes will have job offer connotations. I think that most people would prefer a personalized, well-thought-out “rejection” email with the potential of a follow-up phone call, if warranted.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I liken this to back in the old days of college admissions (when you had to get something in the mail). No college (at least far as I know) sent a huge chunky package rejection. The huge chunky packet meant an acceptance packet. A thin little envelope meant either a rejection or waitlist.

      If someone sets up a call, the candidate is likely expecting an offer (or some kind of good news).

  9. ObservantServant*

    If there are nicknames needed, let them evolve naturally. I once had the same name as my manager and someone we worked with just began calling us by our initials. I was DA and my manager was DB. It didn’t offend either of us, it was easier than using our full names and a few others started using it. Also better than someone asking D a question and then having to clarify that they meant the other D.

    1. Loulou*

      We use initials a lot too and it works fine for shorthand in writing (which, IME, is when the confusion about which Matt is which tends to arise). I think OP is overthinking it!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The youngest rhyming player on my son’s sports team got dubbed “Bob.”

      He embraced it–getting a sports team nickname is way cooler than endless “No, not you, the other one.”

      1. Me*

        Yeah, my ex’s work nickname was “Mo” because he was “one mo’ Aaron”. It worked for him!

  10. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    I was rejected via a phone call once and it was terrible. I was in a job that I hated and was desperate to get out of asap.

    I see the number for the company come up on my phone and I quickly find a private space to talk, all while excited that I was finally getting out of there. But no, it was a rejection for a skill they never even asked me about (and they didn’t chose anyone else over me, they were still recruiting for it months later when a staffing agency called me and I said I’d already was interviewed and rejected for the same role). Then I had to choke back tears and remain professional. Went to the bathroom to silently cry, then had to pull myself together to get back to my desk.

    I’m sure I would have been crushed if it was via email, but I wouldn’t have seen that until my lunch.

  11. Not A Real Manager*

    Do it by email. Offer a phone call in the email if the candidate wants to talk more.

    My partner has been through a few rounds of these kinds of interviews. The worst rejections involve emails to set up a phone call to just get rejected.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      But only offer the phone call if *you* want to talk more too, and if you’re not getting the vibe that they’ll try to convince you that you made the wrong decision.

  12. Disenchanted academic*

    I’m coming from the academic world, which is kind of a thing unto itself. But if the interview involved travel (i.e. a pretty significant commitment from the candidate), I think the way to go is a timely rejection e-mail that acknowledges a particular strength or two of the candidate (i.e. something at least slightly personalized) and also an offer for an informal conversation for any further feedback that might be useful to them for interviews in the future.

  13. Bookartist*

    Another person with a direct experience here to say do not send an email to set up a call to reject someone. Just send the email, please.

  14. Panhandlerann*

    I’ve been rejected by phone after being a finalist for a position, and it was awful. When the caller identified herself, I assumed she was going to offer me the job. Wrong. It was really difficult for me to get through the rest of the call in a dignified way. I’d much rather have received an email.

  15. Warrior Princess Xena*

    There are very, very few times when rejection is anything but unpleasant. No matter how you reject someone for a job, it’s not fun, and a lot of things that make rejection not sting so much are not within the hiring manager’s control (for instance – I care a lot less about being rejected for a job if I’ve already signed an offer for another job. In fact then it’s relief since I don’t have to reject them instead.) There are worse ways, and I’d say that scheduling a time specifically to give a rejections is a bad way to do it, but no matter how you do it it’ll sting.

  16. Kesnit*

    I have the same first name (though different spelling) as a coworker. When I first started the job, another coworker jokingly asked if I would be willing to go by my middle name. I didn’t want to, and was saved from that because my middle name is the name of the office deputy. So the two of us with the same name just go by our last names.

  17. EmmaPoet*

    I would definitely prefer a nice email to a phone call. That way I can manage my feelings on the subject privately and don’t have to worry about putting on a polite front to talk if I’m upset.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Exactly. Nobody wants to be on display with their rejection pain.

      NO TELLING SOMEONE THIS OVER ZOOM. I can’t stress that enough, btw.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I got rejected once in person in a group setting which included the 2 other candidates. It was brutal and HR shut it down real quick once they realized what was going on. That person is no longer in charge of hiring.

        1. Autumnheart*

          A group setting?! Good grief. “And now……the winner is……” *unfolds envelope*

  18. My Name*

    The update about the new Amanda is still annoying. The manager got her way and got the new Amanda to go by a nickname in frustration, because apparently there being 2 Amandas was too confusing for the workplace.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Yeah, it didn’t really come across as a “happy” update, although the LW played it off that way. We have a Matt, reporting into a Matt, who interact with a 3rd Matt. Often we’ll refer to them as Lastname, but we’re also capable of figuring who we mean by context clues. Nobody had to compromise with a whole other nickname.

    2. An actual Amanda*

      Yeah, that update is so outrageous to me that it feels a little fake. People have the same names all the time! It’s rarely confusing! Either the only two people in the world who can’t handle the “frustration” of using last initials somehow ended up in the same office, or LW realized they’re the only one who cares and fabricated an update to make themself look right lol

  19. KHB*

    I had a long-time coworker that I always knew as (say) Bob, short for Robert. In the last few months that I worked with him, he started to let on that he preferred to be called Robert, and actually preferred it all along. What happened was this: When he started the job, there was another Robert in a senior role. Other Robert declared that there couldn’t be two Roberts, so Bob volunteered to be Bob. Other Robert left two years later, but Bob remained Bob, because that’s what everyone knew him as, for more than twenty years – long after the departure of not only Other Robert himself, but of almost everyone who even knew who Other Robert was. Names are just sticky that way. But that’s a big price to pay for somebody’s vanity.

    And the funny thing is, for a big chunk of those twenty years, we had two coworkers who shared not only the same first name but the same last initial. We just used their full names – say, Dave Smith and Dave Smoot – whenever there was any potential for ambiguity. It’s really, really not a big deal.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve got two coworkers at my current job with the same first name, same nickname, same last initial, and their wives also have the same first name as each other! (To use the example above, the wives would be Jennifer Smith and Jennifer Smoot.) The only time it’s been an issue is when we’re ordering box lunches, so one of the Daves puts in his order as “George” (because there’s no one with that name at our office).

      I also have a friend whose coworker had the same first name, same last name, same middle initial, and they were both redheads! (They were in different departments, so they were referred to as Steve (or Steve the redhead) in IT and Steve (the redhead) in Accounting.)

  20. Show Pony*

    A few years ago I went through an extensive interview process with a certain tech company rhyming with doodle. After a monthlong process including numerous emails, phone calls, video calls, and in-office interviews, I got the email from the recruiter asking to set up a time to speak. I was so excited, this had to be the offer! And then the call came and it was a rejection. I was far more disappointed than I would have been if I’d simply gotten an email. At least then I wouldn’t have had to maintain my composure through a five minute call with the recruiter when really all I wanted to do was scream into the heavens. I get that they probably thought it was a more friendly option to have a call after having built a relationship with this recruiter during the month of interviewing, but in the end it just felt cruel.

  21. Rachel*

    I recently had a first round phone screen where the hiring manager asked me for my preference re: if they decide to take me out of the running for the position. Phone or email, my call. I said email, obviously, but it felt like such a humane way to do things!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Ooh, I like that. Though it might have been a bit weird to discuss your rejection while you’re still in the running.

    2. Heidi*

      I was actually going to write to suggest this. It could even be a question on the application with checkboxes. I also think it might make sense to just tell candidates how they would be contacted, i.e. we plan to notify candidates of our decision by email, but if you’d prefer a call please let us know.

    3. Avis*

      This is what I always do. I think the culture around interviews is different in my country/industry with a phone call being considered much more respectful of the time and effort being put into the interview. However, having read enough discussion of this to know how much some people hate it, I just ask the interviewees so at least if HR get on my back about sending emails I can point to it being their expressed preference.

  22. Antilla the Hon*

    I got a rejection phone call from the hiring manager of a major multinational corporation. At the time, I thought “how nice of her to call me.” But thinking on it further, I was really peeved. 1) the call was unscheduled; 2) she totally got my hopes up; 3) I felt like bursting into tears during the call; and 4) she was kinda smarmy during the call and came across as “you should be thanking me for interviewing you/letting you kiss my ring.” To add insult to injury, I subsequently learned through a mutual acquaintance that the hiring manager hired her BFF, meaning I was the token interviewee (they only interviewed 2 people).

  23. Jigglypuff*

    I would definitely email to ask if there was a good time to call with an update. This gives the candidate a chance to manage their expectations. I got a rejection call for a job that I really wanted and ended up with a panic attack that caused me to miss work at my (then) current job. An email prepping me would have done wonders.

    1. Mill Miker*

      It doesn’t give anyone a chance to manage their expectations though. If the company doesn’t make it clear if the call is good or bad news, the candidate will most likely get excited and manage their expectations in entirely the wrong direction. If the company does make it clear it’s bad news… well there’s only one “bad news”.

      The idea of getting a “Hi Candidate, thanks for meeting with us! We have some bad news for you, can we schedule a call to discuss” email sounds awful.

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed. “Calling with an update” sounds like good news, probably a job offer – or *at least* a schedule/logistics update that shows you’re still in the running.

      2. Parakeet*

        I don’t think it’s precisely true that there’s only two options here. Several months ago, I got an email-to-set-up-Zoom-Call letting me know that I had been the runner up for the position AND that they wanted to have me do some consulting work for them. Without that last part, I think it would have stung a lot (and they were definitely risking that I would get my hopes up more than I did, and be a lot more overtly crushed than I was, by doing it that way), but the fact that they did want to pay me to do some work for them (of a sort that could clearly act as a sort of trial for future openings) in addition to being full of praise, did a lot to take the sting out of that. They followed through on the consulting work, and a few months later there was another opening and I got it.

    2. Purple Cat*

      I gently disagree, it does the opposite and with no grounding, the candidates expectations will run wild. Well, not even “wild” but probably towards an acceptance coming, which I would happily step away from my desk to take. A rejection, not so much.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Genuine question, how would this allow a candidate to manage their expectations? Unless you tell them the purpose of the call, most people are going to think “set aside time for phone call” = job offer, and if you’re telling them it’s a rejection call, what’s the point of the call at all? I don’t want to block time out of my day for rejection, especially if I’m going to have to perform for the person and pretend I’m not upset.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        This right here… There’s plenty of feedback in the comments that the *opposite* expectation is likely to be inferred. I’ve been on the receiving end of similar circumstances (was asked to come in a few months into COVID WFH to hear I was being laid off – I wasn’t expecting it at all and was devastated, then had to drive home) and I’d much rather receive bad news without having to manage my emotions around an audience.

  24. LK*

    When I first started at my organization, there were three Robs in one six-person department, and both the director and assistant director had the same name (as did the director of another org we’re closely affiliated with). We also had multiple variations on names in different departments. I started out as the receptionist and learned to just ask “Do you mean Jane A or Jayne B?” and describe their jobs if the caller didn’t know.

    Now, both my boss and grand-boss are named Alex, though one’s a man and one’s a woman. Somehow, the organization has survived.

    1. Asenath*

      People adjust. I used to work in a place where there were two senior people with the same surname, and no one seemed to think that was a problem. I used to get calls from outside asking for, let’s say, Dr. Smith, and just asked “Do you want Dr. Smith, the llama specialist or Dr. Smith, the polar bear specialist?” That, the caller would know, even if they didn’t know the first names. And like so many others, I’ve been in countless situations, professional and personal, in which people went by first names, and there were more than one person with the same name. It worked out. In one place, we filled two positions in fairly rapid succession, and both times the new hire had the same first name as the person who was leaving. “Who’s got Sue’s position?” “Sue did”. But it caused no problems – the first time it came up, you’d give the surname of the new Sue, and afterwards, on the rare times you needed to refer to the work of the old Sue, you’d use her surname.

    2. kittycontractor*

      The amount of Jared’s at my last job was crazy. and I dealt with them all on a regular, daily basis. I just started referring to them as Jared 1, 2, 3,… although if they brought me doughnuts they were my Favorite Jared (at least for that day). :-)

      1. quill*

        Jakes in my classes growing up! Jake B, Jake M, Jake W, Jacob-don’t-call-me-Jake, Jake from State Farm…

        1. Me*

          Ha, at one point my three closest friends were Emily, Emily, and Emi-don’t-call-me-Emily.

    3. anonymous73*

      I had 19 Jennifers in my HS class of 120. We figured it out then, and I’m certain grown adults could figure it out without too much difficulty in an office setting.

  25. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I recently got a call out of the blue for a job I desperately wanted. Thankfully I’d already logged into the candidate portal and seen my rejection, because I would have been devastated if I heard the news over the phone. Please, please allow candidates the dignity to receive and process the bad news in private via email and not make them try to pretend to be ok over the phone.

    In my case the hiring manager was very gracious and complementary, and told me there would be another position opening soon which she would send to me. It was a very nice phone call but I really wish it had been a very nice email instead.

  26. Meow*

    I don’t know if it’s just because I have a name that was very common for early 90s babies so I’m used it but I wouldn’t call the name situation a “big snag.” I’ve often been in the same class or workplace with someone else who had my name and either it’s obvious through context who you’re talking about, or nicknames/last initial usage comes about naturally. Sometimes I’ve seen specific job titles or functions used too, like Joe in Finance and Joe in Marketing or whatever.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Same here. Like my name was the 19th most popular name in Ireland the year I was born and the 3rd most popular 10 years earlier. I usually had two others in my class with the same name and for some reason it’s also a particularly popular name among teachers. It does have a lot of nicknames but even when I’ve been in a class with somebody else who uses the full thing, you just do first name-surname. It’s never been a problem.

  27. RJ*

    In the past, I would have gone with the phone call especially in a competitive hiring practice but after the disasters incurred and experienced during this current job search of mine, a friendly, well worded email is what’s called for. And it’s respectful and courteous IMO.

  28. Irish Teacher*

    As it’s mortification week as well, this made me think of a rejection call I once got that…probably fits that category for the principal. He rang up to say I hadn’t got the job, obviously, but emphasised that it was very close and one of the other two interviewers had been arguing very strongly for me and mid-sentence realised that…he’d managed to imply he was the person who had made the decision to go with the other candidate. I can’t remember his exact words, but he sort of stopped short after “but…”

    Maybe Bad News Sandwich gone wrong!

    1. Elenna*

      Hey look, another reason to use email instead – the ability to edit partway through!

  29. H3llifIknow*

    I get the preference people have for a specific method. I prefer an email for a rejection though. for a couple of reasons 1) If I’m going to cry (I do so easily) I don’t want it to come thru the phone; 2) When I see “Company X” on the caller ID, my hopes are going to skyrocket that they’re calling to offer me the job, not assume they are not. Serious let down potential. A polite, “This was a tough decision but we went in X direction for Y reasons” is so much more respectful and easy to take, IMHO.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      When I was job hunting a few years ago I would let decision calls go to voicemail. Usually they would come in mid-day and I wasn’t in a good place to answer right then anyway, and definitely didn’t want to scramble to find a private place just to hear bad news live. In the cases where I got called and they were rejecting me, the HR or HM left a voicemail with the news rather than “we’ll try again soon” or something, and that was best.

      I come down firmly on the side of no advance email that doesn’t also contain the details, and if you’re going to call, leave a voicemail!

  30. Ann Lister’s Wife*

    Re: names- I have an incredibly common 80’s-baby female name, and I work in an org that has about 17 Johns. It’s fine. People will either know by context or you can say John A or John W. It’s really not a big deal.

    1. Antilles*

      And even in the cases where the context isn’t clear, it’s a 10-second clarification of whether you mean John Stevens from accounting or John Matthews from marketing.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I once worked in a place where there was another person with my same first name, at least 2 Mary’s, and a whole bunch of Ann’s. No one was asked to use a different name or a nickname, and we all had ZERO trouble keeping everybody straight. If you were referring to one of the Ann’s when talking to a third person, you’d just say “Ann Lastname” so they’d know who you meant. It was a complete non-issue.

  31. quill*

    A thing to note if you’re debating whether something seems more respectful: are you conflating formality with respect?

    A phone call may feel more formal (It’s older!) but it does not respect people’s time and energy, in terms of either assuming they are available to respond to you or making them schedule a time for you to call.

  32. Esmeralda*

    Pros and cons for both phone and email.

    If you’re doing a phone rejection, then know that it will be awkward and it’s your job to navigate that.

    You might instead send the email and offer to discuss by phone, if you want.

    When I have been in the position of being rejected, I thought email was better (because then nobody could hear me being upset) but cowardly… But I did want to know where I fell short because that’s helpful to me. I’ve been fortunate in that my grand-boss (one of my references) would follow up for me to get insight.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Haha, when I was interviewing for tenure track faculty jobs…I was rejected for a job I was 90% sure I would get.

      One of our big-bug profs was incensed. Called the chair of the dept, asked WTF is going on here. Chair was equally pissed off — explained that a certain cohort of profs felt threatened by a smart, accomplished young woman, so the dept compromised on a “safe mediocrity”. It’s been about 30 years…I’ve always rather relished that phrase. (I did look up the new hire, the description was accurate)

  33. Thorn*

    Re: reimbursement

    I went through this process early in my career and just reading it reminded me of how stressful the whole thing was. I had very little money and I was so, so worried about not being able to make it all work and also that my prospective employer would see how inexperienced I was. They made it pretty easy in some ways I would definitely recommend.

    1. They booked hotel blocks. You could choose your own transportation, but the hotel wasn’t an option.
    2. Booking your flight was the default, though you could choose a different option and get reimbursed as Alison recommends.
    3. A visa gift card! Candidates got a per diem gift card to cover meals and incidentals. The interview process was three days (second interview) and included testing, panel interview, some other stuff, and a series of meet and greets with potential peers and managers, so travel expenses weren’t negligible for some candidates. Maybe a few people took the gift card and ran, but it certainly wasn’t many.

    We still use the same process, except we now have people complete their testing at a local test site and only fly out those who meet the cut off, which reduced the interview time by a day and filtered out candidates who can’t do the basics.

    When I relocated after being hired, they gave me a second gift card to manage small, unexpected moving expenses.

    1. fueled by coffee*

      Yes, this!

      I did not grow up poor by any means, but when I first started interviewing for jobs I didn’t really understand the concept of a corporate budget – that is, I knew that the company was covering costs for things like this, but I assumed that this was coming from a small pool of money that they would prefer not to spend. I didn’t understand that companies set aside money *for this purpose,* and that for most large companies plane tickets and a mid-range hotel room were small change.

      Asking me to submit receipts for reimbursement always made me feel like I was nickle-and-dime-ing the company (which, in retrospect, what??) and they might not want to hire me if I asked for too much in reimbursements. I almost always needed the company to cover flights and hotels, but I used to do things like taking buses for ground transit instead of taxis or ordering the cheapest possible food at meals because I thought it would help keep costs down and make me look better to the company. Telling me that having the company handle travel arrangements was the default and giving me a set budget in advance would have helped me immensely.

  34. anonymous73*

    I don’t think there will ever be a consensus on how or when to notify a job candidate about a rejection. If someone has gone through several rounds of interviews, I’m not sure the method of rejection matters as much as what is said. And yes I know sometimes someone is just a better fit, so there’s not a whole lot of detail you can get into with a rejection, but SOME kind of explanation is warranted whether you call or email. If I got a form rejection email after spending several hours trying to get a job, I would definitely see that as a sign of disrespect and be pissed.

  35. Churlish Gambino*

    No matter what rejection method you use, there’s always going to be at least one candidate who feels that you have personally ruined their entire life by calling instead of emailing, emailing instead of calling, sending them a rejection at all instead of ghosting, using smoke signals instead of sending a care package, etc. etc. etc.

    Just pick a reasonable method and be done with it. They’ll live.

  36. Veryanon*

    Go with the email. You can make it as warm as you wish, and you can even offer to meet with the candidate if they have any questions if you want to do that, but an email gives the not-selected candidate the space to process the news in their own way.
    Several years ago, I interviewed for an internal role at my employer at the time. This role would have been perfect for me. I put a lot of time into preparing, putting together presentations the hiring team had requested, doing research, etc. I had several rounds of interviews, all of which seemed to go really well, and I left the last round with the sense that an offer would be forthcoming. About three weeks later, I received an email from the hiring manager asking to set up time to meet with me that day. I excitedly emailed back with my availability, sure that this would be the offer. Reader, it was not. The hiring manager was kind, but I would have preferred to get the news via email; I barely held it together long enough to get off the phone and then I burst into tears.

  37. Allonge*

    I vastly prefer our ‘it only happened if it’s in writing’ culture here.

    Even for a job offer, what’s wrong with sending an email, saying we would like to offer you this job and then asking for a phone call to discuss details? And for a rejection… just do it in writing. People will be unhappy and it’s easier to criticise the method sometimes, but send an email anyway.

  38. Katy*

    I get why most people prefer email, but this spring I was going through endless rounds of applications for teaching jobs in my school district after I got displaced, and I was applying in a content area that I wanted to teach in but had not yet taught in this district. After months of automated rejection emails, it was actually really heartening to get a personalized phone call from a school I’d interviewed at, saying that they went with another candidate but still really liked my interview and would encourage me to apply again if they had another opening. It made me feel like I wasn’t just wasting my time trying to break into that content area.

  39. Becky*

    Yea just send an email. I had a hiring manager send me and email asking if I had a few min to chat. Which made me think she might of had follow up questions or an offer. It was only to tell me she really liked me but they went with someone else. I had moved my schedule around to have this call. I would of just like an email. Don’t waste more of my time.

  40. kiki*

    I think there’s rarely going to be a fool-proof way to deliver a rejection. I also think a rejected candidate is likely going to turn to the method of rejection as a thing to nitpick/ critique no matter what the method of rejection was. If it’s an email, they wish they’d gotten to talk to a person. If it’s on the phone, they’ll wish it were an email so they didn’t have to worry about seeming too emotional on the phone.

  41. Mill Miker*

    People get hung up on the format, but I find it’s usually the wording they’re unhappy with. A lot of rejections are like:

    “Hello Candidate, we regret to inform you that after much deliberation we’ve decided to go with another candidate.”

    When they’re really want to hear a kinder phrasing, such as:

    “Hello Candidate, you have many great skills to offer this company. After much deliberation we’ve decided to offer you the job. Congratulations.”

  42. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    I think that anyone getting a rejection phone call should let their emotions show a little and actually say out loud “I wish you had just emailed me for this”. (I say this knowing that I might not be able to do it myself, and knowing that there are good reasons a person might not want to do it.) It would let the phone-call-making people learn thru experience and their own personal discomfort that this is a bad practice.

  43. Manatee*

    Emails are better for rejections. If it’s a job that I really wanted I am likely to get a bit emotional. And with an email it gives me time to think of a professional response that would mean that if things don’t work with the successful candidate I would be considered for the role.

  44. John Smith*

    I’d say the best option is a brief, polite but to the point email followed with a genuine offer (or, rather, encouragement) to the unsuccessful applicant to call to discuss the decision further. That way the applicant is put out of their misery, they can have time to digest that information and can then decide to learn more if they so wish.

  45. River*

    I was rejected for a promotion within the company I work for. The interview I feel went pretty well. There was a question that was a bit of a curveball for me so I think that may have been the decision maker.
    But I was working at my desk on a Friday afternoon when my boss walked over to my cubicle and approached me with a big smile (bigger smile than usual) and asked if I could meet with her in her office in the moment. I had a feeling the impromptu meeting would be about the job I applied for. So we walked to her office, closed the door, and it was to tell me that I was NOT chosen as the candidate for the promotion. So they went with the other person that applied.
    I felt mislead in that my boss had a very big smile and seemed rather genuinely happy to be meeting with me. It still bothers me. So I was rejected in person and although my boss asked me if I had any questions, when you’re in shock or surprised, sometimes you can’t think and can only just process what just happened. My boss knows that I often need time to process information so I wonder if she took advantage of that on a late Friday afternoon.
    I do appreciate that I was told in person from someone higher up. Had my company emailed or called me, I would have felt unappreciated or a slap in the face.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree that the norms for rejecting internal and external candidates are different, especially if it’s a promotion in the same department and you’re still going to have to continue working with the same people afterwards.

  46. Sarahh*

    For a rejection, an email is probably kindest. My employer calls you in to a meeting with the hiring committee to let you know whether you’ve gotten a promotion. It’s horrible. You have to face three other people while you get bad news, and they never give any feedback so it’s completely unnecessary. The last time they told me I didn’t get a promotion, there was a coat covering the doorknob so I had to fumble to get the door open while being started at and trying not to be emotional. Spare people and send an email!

  47. just a random teacher*

    The only time I definitely wanted a phone call rather than an email for a rejection was the time that a school called, said I was a strong candidate but that, by contract, they’d had to give preference to an internal transfer and asking permission to pass along my name to the principal of the other school (who, of course now had an opening since their teacher had just transferred) as a recommendation. (Yes, that sounded great to me. I ended up getting a job in another district the day before I got offered that second job, but “is it ok to pass your info along to someone else with a similar opening?” is time sensitive enough to warrant a phone call even for a rejection.)

  48. AthenaC*

    This is tough – I’ve always been rejected by phone and although I think I handle it gracefully, the other person always seems a bit alarmed (?) and uncomfortable when I respond as such.

    Things I’ve said:

    – “Well, thank you for calling to let me know – I did enjoy the interview process and please express my thanks to the people who met with me.”
    – “Thanks for letting me know – I’ve worked with (other candidate) before and he’ll be a great choice. Best of luck with everything!”

    Those are the two that stick out to me. Maybe it sounds weird and overly positive but what am I supposed to say? “You guys suck for not hiring me”?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe it sounds weird and overly positive but what am I supposed to say?

      Sounds like a good case for them sending a rejection email instead of making it an awkward phone call.

  49. Wes*

    Gotta disagree with Alison here. I recently got rejected after an interview. It doesn’t matter how nice their email was, I felt that after investing hours in the process of applying, preparing for interview, and then attending the interview, I wasn’t even worth a phone call. And offering to give me feedback if I call them – now the onus is on me to contact them?! It left a very bad taste in my mouth – even worse than the disappointment of not getting the job.

    I know it’s awkward. But not calling the rejected candidate is for the interviewer’s benefit, not the interviewee’s.

    1. Cdn Acct*

      Everyone is different, but I think this comment section shows that not wanting to have their time wasted, and possibly needing to reschedule things, along with the desire to have privacy for their emotional reactions, is probably more common than wanting to get a phone rejection.

      Personally I don’t feel that a phone call shows any more respect than a personalized email, and is usually worse. I’d even prefer to have a job offer in email, as there would be information to digest before responding.

    2. allathian*

      It just goes to show that hiring sucks, and whatever you do, someone’s going to be unhappy.

      I would absolutely prefer to get a rejection email. Absolutely don’t call me out of the blue, and don’t schedule a phone call by mail either. If you must call, at least send a text and ask when would be a good time, and call as soon as I say it’s convenient. Don’t make me reschedule and don’t let me get excited about a potential offer that’s not actually forthcoming.

      I don’t feel that a phone call is in any way more respectful than a polite, personalized email. That said, I do think that a form email would be disrespectful if you’ve already been to one or more interviews, but not if they aren’t even going to invite you to an interview.

      I have some verbal processing issues that mean that I don’t retain information that I hear, I need to read it to have any chance of retaining it. If my emotions are involved, I’m even less likely to retain any information. So if a hiring manager calls me to tell me I won’t be getting an offer, I won’t be able to process anything after that, at least not if I’m at all invested in getting the job. So even if it’s an interviewer who thinks that I might be a good match for another job with their employer in the future, I’m unlikely to retain that information. For that matter, it would be difficult for me to ask what I could do to improve my chances of getting a job with them in the future, right off the bat. But if I get a rejection email from an organization that I’d really like to work for in the future, I’d be willing to respond to the hiring manager and ask them to call me if they have any ideas about how I could improve my chances in the future. And yes, I always respond to rejection emails with a short “Thanks for letting me know (so promptly), and good luck with your new hire.”

    3. Fluff*

      I have been on both sides:

      1. I got rejected by email after making it to the final round after loads of interviews. In fact, they were making arrangements to fly me up to the company and then cancelled. It would have really gone a long way for me if the recruiter had offered in the rejection email some feedback or a quick call option (if rejectee had desired) re: feedback, growth, maybe other opportunities at the organization, or we just “hired some one with more experience in X at large corps” or “first guy accepted.” The email alone without that feedback option felt like a red flag to me, since we started planning the trip for the in person final interviews. It left a not so great impression for the company (that I still want to like / root for).

      2. Another time after many interviews with so many directors / team members, I got the excited email from the recruiter “Would LOVE to chat.” Turns out I did not get the job and they offered me another position. It would have been a demotion for me with a capital D. I admit I was peeved about the “love to talk to you” part because there is only one way to interpret that – ‘you are getting the job.’ On the other hand, I did appreciate their feedback and realized they did see me as a potential – not in the spot I applied for. I felt better knowing I did well and it was just not the right fit and they went internal. They got props for the feedback option though.

  50. Anna*

    Regarding travel expenses, I’d book myself if I the other option was to have your company make decisions for me that I’d rather make for myself. I have preferences about the location of the room, bed size, etc. (I’m always polite about it, and I’m a great tipper, but I like to be able to make my own selections.) And that would be even more true if I needed accommodations for a medical conditions that might not be obvious in the interview, but would if I had to book a hotel through the company (a shower with grab bars, refrigerator for medications, a support animal I wasn’t planning to bring to the interview, etc.) I’m not saying that’s everyone’s motivation, but I’d always rather book my own and deal with the airline or the hotel one-on-one, so I get to make the little decisions when I travel, if that’s an option.

  51. Josephine*

    One time I was waiting for an answer about a job. I had a missed call from them and a voice mail saying to call them back. When I called it went to voice mail. And then I didn’t hear back from them for the rest of the day. I tried calling the next day but no one answered. I later got a hold of them and they had called to say I didn’t get the job… I would have much preferred if they told me that in the voice mail or email. Especially when they didn’t get back to me for days.

  52. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    I recently got rejected by phone. I appreciated that they took the time to ring me and give me feedback but it was hard to stay composed and polite.

  53. S'Matt*

    I’m one of two Matts on my team, and about 5 in our larger department. We’ve adopted a couple different styles, depending on the context:
    On internal team calls, the team uses our last initial as part of the name. For instance, I’m S’Matt or Matt S.
    On other calls, people refer to us by first and last name.

    No one, to my knowledge, has asked any of us to go by any name that we don’t already use.

  54. Daniel M.*

    I got such a call – on my cellphone while visiting my dying father (in another state). Even without that added circumstance, I felt that the reason given was stupid and unfair. AWK-ward!

    Even though I tend to expect the worst, like a certain TV character who explained, “that way I’m never disappointed. And sometimes I’m nicely surprised,” I still got caught off guard.

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