I think the reasons in my rejection email were bogus

A reader writes:

I was finally emailed almost two months after being interviewed for a job I really wanted, telling me they decided to go with someone else. Fine. But the reasons they gave were so bogus — what they mentioned, I HAD.

Sure, I know they can choose anyone they want. But should I respond to the rejection email and how? Should I just say “thank you for letting me know” or go into any detail (sort of to defend myself) or just not respond at all? I’m just so disappointed right now I don’t know.

It’s almost always a mistake to read too much into rejection emails or even to take the reasons in them literally. Much of the time they’re form emails that are going to a large group of people and not tailored to any recipient’s specific situation. If this one reads like a form letter, there’s no reason to respond to it (other than to say thanks for letting you know, if you want to do that — but that’s 100% optional).

But if it’s clearly a personal email tailored to you and it says something about your skills, not the person’s they hired, that’s different. For example, if the letter says something like “we were concerned your lack of Spanish fluency would be an obstacle for the role” when in fact you are fluent in Spanish (in other words, a concrete, objective mistake), it would be fine to write back, “I did want to correct the record and note that I’m fluent in Spanish, in case it’s relevant for future openings on your team.” Note that’s not debating the decision or hoping to persuade them to reconsider, and it’s not getting into detail about it — it’s just making sure they have the right info in case you apply with them again in the future.

But if the note was more about the skills of the person they hired — like “we went with someone with deep experience working with giraffes” and you too have worked with giraffes — there’s no point in writing back to point that out. They’re not saying that you don’t have experience in that area, even if that feels like the implication; they’re just trying to paint a quick profile of the person they hired (who was probably well-matched on a number of fronts, not just giraffes — because this is a quick summary, not a detailed explanation of the decision).

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. Richard Hershberger*

    I reaction to the headline was “It was a form letter.” I am happy to see Alison went straight there. It gives me a warm fuzzy sense of validation.

  2. Goldenrod*

    My guess would be that OP is new to interviewing for jobs. When you haven’t done it a whole lot, it feels very personal. But the more you do it, the more you realize it’s just a process. The point is to be engaged with the process, not the fixate on any one particular job.

    Which is really hard to do! It feels very personal and it’s hard not to take it personally. But truly, it’s not. I remember a few times, I felt very aggrieved about not getting a job because “I obviously am the most qualified candidate.”

    Later, when I found out who they hired and looked them up on LinkedIn, it was like: ohhhhh, actually I can see why this person’s experience was better.

    What helped me the most – and what Alison always advises – is to apply to multiple jobs. That way, you don’t get focused on any particular job, because you always have another iron in the fire.

    Good luck!

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Even if you have done it a lot it can feel personal. I don’t think anyone likes being rejected.

      But not taking it personally is the best thing to do in hiring

      1. Salty Crocodile*


        I recently received a rejection 28 minutes after submitting my application. Apparently the robot screening platform did not like my resume despite matching the skills and experience listed.

        It is hard to not get discouraged by that, but it is just the reality of the automatic screening systems.

        In the days of bonded paper resumes (and cover letters and envelopes), I once responded to a rejection which cited “We are not hiring for interns at this time” when I had applied for the full time professionally licensed role listed in the ad. I received another rejection shortly thereafter rejecting for the posted role, and any other roles that may come up. Lesson learned…save a stamp!

        These days, feel lucky if you even receive a reply…most do not.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          My favorite (read: least favorite but in retrospect it’s kind of funny) rejection was the one where I left the interview and had a rejection email pop up on my phone while I was walking to my car in their parking lot.

          I have interviewed people and I have absolutely interviewed people who I figured out they weren’t a fit for the role 10 minutes into the interview. But at least pretend you thought about it! Allow me to tell myself you agonized over the decision, please.

          1. Triple Toe*

            I did this to someone by sheer accident – hiring manager told me no so I sent a note to the candidate (my understanding was that she’d interviewed two days prior) – but nope – she’d just left the office when I sent it. I felt terrible and did sent a quick apology follow up. And I know I would take it quite personally (even though I know better) if the situation was reversed!!

          2. starsaphire*

            TBH, the one time that happened to me, I was sooo relieved – because it was really a terrible fit!

            But, same. I got home, fired up my email to send the obligatory thank you, and there was the rejection – probably sent about the time I was leaving the building.

          3. noncommittal pseudonym*

            My least favorite was when I was sent no fewer than *5* rejection emails for a single application. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted the job – it was entirely remote when that was unusual. After the 5th time being rejected, I was pretty sure I didn’t want it, after all.

            1. Ellen*

              I once received a rejection email for a job I had interviewed for, been offered, and turned down… six months later. I’m sure it was just dotting i’s in their internal systems, but it made me laugh. You’re not rejecting me, I rejected you!

        2. Sundari*

          My resume wasn’t forwarded by the system, even though I am more than qualified for the position, because I did not have experience working with their proprietary software. I have had lots of experience working with very similar software, but I guess it was just too difficult to teach someone who met the requirements in every other way.

      2. irene adler*

        Yeah, true. In one sense, not hearing back is better because you’ll never have to read the reason given in the rejection notice (not suggesting this as the way to treat job candidates!).

        It’s just so, so hard when the job is one you really wanted. Just need to remember, there are more jobs out there. Spend the time thinking on those, not the rejection notice.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The rejection email that stuck out to me most was when I was trying to pivot my career from making chocolate teapots for seven years to making gingerbread teapots. I thought the best way to achieve this was to apply for entry-level gingerbread teapot jobs.

          Dear Reader: It was not.

          I knew there was a high chance of being rejected because they really wanted entry-level or thought they couldn’t pay me competitively. I was confused, though, when they rejected me from an entry-level role for having insufficient teapot-making experience.

          1. Jaydee*

            At the end of law school, I applied for a job at a law firm. The posting said they were seeking an associate attorney.

            I got the absolute best rejection letter ever. They thanked me for applying and told me they were not hiring any 3L summer associates at the time, but if I was looking for a 2L summer associate position to let them know.

            Now, I can understand if they wanted someone already licensed. I don’t think they specified that in the posting. If they had, I can’t imagine I would have applied. But whatever. That would have been fine.

            It was the whole “we’re not hiring any 3L summers but if you meant to apply for a 2L summer position let us know” that perplexed me. I was not confused about what year I was in school – and would they really want me as a summer associate if I were?

            There were many other rejection letters that made me sad, but this one just made me laugh.

      3. The OTHER Other*

        Rejection absolutely does stink, it’s the worst thing about hunting for a job, but focusing your hopes on one (or even a few) jobs in particular definitely makes it worse. Far better to have several potential jobs in the pipeline at once, within reason of course.

    2. As If*

      Completely agreed. It’s almost impossible not to take it personally because you, personally, are being rejected, and that sucks! It’s ok to be disappointed and upset — but don’t make your feelings the hiring manager’s problem.

      The important thing to remember, also, is that you have a very limited perspective on the hiring process, and it’s probably less about what you *didn’t* have and more about what someone else *did* have. Having been on both sides now, I have so much more perspective on how difficult hiring can be when you have multiple great candidates and only one job opening!

    3. Beth*

      Yeah, the reality of job hunting is, you can’t get emotionally attached to a particular job until you have an offer in hand. Rejection is part of the process, and even being a perfect fit on paper doesn’t mean you’ll get the job! You don’t know who else they’re considering, after all.

      When I’m actively job hunting, I throw all the info for roles I’ve applied for into a spreadsheet so I can find it later if I need it, then try to immediately forget about each job until and unless I’m actually called in for an interview. (Even once an interview happens, my reflection on that goes in the spreadsheet too, and then I forget about it until I hear back from them.) It’s just not worth getting invested.

    4. Lorilei Stark*

      I got a rejection for a job needing a high school diploma. I was told I didn’t have the educational experience when I have 2 college degrees.

    5. Lorilei Stark*

      I got a rejection for a job needing a high school diploma. I was told I didn’t have the educational experience when I have 2 college degrees. Ok?!

  3. Dona Florinda*

    I hope OP doesn’t try to ‘defend themselves’ unless there is a very specific situation, like the one Alison described. It’s highly unlikely they’ll reconsider, and it’ll just come across as pushy, even rude.

    If the initial rejection didn’t get you blacklisted, this kind of reaction certainly will.

    1. lyonite*

      Even if they did get something specifically and provably wrong, there really is very little benefit to writing back to point it out. The best thing you can do is remind yourself that it’s their loss and move on to the next application. (Easier said than done, I know!)

    2. ferrina*

      Truth! You can’t argue your way into a job (and if you did, I’d be seriously concerned about the organization you were working at).

      Being able to take disappointment with grace is a skill. If you are able to respond kindly, that stands out. If you respond angrily or with frustration, it also stands out-you’ll get blacklisted.

      1. J!*

        The one place where I worked where someone was able to badger and harass his way into a job was a fully dysfunctional mess!

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’ve gotten rejection emails for internal positions where I didn’t agree with the reasons, but all it told me was important information about which departments I’d rather work in. And, eventually, that it was time to leave because I had no future in the company.

      1. Smithy*

        I agree with this. Very often the lessons you learn are more along the lines of “one more data point” as opposed to anything concrete.

        I’m in a field where job and department titles can get awfully vague from one team to another. Based on my interpretation of some job titles, I’ve thought I would be very competitive for certain job postings and then never called for an interview. While obviously the exact reason isn’t known, over time I’ve learned that just because I’m a Groomer & Stylist at Llamas Inc – Llama Corps has defined a Styling Groomer as something similar but rather different and where I’m not nearly as qualified.

        So often I’ll see jobs that I think are a clear fit, but am aware this might be the case of the Styling Groomer – and I’m actually far less qualified.

    4. linger*

      Yes, and even in the extreme scenario where the committee somehow got names and skill lists mixed up while making their decision and actually accepted the “wrong” person, it’s highly unlikely that they would reverse it. If replying at all, OP should only (gently, with no overt correction) note their actual skills, state their continued interest, and ask to be considered for future available positions. But even that would probably be spending too much additional time on this company.

  4. korangeen*

    Nearly all rejection emails I get don’t contain any specific explanation, but there was one time they said they were moving on with candidates with more supervisory experience. The job description had said nothing about supervisory experience and they didn’t ask me about anything related to management/leadership during the interview, so I was a little frustrated that I hadn’t had the chance to tell them about what management experience I had. So I replied to the email briefly (and what I hope came across as politely) describing my experience, but noting that it sounded like they had some good candidates to look at and wishing them luck with the rest of the hiring process. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, that got me nowhere.

    1. MK*

      That’s frustrating, but it’s often the case when choosing between good candidates that the choice comes down to something that’s not absolutely essential, but now that they have seen it’s on offer, they want it. And it’s unlikely that they deliberately chose not to ask you about this quality or forgot to do so; most likely, the other candidates proactively brought it up, a.k.a. interviewed better, or their experience is so extensive that it’s obvious in the resume.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        But if you tailor your resume to the job as it’s presented to you, that might not be as obvious. Plenty of jobs would not automatically make you think to bring up supervisory experience in an interview. I mean, sometimes you lose our for random stuff, but they could have asked for follow-up.

        1. MK*

          Ok, but apparently others did so. Maybe they just lucked out, maybe they had inside information, maybe they understood the role better.

          But if they have more-or-less equal 10 candidates and 5 of them have job descriptions that previous job titles that include or imply “supervisor”, they are more likely to just move on with those 5, not get back to the rest to make sure they didn’t miss them also having that experience. It’s how hiring works.

    2. SW*

      I wouldn’t rule out that they’d sent that rejection letter template in error when they meant to use another, more relevant one.

      1. linger*

        I can easily imagine that happening at one former org, where almost all external communication in English was heavily dependent on a limited number of stock letters pre-written by native speakers, and those matching the letter to the case were not native speakers.

        1. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

          Urgh, *this*.

          My most memorable rejection seems to have been one of those. Except that it was a company (in a non-English-speaking part of the world) that produced technical documentation almost exclusively in English, and with lots of international employees (meaning that the office lingua franca was English), so one might think that they’d have a larger pool of English speakers and that the non-writers (admin staff etc.) knew at least *some* English. Enough to pick the right form letter, at least.


          They didn’t have any openings to my knowledge, and to the knowledge of acquaintances of mine that already worked there, so I sent an open application.

          The rejection e-mail? “Unfortunately the position has already been filled.” WHAT THE (CURSES) POSITION

    3. Phryne*

      I once got a rejection letter (for an internal move) stating that my level of English was too low for the job. Which was surprising as it was a Dutch advert for a Dutch speaking position and English skill was not mentioned anywhere, AND I had stated on my CV that I was reasonably fluent in English due to having done a Masters in history in it…
      So I did write back to point out that that particular reason for rejecting me was a bit odd…
      They wrote back apologising. They had send me the wrong rejection letter. I was still rejected though, cause they went with someone with more training experience, which was fair enough. I knew the person who got it and I agree she was the better choice.

  5. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    I know for myself, I personally went through the whole gambit of going through interviews going through the long drawn out process and then being rejected repeatedly. If I got a rejection I did not respond for the most part . I think there was only one person I think because they emailed me a more personalized rejection letter.

    At least you got a response from them. A lot of companies don’t even give you a reply back.

    If you feel they are sincerely making up bogus reasons to why you did not get that job position ,ask yourself why would you want to work for them?

    Think about it. If they are really making excuses to not hire you even if you are qualified for the position ,then just imagine what they’re doing behind the scenes.

    1. anon for this*

      I was once given a rejection with tailored feedback that felt like the committee was trying to get me to question myself for no reason (think “you need to start thinking about the quantity of your work, not the quality”). It made no sense, and also convinced me that I really would not have wanted to work there and get caught up in whatever bizarre politics produced all that nonsense.

    2. Kristi*

      I always wonder about applicants complaining that they weren’t hired for “bogus” reasons. Job applications aren’t pass fail – usually they’re more like a marathon with dozens to hundreds at the starting gate, a handful that happen to pull ahead at some point and get interviewed, and in the end a winner who’s maybe the best and maybe was just having a better day than everyone else or didn’t get a rock in his shoe at a crucial moment. The fact that someone who is an experienced marathoner and solid runner didn’t win doesn’t mean the race was bogus. It just means someone else pulled ahead at the finish line.

      I mean – in my experience on interview committees usually everyone who makes it to the interview stage is qualified. And many applicants who didn’t also meet the qualifications listed, but since we can’t spend all our time interviewing everyone, it comes down to nuance – a year extra here, a specific project that resembles what they’ll be doing there. And same with interviews.

      Maybe rejections are bogus in that a completely honest “non-bogus” response would include an answer something like – you scored pretty well on the interview grid but your supervisory experience didn’t quite match what we’re doing here the way other peoples’ did, someone from accounting thought the other candidate sounded more excited about mentoring, and I don’t know why Wakeen thought the other candidate’s coding projects were higher level work but he’s the expert even if he doesn’t explain things very well.

      But no one’s going to actually share all the messy behind the scenes decision making, and it probably wouldn’t be terribly useful if they did. All it would get the interviewers is a flood of messages explaining how excited they are about mentoring and litigating the complexity of their coding projects. If you decide everyone who doesn’t send a response like that is being bogus and not worth working for, you’re going to limit future options.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      This. I never got a rejection email. The only time I called for an update all I got was a rude “well, if we didn’t call you is because we don’t want to hire you”.

  6. MK*

    One caveat about correcting the record about your skills: it’s ok to do that if it’s something objective (like Alison’s example about fluency). Don’t try to argue about their evaluation of your skills; e.g. if they say they want someone with a higher level of fluency than you have, don’t argue that your skills are enough for the role, that’s their call to make and they made it. You may disagree but that doesn’t make their reasoning “bogus”. And if it is bogus, the real reason is probably something you don’t want to hear.

    1. D’Arcy*

      There was the case where a rejection letter told a candidate he had insufficient expertise on a specific subject and helpfully referred him to a resource on that subject. . . except that resource was *the candidate’s own website*. He didn’t argue with them, but posted it on Reddit.

      1. NforKnowledge*

        There are loads of stories like this in computer science, one that sticks out in my mind was someone who had been rejected for a job for not having at least 5 years experience in X software… when the person in question DEVELOPED X software 2 years ago!

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          That happens all the time …. when a U.S. (or other western country) firm wants to “go offshore” for a position. So they invent a posting like this “seeking 5 years experience in Whammo-Bammo technology” when Whammo-Bammo may have only been out for 2 or 3 years.

          Then they get in contact with an offshore service provider who lies and says “ohh we have several people with five years’ experience in , what you said, Whammy-Bammy?”

          So they sign on, expecially when the price tag is lower – AND – when the five year veteran in Whammo Bammo comes in to work – SURPRISE! He knows nothing!

          The offshoring labor provider knows that the decision-making manager cannot admit he made a blunder. So – the offshorer gets his money, the failed project is deemed a success, and life goes on,

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, don’t object to anything subjective, or based on an assumption about the job itself (which the hiring manager understands better than you do).

      1. OrganGrinder*

        Except when they don’t. My interviews have typically been conducted by committees with little real understanding of what the job involves.

  7. CharlieBrown*

    I have always said “we have decided to go a different direction” or “we have decided to go with a different candidate” without getting into any specifics for this very reason. The people we didn’t hire don’t really have any right to know who we ultimately went with or why.

    1. rage criers unite*

      this 1000 times….
      regardless of what the letter said, they determined LW was not the right candidate, and that hurts, but just keep moving forward!!

    2. Adrian*

      OT, I got ghosted once when the company couldn’t say either of those things, because it would have confirmed they were starting their search all over for cheaper candidates.

      For reasons too long to discuss here, they initially interviewed top-level candidates and were willing to pay top dollar. It was after they interviewed all of us, that they changed their minds about paying that much.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        I’ve been part of a hiring committee where that happened. In our case, at least, it was that we had been given a role and a description and were hiring for it, and then at the end of looking (with no candidates that anyone really liked, though they were all well qualified), the Powers That Were decided to finally ask themselves “Do we actually need a Senior Periodicals Clerk?”

        Turned out that once that question was asked the answer was no, we really didn’t; sure, it was what we were replacing, but we could (and should) have been looking for a much more entry level person to fill our role.

        1. ferrina*

          I’ve had that same thing happen- my department was restructured and we got green lit for two new positions. We were about to make the offer for the first one, and suddenly the C-Suite decided that we actually didn’t need any new positions in the department (the team could just keep being overworked and underpaid).

          I felt so bad for all the candidates that never heard back from us.

    3. toolittletoolate*

      This. I will give specific feedback to our own internal candidates–I think we owe it to them as part of their development– but not to external ones. The few times I have given feedback to an external candidate, it hasn’t had the intended outcome–which was to help someone be more competitive in the future. I had one person’s parent call me to argue with me about why I was wrong about their adult child’s skills and threaten me with a lawsuit. After that I said, never again.

  8. irene adler*

    One time, I applied to a job as I met all but one item on the job description- one of the “nice to haves”.

    I discussed this one item at the phone screen. I was assured this was not an issue. I had less familiarity with one of the software programs they cited in the job ad; however, they would be happy to have me learn what I needed to on the job.

    So, 4 interviews later, I am rejected.

    The reason: not enough familiarity with the software program cited in the job ad.

    At least they got back to me. That’s way better than most.

    And I now know to meet 100% of the job criteria before ever applying there again.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      They really need to stop putting “nice to haves” that are really requirements as optional in their job ads though. That’s so frustrating as a job seeker to find out that, no, that “nice to have” is actually critical – you wouldn’t have applied or went through multiple rounds of interviews had you known that.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        But not getting a job because of not having a “nice to have” doesn’t mean it was secretly a requirement, it more likely means that someone else who ticked all of the requirements had this “nice to have” ability as well.

      2. anne of mean gables*

        I don’t think that’s what that means, though? I would take that to mean they interviewed another candidate who did have that skill. If you’re interviewing two candidates, both of whom have all the required skills, and one who has a “nice to have” skill – you obviously pick the one who has the nice to have skills (all interpersonal skills/references/etc being equal, of course). I don’t think hiring managers are being duplicitous by including ‘nice to have’ skills, or that you shouldn’t apply to positions where you don’t have all the ‘nice to haves’ – they just can only hire one person and are going to pick the best one in the bunch.

      3. Kippy*

        But it may not have been critical until you got to the final set of candidates.

        If Candidate A and Candidate B both have all the must haves but Candidate B knows how to use the “nice to have” program, well, you’re probably going to use that “nice to have” as a deciding vote in picking a candidate. Especially if Candidate A and Candidate B are neck and neck and would both be great potential employees. You can only pick one.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I’m pretty sure I got hired on a “nice to have”. There weren’t that many requirements for the job and I cannot imagine that there weren’t plenty of applicants who had them, but I had experience in an area that was not directly related, but was sort of related because of some specific content. But if I hadn’t had it and neither had any of the other applicants, they would simply have hired someone else or hired me despite the lack of it–it wasn’t a requirement (none of my supervisors have had it).

        Honestly, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get the job because my background didn’t seem specific enough, so I wouldn’t have been hurt or even surprised if they’d rejected me; the one thing I can think of that might have that stood out was that I’d worked in this other area that was indirectly applicable.

      5. Beth*

        When this happens, it doesn’t mean that “nice to have” was secretly a requirement. It means they would’ve been open to someone without it if that was the best candidate they got….but in the end they did get good candidates with that thing, and it is nice enough to have that it was a differentiating factor.

      6. MigraineMonth*

        I’m more frustrated when there’s a “nice to have” that is written as a job requirement. Particularly if they’ve hard-coded it into the application site so the application gets auto-rejected without it.

        I thought I was a pretty good match for a job description that had an absurd number of requirements, but the system wouldn’t let me apply. In hindsight, that’s probably a good thing: from the job description, it was pretty clear they wanted to hire a single person to do separate roles A, B, C and D, but for less pay than any of those roles.

    2. LuckyPenny*

      To me that just sounds like they may have had another candidate that was just as strong as you PLUS they had experience with that software program and that’s what tipped things in their favor. So yes, not a must-have but would make an already strong candidate stronger.

    3. Worldwalker*

      When something is listed as a nice-to-have, it doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. If you don’t have it and another candidate whose skills otherwise match yours *does* have it, they’ll go with the second one because that person doesn’t have to learn what they need on the job.

      Think of it as a tiebreaker.

    4. urguncle*

      I don’t want to invalidate your experience here, but meeting 100% of the criteria is not the lesson I’d take away from this! Maybe the other candidate didn’t fill all of the “nice to haves” either, but they had more experience in another area. Maybe everything was exactly the same, and they flipped a coin on you and had to choose a reason. It sucks in the moment to remember that job rejections aren’t personal, because a job is deeply personal to you, but it does become a numbers game and you will end up winning that coin toss or have invaluable experience that they didn’t even list that they needed but actually do.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      This is common when you are up against another candidate who does have the skill.

      In a bubble the skill is a nice to have. The employer has no idea who will be applying with what skills.

      It’s less rejecting you because you didn’t have the skill and more rejecting you because you didn’t have the skill AND another person did.

      You’re potentially doing yourself a disservice by only applying for jobs where you meet 100% based on this one incident.

      1. DataSci*

        It’s not even that they’re rejecting you, because it’s not about you. They made an offer to the best candidate. They most likely only have one position, so chances are there are perfectly qualified candidates who don’t get an offer.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          But they are in fact rejecting you as a candidate. Saying it’s a business decision doesn’t make it suck less.

          Filling the position may not be about you, this is true, but ultimately we are all rejected because they company wanted something we didn’t have.

          It doesn’t mean someone is a bad candidate. It does mean that hiring is highly dependent on who the other candidates are, something over which we have no control.

          The OP of this comment took their rejection to mean it was because they didn’t possess a skill. That’s both true and not true. In this case it is true because there was another candidate who did possess the skill (likely since that was the reason given) and they went with the preference. In the absence of another candidate with that skill, OP very well could have been the selected candidate.

          OP is shooting themselves in the foot by deciding never to apply for another position unless they have all the skills and the other company was somehow lying about needing to have the skill to be considered.

    6. Elder Millennial*

      It could be what the others are saying: they had another candidate that did have that skill and you were otherwise equal. Or another candidate clicked better with the team and they couldn’t really explain why and this was the only concrete point they could give you as to why they rejected you. Or a nephew of the CEO suddenly had to be hired and they had to cancel hiring you.

      There could be a million reasons they decided not the hire you. Don’t take it as a sign you should only apply for jobs where you meet all requirements.

    7. AnonaLlama*

      Oh, irene adler, please don’t draw that conclusion! I’ve hired lots of people over the years, sometimes they had all of the requirements listed plus some and sometimes they’ve barely had most of the requirements listed. Sometimes for the same job, months apart. It really all depends on the slate of candidates I have to choose from at the time. Part of me wishes I could hire everyone who met the minimum criteria but I usually have to pick only one, and sometimes that means rejecting (not the way I see it but the way it feels) many great and qualified candidates.

    8. Lizzianna*

      Depending on how it’s framed to you, I can see where that would be frustrating, but from a hiring manager’s point of view, sometimes you get two awesome candidates, they both have all the “have to haves,” and one also has the “nice to have.”

      At that point, the “nice to haves” do tip the scale. The fact that you got through 4 interviews probably does mean that they were seriously considering you.

      1. Coconutty*

        That seems like an odd reaction. Of course it’s disappointing not to get a job you wanted, but to unilaterally decide you’ll never again apply to a potential employer because they once rejected you over a “nice to have” (which almost certainly means they found another candidate who ticked all their boxes and then some) might just be shooting yourself in the foot.

        1. cncx*

          It goes a little bit deeper- it was a lengthy interview process and I had flagged the “nice to have” when the recruiter called me. At every stage I was constantly reassured it wasn’t a problem up to and including at the last round. Then all they could tell me at the end was that actually they realized it was a dealbreaker. After four rounds. Had it not been framed as a nice to have but mandatory, I would never have applied. That’s the difference and what makes me not try again: because I have no way of knowing until the very last stage of an extremely long time sink if it’s really a nice to have or not.

          1. Kristi*

            But as people have been pointing out – likely the hiring group doesn’t know that until they know if the candidate pool would allow them to get someone who was good and who they liked who had that in addition to the listed need to haves. They didn’t waste their own time on all those interviews just to annoy you; it means hiring you was a legitimate possibility until they made up their mind on what the deciding factor between the top candidates would be. (Unless they actually had enough identical positions open that they could and should have hired all of you, in which case it is indeed odd.)

          2. DyneinWalking*

            Listen, they might well have been completely honest about this. You really need to keep in mind that you aren’t the only candidate they interviewed. If in the end it was a tie between you and one other person who interviewed just as good as you, with the exact same skill set and experience PLUS the nice-to-have, that would tip the scale to the other person. But before the interviews, they would have had no way of knowing how that other person would interview – so for all they knew, it might just as well been you with the other person being rejected in the process over a “tell me about a time when…” question.

    9. Kim*

      Just as well – they sound like idiots. It doesn’t take long to come up to speed on a new software program if you have deep experience with other software. I can remember being rejected early in my career for a job because my current employer used a different spreadsheet package . I tried to explain that they all essentially worked the same . Another time was rejected because prospective company used Version 2.1 and I was using 2.0. It would have taken me 5 minutes to learn.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Sure, but if your options are “Candidate A who has all of the requirements but doesn’t know the software” or “Candidate B who has all of the requirements and does know the software” why are they idiots for going with Candidate B?

    10. Kella*

      I’m pretty certain that when they assured you it wasn’t an issue that you didn’t have the familiarity with that software, they meant, it was not enough of a conflict that they wanted to stop interviewing you and move onto other candidates. And it’s possible that if you had had something else extremely special, that could’ve beat out other candidates even with that familiarity. But it’s really not surprising that they basically said, “You don’t have to *have* XY & Z but our ideal candidate would have XY & Z” and so they hired someone who had XY & Z.

    11. allathian*

      All that really means that they found a candidate who ticked all the boxes. Even if you have all the must-haves and the nice-haves for a job, it’s still not a guarantee that you’ll get it.

  9. idwtpaun*

    I worry that the OP will just take Alison’s options as permission to write back in the same aggrieved and defensive manner as their letter. All that’ll do is reinforce the employer’s decision, and if it’s the kind of place that keeps candidates in mind for later, remove the OP from consideration for that.

    1. Heffalump*

      I think the aggressive and defensive manner was understandable, given that the OP hadn’t seen Alison’s response at the time. If they read the response and still don’t get the point, that’s another matter.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’m always concerned when it seems like LW aren’t going to take Alison’s advice, but I hope OP will! Unless the reason is *objectively* wrong and you want to set the record straight for *future consideration*, nothing good can come out of responding.

      OP, if you do want to respond to something objectively wrong, write out the proposed email in a word document, give yourself a week to cool off, and if it still seems like a good idea to send it, run it past someone whose professionalism you trust before hitting “send”.

  10. Saffy_Taffy*

    I hope this little anecdote is helpful in some way. I was once turned down from a graduate program because “the grades were the problem,” which bugged me both because I’d graduated #1 in my class with excellent grades, and because the wording was so odd. I ended up requesting feedback (my mentor was close with the department chair, and she recommended I do it) and it turned out that the rejection was typed up by an admin and the language was based on notes. So it was at least two “steps” away from real feedback, you know?
    The chair agreed the feedback sounded awkward, and then gave me real feedback which was much more sensible. It ended up confirming why I didn’t actually want to go to graduate school.

    1. Indubitably Delicious*

      One of the grad schools I applied to sent, along with my form rejection letter, a carbonless copy of a rejection notice that I’m pretty sure wasn’t supposed to come to me. It had a short list of reasons for rejection. Mine was ticked “generally unqualified.”

      That was twenty years ago, and I ended up getting in elsewhere with funding, but I was pretty salty about it at the time.

      1. PsychNurse*

        This made me chuckle- I am so sorry! “Generally unqualified” is terrible wording for sure.

      2. Eater of Hotdish*

        I vividly remember getting a grad school rejection email that said something along the lines of “we are unable to consider your application favorably.”

        In hindsight, I’m really glad I didn’t go there. But sweet fancy decorative gourds, y’all–it’s almost 20 years later and the wording still stings.

  11. Charlotte Lucas*

    When I was actively job-hunting, I came to the conclusion that not everyone reads resumes the same way. And there are a lot of form letters out there. You just start to roll with the punches & wondering which unicorn some little tiny places are looking for. (Seeing the same postings for months on end made me wonder.)

    But at least you got a response, so that’s something. (I’d rather not get some of the more smug responses, though.)

  12. Fluffy Fish*

    OP – consider what you said in the interview and how your resume was written. It’s very common for people to have a skill or ability or experience BUT do a terrible job conveying that.

    Super duper common with internal candidates -they often fall into the trap of oh they know my work – nuh-uh. I know nothing you haven’t explicitly told me.

  13. Cat Tree*

    OP, think about what you want to accomplish or expect to accomplish and let that guide your actions. Are you hoping that if you set the record straight they will change their minds and offer you the job? If you think about it you probably realize that is unlikely even if they are objectively wrong about your skills. They have most likely offered the position to someone else who most likely already accepted it. If you write back to say that you actually are fluent in Spanish or have extensive experience with giraffes, they probably won’t revoke someone else’s accepted offer to give it to you instead.

    The whole thing is frustrating. Your feelings about that are legitimate. But if writing back only serves to make you feel differently without changing the outcome, you probably shouldn’t. There are other ways to accomplish that without alienating other people.

    1. BRR*

      I love “think what you’re trying to accomplish” as a piece of advice. I think overall there are only a tiny number of reasons when someone can reply to a rejection to correct an employer but I’m worried in this situation the lw is hoping for the outcomes of changing their minds or showing them how wrong they were. I think the two important things here are to not read too much into rejection letters because often times companies are just trying to send out a softened rejection and that companies reject great candidates all the time because at the end of the day they can only offer one person one job.

  14. Environmental Compliance*

    There has been one (1) time I have pushed back on a rejection. It was immediately following application – no interview, no phone screen – and the person had emailed me saying “no, you don’t have [exact XYZ experience]” when I had exactly that experience. I responded to say “I’m sad to hear that, but could you clarify what experience you’re looking for as I do have [XYZ]?” They ended up responding back and setting up an interview. Never really found out what had originally happened, but assuming they accidentally emailed the wrong person or something. I ended up declining to progress due to a few other factors on their end (a lot of disorganization including not really seeming to understand what they want in the role).

  15. Vio*

    Rejection always hurts but, especially in job hunting, it’s rarely at all personal and it’s important to remind yourself of that. It’s a shame that the rejecting employers rarely give any constructive criticism (although it is rather understandable that they don’t necessarily have the time to do so) but it’s extremely valuable to be able to accept it when they do and learn from it.
    If you disagree with their criticisms then it’s probably that as Alison says it’s a form letter that’s not really about you so much as a generic every-candidate. But it’s always worth asking yourself if there is any reason someone would think that about you, if somehow you’re conveying the wrong impression. Probably not, but it can help to consider it

  16. Lizzianna*

    If it is a personalized letter, and if it does focus on your skills/accomplishments, and if it is demonstrably false (all a lot of big ifs), I’d still hesitate to write back.

    First, I’d ask, is it possible they made this mistake because I didn’t present it correctly? Like, when asked about whether you speak Spanish, did you hem and haw about how you “speak some Spanish, but it’s not perfect…,” when in fact you lived in Spain for 5 years, and hoped the fact that you have a Spanish company on your resume would speak for itself? I see this happen all the time – I’ve had it happen during reference checks, when one of my former employees is applying for a job, the hiring manager is concerned they’re lacking X skill, and lo and behold, that was one of their primary responsibilities and they were great at it. They just apparently weren’t great at selling their skills through their resume or interview.

    That’s a long way of saying, it’s worth doing some introspection on how you present yourself for future interviews.

    Second, even if it’s not possible that I contributed to the mistake, I’d consider what I actually want to get out of responding. Is this someone I’ll likely run into in the future in professional circles, and does their misconception of my skills matter? Or do I just want to correct the record because of my pride? If it’s the latter, I’d rant about it to my best friend when we get coffee, then I’d try to let it go.

    Finally, for what it’s worth, it’s pretty common that hiring managers don’t put the full reason for their decision in an email. Sometimes it really comes down to who we think is going to be the best fit on the team, and there is something about the interview or references that rubs us the wrong way. But I’m not going to put “You interrupted me and the other woman on the panel and called me ‘young lady’ even though I’m going to be your boss, but were incredibly respectful to the jr. male intern we let sit in on the process as a learning experience.” in an email. Even if the rejection email is specific and not a form letter, I wouldn’t assume it’s the full story.

  17. M&M*

    The only time I’ve ever emailed back after a rejection (except to say thank you if I had already interviewed) was when I got rejected for a job I didn’t even apply for! I wouldn’t necessarily respond the way I did again (I definitely burned the bridge), but it took them 8 weeks to reject me (for the wrong job!) after multiple interviews and an intensive work assignment. I was pretty peeved so I told them that I hadn’t applied for job X, I applied for job Y but I was pulling my application either way. I mostly sent it to make myself feel better, and I don’t know that it did. I’d recommend rolling your eyes and moving on – who knows if a cool job with them will pop up later. Rejections suck but the best thing to do is to try to forget about it. Good luck OP!

  18. Baron*

    The LW is not a particularly egregious example of this, but it’s always weird to me when people think a hiring process is a referendum on their skills. It’s not. You could have 100% of the skills mentioned in a job posting, and still be up against competitors who have 100% of the skills, plus more.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      This! It’s not like a body-building competition or something. It’s much more nuanced than that–how is this person’s skills going to fit into the gap we are trying to fill, what else do they bring to the table, do they seem reasonably confident and excited, are they going to be someone we can work with?

      It’s not just about who had the most/biggest/whateverest on their resume.

    2. no one reads this far*

      It could also come down to something harder to define, like personality or how well you connected with the interviewer.

    3. OyHiOh*

      A community theater director, coaching a group of students who were preparing for professional auditions, offered this gem, which translates nicely to job interviews as well: Your job as a candidate is to solve the director/hiring manager’s problem. Based on what you know of the production/job/organization, you are trying to make yourself the most obvious person to solve that problem. But you can’t see the other candidates, so you may not be the person who solves the problem the way that the director/hiring manager wants it solved.

    4. Cascadia*

      Yes, and it could be something you have no control over that you can’t control, like an inherent quality. I’ve seen a team of all women faced with 3 equally qualified applicants. They chose the one male applicant because he would bring a diverse perspective to the team, that they were currently lacking. It has nothing to do with the other candidates skills, just that it was important to have diversity in the team.

  19. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    I’ve actually had good luck at progressing to interviews after getting rejections, by correcting things – my resume and credentials are weird, and a lot of automated systems reject me by virtue of not recognizing equivalencies, or not realizing that my employer/title doesn’t contain certain keywords (ie librarian) because the position was in corporate rather than municipal work, and so it was labeled something like research aide.

    But, that’s about specific shortfalls in the reviewing of resumes that may not be obvious to everyone, especially if they haven’t had a weird career like mine. It works maybe a third of time time to get me back into consideration – but none of those events have ever turned into actual positions.

  20. Nonym*

    I’m sorry OP. It sucks to be rejected for a job you wanted and doubly so when you feel it’s because your skills or background were unfairly assessed or misunderstood. I have been there and I can relate.

    Still, I agree with Alison’s advice. One thing I would add is that it might be worth examining how you communicated that info, whether that played any role in their mistake, and if so, how you could better sell your skills next time. I know it was the case for me. I pushed back a little when rejected for an inaccurate reason and the conversation helped me realize that my resume was missing some information a recruiter would expect. I have also left an interview unhappy that the recruiter didn’t ask me relevant questions but that helped me realize I needed to be more proactive in promoting myself and directing the conversation. I’m not saying this is what happened to you for sure – it’s very possible that the person wasn’t listening properly or that it’s just a bogus pretext or any number of scenarios – but it’s worth taking the time to examine.

  21. blue giraffe*

    Anecdote: both me and a friend were rejected from a FAANG company. The reason: “too weak in mathematics”.

    We both have PhD’s in math.

    Sometimes the reason isn’t the real reason.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      +1 on that. I was rejected from a role years ago for not having experience with scheduling panel interviews. That turned out to be a dealbreaker. I even spoke with another company (very ironic that I had worked with for 5 years and even worked intermittently with the recruiter I phone screened with on and off during that time, AND the director of recruitment had been my boss for 18 months until my department was eliminated. To say they knew me was an understatement) and I got rejected for not having experience with panel interviews. It still puzzles me.

      In the next role I had, I scheduled panel interviews all day every day for the next 5 years and got several kudos from higher-ups/colleagues for my work and bonuses just for an being awesome colleague/employee. There was no difference in the scheduled I did in my previous roles and this role.

    2. Jake*

      Agreed. I’d even amend the statement to say “usually” in place of “sometimes.”

      I know when I hire, I rarely if ever have the time and energy to give well thought out and actionable feedback to candidates. For the most part, the best I can do is a quick, “thanks for your time, we’ve decided to go another direction” type email. It takes real time and effort to give real feedback, and it generally isn’t reasonable to accomplish that for everybody.

  22. ecnaseener*

    It might also help to get really clear in your head about what outcome you’d be hoping for in writing back. Because “thanks for letting us know, we will pull the offer from the other candidate and offer it to you instead!” isn’t going to happen.

    If it’s truly just to make sure they don’t have blatantly incorrect notes on file in case you want to apply again – fine. But I think the urge to respond to rejections usually comes from a more nebulous desire to make people think well of you, and A) not getting a job doesn’t mean they didn’t think well of you, B) if they didn’t think well of you it’s not because they were mistaken about your giraffe experience or anything else you can simply correct without being pushy.

  23. lyngend (canada)*

    Had an interviewer say they didn’t think I could handle stress. Every job except my newest job is high stress. I’m good at handling stress. I wrote back correcting them, politely, and said I’d be willing to discuss it more if needed. (with examples)

    1. Meep*

      Ok this response seems justified, because telling someone that they cannot handle stress is burning a bridge in my book.

  24. learnedthehardway*

    I’ve learned that it almost never pays off to give people clear reasons about why they were rejected.

    I mean, the OP DOES have the particular skill the hiring manager referenced in the rejection letter. But perhaps the person who was hired has MORE of the skill. Or perhaps the OP didn’t display the depth of their knowledge about the skill effectively in the interview. Or maybe they don’t have as much experience as they think they have.

    It’s usually better to say “we went with another candidate whose experience and skills were a stronger fit for the position”.

    There’s really no point to writing back to them, OP. But do reflect on whether you presented your experience effectively and perhaps do some reading up on how to interview effectively, and also think about where you could strengthen your experience as well – through training or self-development, taking on stretch projects, etc. etc., if that is where you want to progress your career.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking and I can’t remember ever receiving specific feedback. Maybe one time when I’d set up the interview via a recruitment agency, and they called me afterwards – they asked how I thought it had gone, I said I thought it had generally gone well but I got the impression the interviewers were looking for someone with more experience with [ex.] cookery books, and the recruiter said ‘Yes, that’s pretty much what they said as well’. Having been on the hiring side I know it absolutely can come down to two or three people who on paper have near-identical qualifications, but it’s about the answers they give in the interview, how they come across, how you think their particular skills would fit in with the existing team – none of which any of the other candidates could possibly know about. So ‘We appreciate you taking the time to meet with us, but ultimately we went with a candidate whose skills and experience were a better fit for the position’ is the clearest and safest bet all round. People will still try to argue, but they’re less likely to if you don’t give them something to latch on to like ‘You don’t have enough experience doing X specifically’.

  25. Not A Real Manager*

    1) It was probably a form letter so don’t take it too personally.

    2) Much like dating, you’ll find you don’t really want to be with/work for someone who rejected you and only took you on because you made an appeal.

  26. Not A Real Manager*

    Also wanted to add: employers will often not give a specific reason (or send the same reason to everyone) because once you start discussing why someone wasn’t hired in specifics, it can open the employer up to litigation if the applicant suspects any form of discrimination. Even if everything was above board companies would just rather not take the risk on having to spend time or money on fighting those claims.

    1. londonedit*

      Or even just arguments that no one has time for. Back in the dark ages when I started out in publishing, it was my job to manage the ‘slush pile’ – the unsolicited manuscripts. We’d get maybe 30-50 a day and I’d log them in and out on a database, read the covering letters and maybe skim-read the first page or two, and make a decision on whether to pass them on to an editor or just reject them myself. The editors would then give their rejected ones back to me to deal with, and we had a form letter saying ‘Thank you very much for sending us sample chapters of [Wizards and Dragons: It’s Nothing Like Harry Potter, I Swear]. I am afraid that, after careful consideration, our editors have determined that it is not quite right for our list. We wish you the best of luck in placing your work with another publisher’. Probably 90% of the time that would be it, but in 10% of cases they’d ring up demanding to know the name of the editor who had assessed their work, demanding to speak to them, demanding exact details of precisely why their book ‘wasn’t quite right’. And you had to be really careful with timings, too – we gave a guideline of 4-6 weeks for a response to any submission, and I’d have to keep a log of when to send rejections (I’d do a batch once a month or so) because otherwise people would be up in arms with ‘But it’s only been two weeks and you said 4-6, you can’t possibly have read it properly, I want to speak to the editor who apparently read it’.

  27. Silicon Valley Girl*

    It’s two months later & they’ve hired someone else. There’s no point in replying — they’ve moved on & so should OP.

  28. Jake*

    I ran into this and actually have an interesting data point to add.

    In 2013 I was 2 years into my career and looking for a new company. I interviewed at a top company in my industry, and I received very personalized feed back consisting of three points:

    1. You’re current experience is in field work, and we’d like to see you get some office experience (reasonable, even to me at the time)
    2. You don’t seem to be a good fit for this city (ridiculous, it is a city I had lived near most of my life!)
    3. We aren’t specifically hiring right now, but would hire the right person, but you’re not quite there yet. We’ll keep you on file, and please contact us in a couple years because we think you could be a good candidate with a little more experience. (reasonable, since I reached out to them and they don’t do job postings)

    I was tempted to reach back out and debate #2, but I dropped it, and just responded with a quick thanks for the feedback note.

    Fast forward 3 years later after having a more traditional office position within our industry for those years, and I followed directions from #3 and reached back out to my interviewer. We had a phone interview where he stated:
    -You’re recent experience isn’t what we are looking for (just trust me when I say it is exactly what they had recommended from the first interview)
    -You make too much money, implying that I was not honest about my salary history (I was very honest)

    I pushed back during the phone interview on both instances, and especially the first since they are the ones that recommended I obtain this experience in the first place. I was invited to an in person interview, which I attended for 5 minutes, realized that I was dealing with somebody that didn’t know what they wanted, so I politely ended the interview.

    That long anecdote is just to say that even if the feedback was really specific, it doesn’t necessarily mean much. Things change over time, and I’m not convinced that most employers are even equipped to give reasonable, actionable feedback.

    we’d love to see more hands

    1. DataSci*

      I’m missing something, I think; how do you get from “you make too much money” to assuming they think you weren’t honest about your salary history? I’d take it exactly at face value – that they wouldn’t be able to make an offer you’d accept because the salary expectations are too far apart. I’ve had that happen.

    2. Not A Real Manager*

      Note to other people interviewing: Not hiring someone because “you make too much money” is illegal in some states now. Of course if the salary they ask for during negotiations is too high, it’s fine to pass on them. But in some states current or past salary can’t be considered as a part of the hiring process.

  29. LabRat*

    I did once reply to a rejection when it was addressed to someone with a completely different name. And even then I just said “hey, thanks for the update, you may want to investigate your candidate management system because it got my name wrong.” I then got a snarky response of “thanks for the feedback, you still didn’t get the position”. Bullet DODGED.

    1. I would prefer not to*

      Haha amazing, the employer really managed to make themselves into the petty defensive one in that situation!

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I once got an invitation to interview after a rejection. They admitted to mixing me up with a candidate with the same last name as me. The other guy was invited to interview and then disinvited when the company noticed the mistake.

  30. I would prefer not to*

    Sometimes rejection letters are like break up speeches. People give reasons they think sound reasonable, simple, and polite. They don’t give the whole, sometimes complicated or messy, often more subjective, potentially awkward reasons.

    They’re not obligated to do so.

    If the reason doesn’t sound accurate or make sense, a very likely explanation is that they’re just not putting a huge amount of deep analysis into writing your rejection email. They’re just saying a version of What You Say In A Rejection Email.

  31. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I used to agonize over what I might have done wrong in an interview. When I finally got to be on the hiring manager end a few years ago, I observed that most of the people I rejected had not put their foot in their mouth during the interview – there just happened to be someone who was a slightly better fit.

  32. DrRat*

    What Honest Rejection Letters Would Look Like For Qualified People:

    1. Your credentials are better, but the other person said they would work for less money.
    2. The people who would actually work with you every day wanted to hire you, but the director needed to show everyone that he has the biggest d**k so he picked the other candidate to show who’s in charge around here.
    3. You and the other person were tied neck-and-neck and someone (rightly or wrongly) decided that we needed to hire the other candidate based on diversity/public perception issues.
    4. You are better qualified, but the other candidate has a father who was a frat brother to our CEO.
    5. The other candidate has the same alma mater as the person making the hiring decision. Or they are fans of the same sports team. Or they both write Harry Potter fan fic. Or the other person is better looking that you, more charming than you, taller than you, or any one of a thousand factors that should not influence job selection but actually do.
    6. We will never, ever tell you the actual reason because you might sue our butts off. Because sometimes the truth is that they can’t tell you so, but they really want someone of another gender, another race, or another age. Maybe they want an Army brat but they can’t say that. Or they really “need” a gay man, a Hispanic person, etc.

    As I would prefer not to just mentioned – the reason you are given in a rejection letter is almost never the real reason you got rejected. It took me a long time to learn to take a deep breath and move on but honestly it’s the best thing you can do.

    1. Nance*

      Sometimes. But a lot more often (most of the time) it’s:

      7. You were qualified but someone else was more qualified.

      It’s not that nefarious.

      I don’t think it helps anyone to encourage people to see hiring decisions so slimy when most of the time they are not. Out of 6 reasons it’s strange that you wouldn’t include even 1 that’s just “someone else was better” and that makes me think you have some odd misconceptions about how this works.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        This. It’s not to say that #1-6 never happen, because they sometimes do. But mostly, we hire someone who ticks more of the boxes, or ticks the same boxes more strongly, or who just brings something intangible to the table.

        I would also add #8: sometimes big companies have big processes for hiring, with a lot of different moving parts, and those parts don’t always mesh well, and allow perfectly good candidates to slip through the cracks. I suspect this happens more commonly than would be suspected.

        1. MadMarketer*

          I have two “1 through 6” examples from my own job search over the past few months.

          Job 1 – Five months after finishing an interview process including EIGHT one-on-ones, two panels and a full blown project, I finally got a form rejection email stating that they hired someone with more experience than me. LinkedIn revealed that they hired someone with zero industry experience, zero related experience but with the same unusual last name as the senior employee on the team.

          Job 2 – I was recruited to apply at a company I had interviewed with previously. After getting through the efficient interview process, I was told by the recruiter that they went with an internal candidate who had just applied. LinkedIn once again told the real story: they did take on an internal candidate but at two rungs lower than the job they recruited me for. Given how adamant the hiring manager was about having someone with 7-10 years of experience in the role, I think it’s possible that she may have been strong-armed into taking on someone else (he had 2 years of experience to my 10 and is also considerably younger).

          I’ve also been on hiring teams where someone with no qualifications was hired because of their powerful family, and someone else with a demonstrably rotten attitude in the interview process was hired because they were an old crony of a powerful executive. These two people were in the same department (hired several years apart) and together they tanked the entire group.

    2. Anon for this one*

      Of course it could never possibly be that someone else was more qualified. How could a woman or a Black man or anyone else possibly be more qualified than DrRat? And of course women and minorities never, ever face discrimination in hiring. If they’re hired, they must always be “diversity hires”. /s

      1. darcy*

        yeah, it’s much more common to hire another white dude because he’s a “better cultural fit”, but somehow that didn’t end up on the list…

      2. DrRat*

        Brilliant observation, Holmes, except that I actually AM a woman.

        And yes, many times the other person is more qualified, obviously. And again, obviously, in many industries, preference is given to white, hetero males who are members of an “acceptable” religion.

        But I have been on a hiring committee in the past, for instance, when we were looking for an HIV outreach coordinator. They could not say outright that they wanted a gay man for the position because they wanted that person to be able to go to the gay bars and blend in and be accepted, but honestly, there was a hetero woman who applied for the position with fine credentials. They interviewed her but she was not accepted for the position and of course we could not tell her the real reason because it was discriminatory – but it was something we genuinely needed for the job.

        Sometimes in non profits that are genuinely striving for diversity, being a minority can be an asset. In general, though, we all know about the “ethnic names” studies that have been done.

        I’m white presenting but have actually experienced some weird racism in the past when I shared my ethnic background. It was a whole lot of NO FUN. So maybe not jump so hard to those conclusions next time, Anon?

  33. Kella*

    Job rejections are a bit like romantic break-ups, emotionally. You have this really strong drive to find out what the *real reason* was that they passed on you, but when you learn the real reason, it just hurts more and makes things even more messy. Try to let go of wanting to know the “Why” of the rejection and just work on emotionally moving on from that job.

  34. Astor*

    Alison, I really appreciate your clarity here that it’s sometimes okay to reply if it’s about your skills, but that the same approach shouldn’t be used when it’s a reply to the skills of the person hired. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious but that I’d have a really hard time thinking through with a rejection. Thanks!

  35. Luna*

    Anytime I have been let go from my jobs, except for one of them (and that was the one that I was going to quit myself very soon; they just happened to be a bit faster), the reasons I have been given always sounded bogus to me.

    Either they involved things that seem ‘really not worth’ letting an employee go over or were flat-out things that I never knew were even remotely ‘issues’, nor that it was putting me on thin ice. I was just suddenly told while being let go that this was an issue, never letting me know beforehand that there was something I needed to change.

    I think I only once went back to the manager of a place and asked about the reasons I was given because they really did not sound like ‘legitimate’ reasons. (Think ‘you don’t know the very fine detail of this business that you never think of or only learn with years of experience’ type of things, that you could easily be taught if someone took only five minutes to tell you. And nobody took those five minutes.)
    I was asked if I was accusing the manager of being a liar.
    But the only reason I did go back and ask was because losing my job came so out of left field, there was *nothing* indicating I was about to lose it. And being let go so suddenly had basically thrown me back down the hole of Depression that I had just managed to claw myself out of. (I had even managed to go off anti-depressants, and things were going okay! Then the job-rug was pulled from under my feet and all the way down did Humpty Dumpty tumble into that hole.)

    So, yeah. Even if the reason seems bogus just ignore it when they send you a rejection. Only time to really not let go is if it’s being let go or fired from a job, where it goes into unlawful termination territory.

  36. Petty Betty*

    I have only called out a hiring manager once, when I knew I had the standing to do it, and could objectively call them out.

    I was union. I had passed on this organization multiple times (I was very aware of their issues). However, unemployment was starting to get shirty with me about turning down the interviews. So, I accepted the interview. I went. It was not good. It was an entry level position. They’d been hiring for over a year (longer than I’d been unemployed, mind you).
    I got declined. Why? I didn’t have enough administrative experience. I’ve been working admin for 20 years. This is an entry level position they are hiring for. That’s been open for over a year. You bet I called that ish out when I got the phone call. And I called the union to complain about wasting my time.

    1. Luna*

      That seems to have become such a kafka-esque norm. Here’s an entry level position, but you cannot get it unless you have 5 years worth of experience in this much-higher position.

  37. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    So, once I got rejected for an internal promotion in favor of an outside candidate. There were a number of reasons (none of them about me at all, and all of them about HER), and one of the things they specifically relayed that she had and I didn’t, I was a little miffed because I was like, “But I DO have that, I just haven’t done it HERE.”

    Come to find out, that thing that I also had? Her experience in it was SIGNIFICANTLY more than mine. Leaps and bounds more. Like, for example, let’s say it was Teapot Design. I had designed one very niche teapot once, and knew what the steps were to do another one if we needed it, going out to a small subset of people who ordered this very specific niche design. She had designed a whole line of teapots that had gone out to hundreds of people.

    I just say this to say, you may have everything the other person had *on paper*, but that person may have had something very specifically different that was needed, or just had more experience with it.

    Very rarely is the rejection about you.

  38. Darkitect*

    I am seriously wondering whether the OP is writing about me; everything in the letter, including the timeline, tracks. In my case, I wrote a tailored rejection letter speaking to the candidate’s relative weakness in an important technical skill. I didn’t mention that I’d interviewed several other candidates who were more knowledgeable in the same skill set. (Maybe I should have.) None of this is not a knock on the candidate; they’d make a fine addition to our organization. We just happened to get really lucky with the applicant list this round.

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