how can we get people to stop applying for every open position we have?

A reader writes:

My organization receives hundreds of applications from candidates looking to fill our vacant positions. Hiring can be a very time-consuming process.

How can I get applicants to stop applying if we have already declined them multiple times? There are various reasons for this. Some of the applicants have had negative references and we do not want to give out that information. We always tell references that their references are confidential, and we want to honor that. Other times they have not returned calls for screens and interviews. In that case, we usually tell them and they argue with us about why they deserve another chance. A few will apply every time we post a job and then will reapply for the job every time they get the rejection letter until the job is no longer posted.

One candidate threatened to sue us for not giving her an interview and has since been reapplying and leaving messages on everyone’s voicemail every month. Another has not shown up for his interviews three times, and he continues to reapply even though we explained to him that we would not move forward for that reason. Then there are those who just applying over and over again and we just don’t think they are a good fit. At times, what these applicants are doing feels like harassment. If I can give them feedback, I definitely do. It’s just not always possible. We’ve even rewritten our rejection letter specifically for applicants who we’ve already rejected multiple times in hopes they will get the message that we will not be moving forward with them.

How do we tell them to stop applying, that they will never be considered, and that we won’t be giving them a reason no matter how hard they press or argue?

I answer this question 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.

{ 232 comments… read them below }

  1. CommanderBanana*

    Oh man – if it’s that persistent from a particular person, could you send them a cease and desist letter?

      1. Tree*

        I know it sounds like a logical solution, but I have a common name and share a name (first and last) with someone who works in same industry and has worked at two of the same companies as me so our job history is similar. My husband has two coworkers at his current large company that share the same first and last name as him.

      2. HA2*

        I’d go with name plus email address. There are too many people in the world who share first/last names for that alone to be identifying enough.

      3. H.C.*

        If choosing this method, I would add an extra layer to that filter (birthdate, email address, etc.) so you aren’t inadvertently weeding out different applicants with the same (or similar-enough) names.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          A job application doesn’t include birth date. Email and/or mailing address would be better filters.

          1. H.C.*

            Not always, but not never either (I just double-checked my recent pending applications, and some do have birth date listed as a field.)

            1. Anon in Canada*

              How is that not illegal?!? Asking for birth date in an application is an obvious sign that the company will be discriminating based on age.

              1. Ess Ess*

                It is legal if they have a minimum age requirement for the job (for example, need to be above 18 or 21 for selling alcohol) or if they have to do credit checks.

                1. Anon in Canada*

                  In the former case, this would need to be in the form of a yes/no question (are you at least 18/21? with only yes or no as possible answers), not asking for age.

                  For a credit check, there is no need for the information until an offer has been made.

                  Asking for date of birth on an initial application is unnecessary, extremely shady, almost certainly illegal, and just plain offensive.

                2. Jelizabug*

                  Another example… in the US, commercial drivers are regulated by the federal government. We’re required to request birthdate AND social security numbers from applicants (as well as a ton of other stuff). We actually have two separate applications – the HR version doesn’t include that information. It’s basically just a “lead” app to start the job process. Once a job offer has been made, the drivers are asked to fill out the full required driver application. That way we all get what we need, but HR doesn’t have info that could bias decisions ahead of time.

          2. Workaholic*

            i wonder if some are just filling the unemployment quota. have to spply to so many jobs per week to get paid.

      4. amoeba*

        I wonder whether they’re not using an online application system? Almost all companies I’ve applied to in my life require you to make an account that also stores all your previous applications at the company, etc. So it would be very, very easy to just set the system to filter an account out automatically (and send them an automated rejection), with no danger of confusion.
        I mean, of course, they *could* just make a new email address each time, but I’d hope that would at least be a minority?

        Otherwise, yeah, e-mail address would be the way to go for filtering, no? No risk of duplicates there…

      5. DebraNotDeborah*

        My husband works in a fairly niche industry, and he has a coworker with the exact name who shares a job title (think common first name/uncommon last name).

        Oddly, his wife and I also share a first name (think Deborah vs Debra, both going by Debbie).

        It’s weird.

    1. Antilles*

      For the person who threatened to sue and is harassing your employees voicemail, that might be a good step; if for no other reason than to make sure the Legal Department is involved and up to speed in the (unlikely) event the person follows through.

      For everybody else, the more normal people who just keep applying? That’s way too much effort. Simply decline their applications (or set up a filter to do so) and leave it at that.

      1. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

        Yeah, that SPECIFIC person may actually qualify as harassment depending on the content of the voicemails and what steps OP and team have already taken. Risk of actual suing is low, but better to make Legal aware of this in case they want it documented or the like.

        But the guy who dropped three interviews? I’d just send a rejection mentioning he will not be considered in the future, put him firmly in the Do Not Hire list and move on.

      1. Avery*

        Yeah, that reminds me uncomfortably of a family friend who said she was going to send a former employer a cease and desist letter because she thought that them passing along their truthful less-than-stellar experience with her as an employee was the reason she hadn’t been selected for an interview for two jobs she’d applied for. (She’s… got some misconceptions about how the working world works…)
        The idea of filtering out applications by candidate name, sure. But there’s no reason to break out the cease and desist letter here unless things keep on escalating.

        1. J*

          aren’t employers only allowed to give out certain information? such as dates worked, title, reason for leaving? they can’t just blab on about how they were as an employee

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Some employers may have policies that require this, but an employer can legally provide an honest statement about the employee’s performance. They could be sued if they lie, but even then, it’s a fair amount of work to sue someone.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            What? The whole point of a reference is for them to “blab on about how they were as an employee.” Some companies decline to do so, but of course it is allowed. Who would disallow it?

    2. renataricotta*

      A cease and desist letter isn’t just a letter that says “we are asking you to stop in a formal manner.” It’s a precursor to litigation: “If you do not stop by X date we will take legal action.” I am a lawyer, and seriously doubt there is any possibility for a non-frivolous lawsuit against a person who keeps sending you job applications, when it is technologically feasible to just filter that person’s email address and block their phone number like any other source of spam (which this is turning into).

      1. Emily*

        renataricotta: Thank you.

        I also think sending a “cease and desist” letter is overly adversarial, and is going to make the employer look like the bad guy/unreasonable one if the story gets around that a job seeker got a cease and desist letter.

        I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Unfortunately there are a lot of annoying human behaviors that we don’t have much control over, and I think it’s better to say to yourself “people are weird”, rather than seeing it as people trying to besiege you. I work in a job that is fairly people facing, and I have to deal with a variety of odd/annoying behaviors on pretty much a daily basis, so it really helps me to think “people are weird” or “How does this person get through life?” rather than becoming overly frustrated/upset by it.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I love interacting with people and understanding people who aren’t like me as much as possible – with good mental boundaries so if someone is too weird, I just move on without thinking about it.
          In this situation I would probably feel some sympathy for the job hunters who are desperate or so disorganized they don’t realize they’ve applied before. But I would still let them know they need to stop. OP has to set and keep their necessary boundaries.

  2. Chairman of the Bored*

    For the frequent fliers you know you’re never going to hire it is fair to just send those applications straight to the trash can and not waste any time with a rejection letter or other feedback.

    It doesn’t solve the problem with them applying, but it does reduce the workload associated with that application.

    With just a bit of work, it is probably feasible to automatically send these applications to the reject pile and never have to interact with or think about them at all.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, there should be a way to automate this for folks that you know you will never hire (those that burned that bridge with you). Send their emails to a particular folder that you clean out once a month and send blanket rejections to. Block their number. Hopefully your ATS has faster way to deal with this.

      1. Heart&Vine*

        They may have to work with IT but, depending on what software they’re using, there must be a way to filter out applications coming from specific emails.

        1. AnonAnon*

          Yes. In our system there is a way to flag those coming in, but it requires someone hitting a “confirm” button as to not accidentally delete a candidate with the same name.
          Same if someone applies more than once but applied using slightly different names. We can merge applications.

    2. Cyndi*

      Agreed, this sounds like a situation where rather than trying to make a bunch of people change their behavior, you’re better off just tweaking your system so you don’t have to see it.

  3. The Terrible Tom*

    “Moreover, for a lot of people, it’s not so much that they’re not willing to accept it — it’s that they’re not retaining it and connecting it to the next ad they see from you.”

    This is a very interesting point, and I guess it’s true, even though it’s hard to imagine — impossible even — that from the feeling-harassed side of the dynamic. I know this kind of onslaught — it feels like an onslaught! and attack! — is really stressful, and it just kinda floors me to realize that on the other side, you’re probably right. To them they’re not committing an onslaught or an attack, they’re just sending hundreds of resumes to anything they see.

    And I bet this is very generalizable.

    1. Beth*

      Yeah, in current job hunting it seems like the two main strategies are “pinpoint target your search, focus on a small number of openings that would be a perfect fit, edit your application materials to be absolutely perfectly targeted” or “send a basic resume to every job opening you see that even might be a fit, 99% will never get back to you, but if you send enough out then that 1% might get you somewhere”.

      The first makes more sense for most people, but the remainder–people who either don’t know how to target a search effectively, or don’t have the skills/experience to be a perfect fit for a targeted search and are looking for a lucky break–are way more likely to be desperate. They’re probably assuming that most of their applications are auto-filtered out and are never even seen by a human, much less perceived as an onslaught.

      1. MassMatt*

        Right, the scattergun type might also be trying to satisfy job-hunting requirements for unemployment. Though that is probably only a small portion of the repeat offenders the LW is seeing here.

        Re how this feels like harassment: For those that are more combative, I wonder whether ghosting is better than sending an explanation. I say that because stalkers often crave a response, even a negative one, from their victim, which they can continue to obsess about.

        For the one threatening legal action and calling monthly, I would definitely consider a cease and desist letter and no direct contact. When someone threatens legal action (no matter how absurd) it’s time for a legal response, where possible.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        After doing #1 long enough, you start to suspect it has the same odds as #2.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I also get to the point where I’m not seeing anything perfect to apply to this week, and if you need a new job, you need one, so then I start applying to the less-perfect opportunities.

          1. Rebecca*

            Yes, I would love to be in a position all the time where I can wait for a job ad that looks perfect for me, but that isn’t going to pay the bills. I have flagged a few jobs in universities in the city I just moved to, been in touch with the hiring managers as much as I can be, leaned on my network, etc. but the reality is that the reason I want those jobs is that they are very desirable jobs, and there just aren’t any openings right now. So they are flagged so that I am watching for an opening, but in the meantime – mama’s gotta eat, and I can’t afford to only apply for the jobs I have a perfectly tailored resume for. I’ve learned new skills on the job before and I will again.

            In fact – sometimes those less-than-perfect jobs turn out to be blessings in disguise. This is niche I suppose, but I was once hired to teach upper elementary and lower middle school when my resume and experience was perfectly tailored to kindergarten. It was related enough that I knew I could be successful with the skills I had, even though I wouldn’t be the rockstar I would have been if the kindergarten job was open. Turns out, once I got over the learning curve, I am a rockstar at upper elementary, and I credit that ‘mistake’ to a huge move forward in my career, opening doors I wouldn’t have considered opening before. Now I own and operate a school teaching that age group, so…sometimes not just going for the perfect jobs is the best strategy.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, but I’m sure you don’t carpet-bomb organisations that have rejected you like these folks.

      3. Ms. Murchison*

        I’ve used a mix of the two, because it’s just too demoralizing if you throw yourself wholeheartedly into an application and get an almost instant rejection. You’ve got to find ways to stay sane while you’re job hunting, and in a tough market using only that first strategy can make you go to a dark place really fast.

      4. Your Mate in Oz*

        There are also people who know that the job they want is a long shot. Specifically with “I need you to sponsor my visa”, but also with anything else requiring the employer to take a major chance or do a lot of work.

        I’m used to the deluge of applications for IT jobs from overseas, but I’ve also seen a few “I know you want a PhD in maths or computing, but I have a BSc in geography and some not very relevant experience” applications. The latter can’t accurately search for that one job where their degree is useful and no-one else applying has the necessary qualifications and expedience so the employer will interview them as one of the least bad candidates.

    2. alex*

      Coming from the applicant side, it can be really hard to know if your multiple applications are all going to the same person or department or not. For example, I know someone who has applied to different jobs at a state university — the work would be similar and he’s well-qualified, but he can’t even get an interview. But, it’s been for different departments each time. They’re not at all clear about whether applications to go a central HR office first or to each department/hiring manager. If you don’t know your application is going to the same person, it really does feel like a new application each time, especially if these are being submitted over the course of several months or even a few years.

  4. NameRequired*

    If these people are often currently unemployed, it’s possible they’re applying over and over knowing full well they won’t get hired, or even an interview, for the sake of complying with unemployment rules that require they apply to X jobs per week, etc… May not be the case, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were, for at least some of them. Honestly, I wouldn’t even continue sending rejection letters; the apps would go in the circular file and I’d move on with my day!

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Definitely. Such candidates don’t need a rejection letter; they just need evidence that they have applied. It’s one of a lot of annoying parts to our unemployment benefits system.

    2. Cease and D6*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking as well. If your application process is unusually easy to repeat (for instance, if you are using a lot of fillable fields that they can populate automatically from their browser history) it may be but the work of a moment to reapply and check one off their quota. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off just ignoring them.

    3. Double A*

      I know when my mom got laid off, she wanted to transition into retirement, but she also was eligible for unemployment. She needed to apply for jobs to qualify, but she didn’t want to actually get hired! I don’t think she was totally slipshod about her applications, but she was also not putting in her very best effort.

    4. The Linen Porter*

      Yep, been there done that. I had a ”quota of applications” to fill in… was it per day or per week. Nevermind there were no job listings in the area, or then most of them were professions like doctor, teacher, fireman etc. Which I could get off not applying for as I didn’t have the qualifications. But everything else… When ”they” tell you to apply, you apply. Not that I didn’t imply in my cover letter ”they made me do this”…

    5. Vio*

      Likely. Over here if somebody is on Jobseekers Allowance then they usually have to apply to a minimum number of jobs per week, even if there aren’t that many suitable positions available. It’s sensible to have some kind of system to check if people on benefits are actually looking for work (or whatever else is required for their particular benefits) but that relies on the system itself to also be sensible. I’ve seen very little evidence that any such systems are, partly because the priority is never actually to help people to get back into work, it’s just to get people off of benefits.

  5. mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    I’m not in favor of replacing people with AI, but…it would be nice let an AI deal with the frustration.

    Then again, there’s a risk that if it goes sentient it’ll have a poor view of humanity.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Given the track record of most AIs, I’d be more worried it would hire one of these people.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Remember Derek from The Good Place? He’s the perfect representation of the current state of AI.

    2. Antilles*

      The current level of AI sophistication would backfire for this purpose though, because it’s still very much at a level where you can cajole the AI into agreeing with you. Anyone who’s applying to the same job every month (!) is absolutely the kind of person who’s going to persistently try to convince the AI that “actually yes Mr. Human Sir, that must have been a mistake I’ll gladly schedule you for an interview tomorrow”.

    3. HA2*

      This is a case where you don’t need “AI”. You need:
      1. A database table – or spreadsheet – titled “do not hire”, with columns for first name, last name, email address, and a comment for why the person was added to the list.
      2. Resume screening software which automatically ignores anybody on that list.

      This has no need for a chatbot, or fancy machine learning to automatically put people on this list, or anything like that!

      1. stratospherica*

        Yeah, I’m fairly sure Workday has both of those functions. My company doesn’t do automatic rejections, but we have a DNH list (for people who falsified their work history/repeatedly no-showed/tried to renegotiate the salary 5 days before joining (true story)/were aggressive or otherwise wildly inappropriate during the hiring process etc.) and “restricted lists” for people who have applied over 30 times in the past, got flagged in the background check, are a re-hire, etc. I’m fairly sure these features are common to all ATS, so it may be something OP’s company could consider looking into.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, I would think an ATS would quickly solve the problem, wouldn’t it? The rejections I get when I apply via workday or whatever are most certainly automated, anyway…

    4. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

      this just sets up applicants trying to flirt with the AI to have a better shot

    5. Phony Genius*

      This makes me wonder if anybody is using AI (or some kind of bot) to help apply for these positions.

      Or, maybe some form of sentient AI is acting on its own and applying for jobs.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        An AI for automating menial, droll, rote tasks that have a very low chance of succeeding but a very high payoff on the rare chance that they do? That actually sounds like a perfect application for AI; waste the automatons’ time and let the human beings actually live their lives, too.

        Can AI compose cover letters yet, too?

      2. Beth*

        People definitely use ChatGPT to draft and/or revise cover letters and resumes. Not quite the same as a bot doing the whole application process for you…but it makes AI assisted applications pretty common nowadays!

    6. Lenora Rose*

      But it’s not AI. It’s a predictive filter, with no intelligence, and not much better than asking the text predicter in your phone to pick candidates. And unless the information it was fed on was genuinely equitable (which is exceedingly unlikely), it will not only make the same biased decisions against female or non-Western names found in its data sample, it will amplify them.

      1. MassMatt*

        Did we read the same letter? The LW expressed frustration that people that were not suitable kept applying for jobs at the company, sometimes aggressively so. There isn’t any indication that removing these applicants from consideration would lead to “biased decisions against female or non-western names”. How would this be no better than a text predictor on your phone picking candidates?

        1. Chirpy*

          Previous studies of AI use have shown that it will look at the people currently in the job, and who do well, and try to replicate what already is in the system….and has definitely gone “all the most successful people in this job are white men, so that must be a requirement to be successful at this job” and it then filters out all women and minorities at the start of the process without looking at their qualifications.

    7. Tech Solution Enterprise Data*

      This, tho, for real.
      I admit I have applied to some companies multiple times over months or years.
      I never ever hear from them and usually forget that I’ve applied until I search my cloud storage drive for a cover letter and that company name pops up in the file names.

      I am all in favor of engagement but in this case- do not engage. Imagine a real firewall between you and the candidates. This is what software is for.

      And I know because eventually a company I’d never heard of has hired me as a technology consultant (aren’t we all) so clearly I’m the expert

    8. Not A Manager*

      “there’s a risk that if it goes sentient it’ll have a poor view of humanity”

      If AI goes sentient it’s a foregone conclusion that it will have a poor view of humanity.

    9. AcademiaNut*

      An AI would take more effort to set up than a simple screening. You need two things
      1) a list of identifying information of people you want to screen out
      2) a program that extracts that information from the resumes
      3) a program to compare the two, and only pass on resumes by people not on the list.
      4) don’t delete the others, keep them in a directory, and have someone check them manually until you know the system is working properly

      If they don’t automatically pull the names out of the resumes (say, they just print them off and read them) that would be the biggest piece of work to set up, and you’d need to do that with an AI.

      As an aside, I’d be very, very wary of applying AI or machine learning tools to screening for hiring unless you really, really know what you’re doing (and even then). It’s much too easy to make an AI that is even more biased (racist, misogynistic, etc) than the human version.

  6. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    In some jurisdictions (including mine) you have to apply for a certain number of positions per week/month to qualify for government unemployment benefits. You may also have to accept any good faith offer. This has at least two unintended effects:

    If they have to apply for n jobs and there’s only n+1 suitable jobs advertised, they’re going to have to apply to just about everything even if they know they have no hope there.

    It’s also a common tactic to blanket apply for n-1 jobs you’re unsuited to, precisely so you can concentrate on the one realistic/appealing vacancy. A company that has already rejected you is a safe bet for no unwanted interviews!

  7. B*

    This seems like way too much energy to be putting into this situation. You can’t stop people from applying but you can just reject them and move on.

    1. Heart&Vine*

      I do understand how annoying it can be though if you’re getting 50+ applications a day and a bunch of them are people who already applied, are clearly not qualified, or have been rejected but won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. That being said, there’s no reasonable way to get people to stop applying or reapplying unless you find a way to filter them out automatically.

      1. B*

        It’s definitely annoying. I think it’s just part of the process, though, and the way to handle it is by improving your internal processes for identifying and rejecting the applications. If someone is grossly unqualified or is on your do-not-hire list, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to address.

      2. Lucia Pacciola*

        It would be annoying if you were a manager, and all of this nonsense was taking time away from your important job of managing your team or department.

        On the other hand, if you’re in HR, and you’ve been hired to help handle this nonsense so that hiring managers only have to spend time on serious candidates… why be annoyed about doing the job you were hired to do?

      3. MassMatt*

        Really I cringe whenever I hear “I won’t take no for an answer”. I’m mystified how such a “me me me!” Self-centered attitude that spurns listening or even any agency to the other party became a pithy saying for how to act. It’s the mindset of a stalker or a bully.

  8. Magenta Sky*

    Are you using an online application system? Maybe talk to IT about a one-button-click automated rejection system for those applications, filtered by a blacklist of “do not hire” names.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Beware of anything that uses only names to filter. Never mind John Jones or Jennifer Smith, I used to work in a location with two people named Kadiatu Mansaray.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        That’s what I was thinking. I live in an area with 3 very, very common last names. Pair that will all the people who have common first names and suddenly you have a few dozen people with the same first and last name.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        Very much so, yes. And a lot of other identifying information won’t (or can’t, or at least shouldn’t) be on an application, like date of birth of SSN. Address, maybe, phone number, and/or email address.

      3. amoeba*

        ATS typically have unique accounts though, and you could just filter by those? Don’t think the name really comes into it!

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Do it by email address or something that is unique to the individual – a name is not unique enough.

      But – make sure that you’re being fair about it. Someone might apply for 15 different roles, and actually be the best candidate for one of them. You might call their judgement into question for applying for things they are not qualified to do, but for quite junior positions, the requirements might look so generic as to not be all that different (from the candidate’s perspective).

      I would save this for candidates you would never consider hiring under any circumstances – and would make sure that your reasons stand up to any scrutiny from a human rights perspective. Consult with an employment lawyer before implementing anything automatic.

  9. Pink Candyfloss*

    Is your process fully manual? Some more modern HR systems for hiring allow you to pre-screen out (i.e. trash) candidates that are a firm lifetime Do Not Hire. If you can check a box and generate a rejection letter, will that save you time or are you already doing this?

  10. Anon for this*

    I used to work in corporate HR for a well-known convenience store chain based in the Philadelphia area, a chain known for having an almost cult-like following among its customers.
    We had a lot of candidates who would apply for every.single.job we posted, whether they were qualified or not. Everything from a maintenance worker to a marketing manager. One candidate even submitted a resume that they had glued to the (used, urk) wrapping paper from one of the breakfast sandwiches we sold in our stores. We always tried to be polite, because these candidates were also customers, but at one point I had to draw a line with a person who absolutely did not have any of the skills required for the jobs they kept applying for; this person had some kind of distant family connection to a local elected official, and had the local official CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to insist that this candidate had to get an interview. I still don’t know how the local official got my name and contact info. I reached out to the candidate, thanked them for their interest, but explained that they did not have the skills for the job (imagine that the candidate had applied for an IT position and their background was that they raced cars for a living, with no IT experience whatsoever). The candidate just would not take no for an answer and I finally had to ask our IT people to block their phone number and email from our systems. I also had to lock down all my social media accounts as the candidate was trying to stalk me that way as well. It was scary!

      1. AnonORama*

        Hahaha for sure! They do have a fanatical following for…a convenience store. I was more impressed with the fancy 7-11’s in some other countries, but to be fair, Wawa was pretty nice. (Or it was when I lived in the area.)

  11. Stoney Lonesome*

    I work at a place that is a “cool” place to work. Plenty of people dreamed of working here as children. As a result, we get tons of people that just apply to literally any open position. I just send them straight to the rejected pile. Luckily, none of them have tried calling us directly. I did get an email once, but I just ignored it.

    In my case, it’s slightly annoying, but that’s it. I would love to reply to all the people that do this and tell them they have a much better shot if they were to pick one or two positions and really hone their application, but that’s not my job and I don’t have the time.

      1. Stoney Lonesome*

        I’ll give you one completely unhelpful hint. One of the applicants who spam applied to every job had a resume that included a drawing of himself in the style of portraits of our founder and listed his extensive hobby taxidermy experience. I kinda got how he thought the taxidermy might be relevant to our organization but it really isn’t and was especially not for the position I was hiring for. :)

        1. Jaydee*

          Jim Henson Company? I also considered someplace like Industrial Light and Magic or Lucasfilm. But with the reference to taxidermy, I have a terrible feeling it’s a very confused person wanting to make muppets.

        2. Katie Impact*

          I’m now imagining a zoo, purely on the basis that animals are involved and I know they tend to be absolutely swamped with people who want to work there.

    1. Bast*

      Is it easier to move around the company once you are in? That could be one reason people apply to anything and everything. Government jobs where I live are difficult to get, but basically set you up — great, pay, amazing benefits, many are unionized, etc. It is VERY difficult to get in, but once you are in, you’re in, and have a much better chance of moving around. That is to say, maybe I apply for an administrative assistant position or secretary even though I qualify for a few levels above that, because a) they pay more than my current company does at a higher level position anyway and b) I know once I get my foot in the door it’s easier to move around, as there are many positions that are for internal hires only.

      Particularly if you are looking at more entry level positions and it is a “dream company” for many, it really isn’t too surprising and I’m not sure it should rule people out.

  12. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    If a coworker brought this dilemma to me, I’d say “just hire the best candidate for each position and close the listings. Holding out indefinitely for two-headed left-handed bilingual purple squirrels is creating the opportunities to get mountains of fruitless applications.”

    1. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      “Holding out indefinitely for two-headed left-handed bilingual purple squirrels.”

      OMG! Stealing!!! LOL!

      1. Rosemary*

        It is not always that easy. It can take months for my company to find the right person for a role, and not because we are being overly picky. So in the meantime, we have to sort through lots and lots of irrelevant resumes (fortunately we have not found ourselves in the OP’s position)

    2. Feckless rando*

      I got the impression that this is a big company that always has a few positions open at any given time, not necessarily that the same positions are open forever. But I could also imagine a company with something like a 20-50 person customer service team with high turnover so they’re effectively always hiring.

  13. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    Not all ATS’s are built the same, but mine tells me if the person has applied before, the position they applied to, and what I marked them (e.g., “No Experience,” “Not a Fit,” etc.). It’s all at a glance and I can tell quickly before even reading the resume. Just mark them the same as you marked them before and let the system sort it out for you. My old system could be automated to send the rejection. Make your system do that, if it allows it. Super easy!

    1. English Rose*

      Yes, most ATSs will be able to do this. The only issue will be if the person applies under a different email address, when it will likely be unable to identify as the same person.
      That wrinkle apart, your ATS can most probably ensure you never even have to see the applications.

      1. amoeba*

        True, the very, very determined ones will always find a way around any obstacle – if they can’t apply online at all, they’ll probably start sending letters, calling, or showing up at reception in person to show gumption! I’d hope that’s only a reaaaally small percentage though…

  14. Bast*

    It’s possible that some of these people don’t know they don’t have a chance, and I’m not sure there is a good way to tell them. If you work for someone’s dream company, I am sure there are people that will keep applying when they see a relevant opening in the hopes that they will get in, even if they understand competition will be stiff. Government jobs are like that around here — it is super difficult to get in, and people who are really determined will apply to multiple positions they feel they may have a chance for. Granted, if you’ve blown off your interview 3 times, you should know that you made YOURSELF look bad and ruined your own chances, but for these other people, they have no way of knowing if they got a bad reference, don’t align with the position exactly, or if another better candidate just came along.

  15. Cog001101011*

    Harassment is a strong word. People are applying for jobs! It’s not our fault the world works this way. If you get annoyed with people applying for jobs, perhaps HR/recruiting/hiring/managing/working with people isn’t for you.

    Remember, no matter how important you feel like your job is, it’s just a job. Whoo-zaa it out and collect your paycheck. But please don’t equate people applying for jobs at your place of employment as “harassment.”

    1. tabloidtained*

      To be honest, I’d feel a bit harassed if this was going on at my company: “One candidate threatened to sue us for not giving her an interview and has since been reapplying and leaving messages on everyone’s voicemail every month.” I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that the LW is getting upset with people for normal work application behavior. This is decidedly abnormal behavior!

      1. House On The Rock*

        Yeah, that’s a different level than “Jocasta Bigglesworth keeps applying for every open wombat wrangler position”. Unsolicited contact of random staff is out of line and I can see being upset by that and wanting to put a stop to it. In that case, I think having someone high up in HR reach out and tell them to stop is probably in order (as is blocking her number if possible).

    2. GrooveBat*


      I thought that this comment by Alison was very kind and captured it well: [i]Relatedly, I’d urge you not to think of it as harassment. In most cases, these are people who are anxious for a job, may be feeling desperate, and are clearly in a bad position since they don’t have great job search skills.[/i]

    3. AngryOctopus*

      Constant phone calls and threats of suing definitely falls into the ‘harassment’ scale.
      There’s a big difference between “sends resume in for all entry level jobs even after rejection” (annoying but not harassing) and “calls everyone she can reach and threatens to sue to HR unless she gets an interview” (annoying AND harassing). Just because this LW is getting both doesn’t make them “just part of being in HR”.

      1. Cog001101011*

        A way to fix that is through a very simple filtering processes.

        Block. “Do Not Hire”. Create ‘rules’ in Outlook. Create filters in other programs. Delete and move on. Hang up.

        But people are going to apply for the jobs. They may even be desperate and call and say foolish things.

        Not to get too far off topic, but calling annoying behavior “harassment” dilutes the meaning of that word.
        (Please don’t get into a discussion on actual stalkers or anything like that. We know that isn’t the point.)

  16. Heart&Vine*

    My mom used to work as an admin for an Ivy League school and, as an employee, said school put money toward my college education. The catch was that I wouldn’t get the money if I went to THAT school. So their messaging was something like, “If you want this money, please don’t even apply to this school. Seriously. We have enough issues with thousands of unqualified people applying every year, we don’t need your application to add to the pile.”

    1. Rosemary*

      Interesting! But I am curious, what if a child of an employee actually WAS super-qualified? I guess they could apply but would not get the money if they were accepted/decided to go to that school?

    2. Maggie*

      Wow, I work at an Ivy and tuition benefit is specific to that university. There’s some small financial benefit if they go to a school with reciprocity, but the only way to get the full tuition coverage is at that school. I used to work at a non-Ivy that was the same way and a school my mom worked at was that way too (that’s how I got my degree for free haha). I’ve never heard of a school only having a tuition benefit for another school, I wonder if that’s a geographic norm.

  17. ZSD*

    Some of these people might not realize that all their applications are being screened by the same central HR office. They might think the hiring manager in the R&D department sees their R&D application, the hiring manager in the sales department sees their sales application, etc. So they might not realize that a rejection from the first hiring manager (you) would imply a rejection from the second hiring manager (also you).

    1. hypoglycemic rage*

      Oooo yes. I agree with this, especially if there isn’t any kind of a contact name – I believe LinkedIn might (?) give a profile of the specific person who is in charge of hiring, but even still. I might also think along these lines, assuming that there’s no way one person is seeing applications for multiple departments.

  18. JeffF*

    My job only responds to viable applicants to schedule an interview. Everyone else is ignored.
    We also have a black list of applicants that apply for everything at a certain salary range – even if they are not qualified, or have lied on applications for experience in past job postings.
    You should add to these listings “Due to the high volume of applications we are receiving, there is a high chance people will not be contacted for an interview. Please refrain from contacting us regarding the status of your application. The process has been taking longer due to the high volume of applicants. Repeated attempts at contacting us can be seen as harassment and could eliminate you from staying in the viable candidate list IF you are selected. Any actions or communication deemed aggressive, demeaning, unprofessional, or argumentative will result in an automatic disqualification of your application along with a ban of one year o for accepting future applications.”

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I feel like even an automated reply after the position is closed in the system is much better than radio silence, and probably extremely easy to set up with an ATS? I really don’t get why companies don’t do even that.

    1. Rosemary*

      My company has a note on our postings that we will only contact those we want to move forward with, and please no calls/emails. Will that deter everyone? No. But I do feel like some of the language you are suggesting is a bit…much…in the context of job applications. Like I would leave out mention of harassment, as well as “…deemed aggressive, demeaning, unprofessional, or argumentative” – just feels like A Lot. That said, if OP is TRULY getting an exceptionally large number of these people (if so – I am very curious as to what industry/role she is hiring for! because this does not seem normal) then maybe this language is needed (but I imagine in 99% of companies it is definitely not)

    1. hypoglycemic rage*

      Initially, I tried not to apply for jobs using Easy Apply, because often they wouldn’t give a spot for cover letters and I was doing a bit of a career switch and wanted to make a case for myself.

      But it’s too easy…. Especially when I wasn’t even getting interviews, I eventually didn’t want to waste all my time crafting an application that might not even go anywhere. Eventually I used it more and more.

      I think I actually got the job I have now as a result of applying via Easy Apply. So.

      1. Orv*

        I usually go to the company’s website and apply directly. I’ve discovered a lot of LinkedIn ads are not jobs that actually exist, that way.

  19. Ahnon4Thisss*

    I think calling it harassment is a bit too far (except in the case of the woman who is calling to yell at you). These people are just applying to jobs, and sometimes the advice here and on other job searching sites is to apply to different roles in the company if you can fit the requirements.

  20. Penguin*

    They could switch their job application system to workday which is so annoying to use as a candidate that it’ll certainly lower the number of applicants!

    But for real, maybe their talent application system could be upgraded to one where if there is a match for a person’s email address they could just be like auto deleted. I’m not an expert in recruiting systems but I have to believe this could exist because I’m sure large companies (like big box store chains) likely have candidates or former employees they want to blacklist.

    1. Ipsissima*

      workday is a pain to use as an employee as well. I hate it so much. It must be the cheapest HR option by far, because I’ve seen so many places use it (even replacing current systems that work perfectly well!) even though employees universally hate it.

      1. stratospherica*

        I had to use Workday as a recruiter, and it’s honestly the worst. I swear it holds a grudge, or something – if you make the tiniest misclick, that’s it. You’re now doing what you clicked forever and you’ll like it, no take-backs.

        Unfortunately I still have to use it to handle referral candidates.

      2. vito*

        I just looked at workday today to find out that my next paycheck seems to be $0.00. Looks like HR has some explaining to do.

  21. Some People’s Children*

    We had some success with a few people by having HR just flat out tell them “We aren’t going to hire you for this job because…”. We were a police/fire dispatch center so there were some people who were never getting hired. For instance, one had been stalking a police officer for years because he refused to investigate a relative’s hospital death as a homicide. Even if he didn’t work for one of the agencies we dispatched she would not have been hired. Only did this a few times and extreme situations but it is something to keep in mind of it’s truly problematic with someone.

  22. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    We always tell references that their references are confidential, and we want to honor that.

    That is an odd stance to take, that someone outside your organization with no skin in the game and no stakes can permanently and covertly blackball an otherwise viable candidate. I guess if you’re overflowing with viable candidates and need something, anything, no matter how nonsensical it may be, to differentiate them…

    Frankly, any excess applications that you find inconvenient that are rooted in this stance are probably best described (colloquially) as karma.

    1. Snow Globe*

      What? That’s a very normal stance to take. If references weren’t promised to be confidential then you’d likely never get any honest comments if the candidate had performance issues. Providing a reference is a favor benefitting the hiring manager; it’s quite normal for the hiring manager to promise confidentiality. That said, a good hiring manager should check multiple references and use probing questions to make sure that responses make sense.

      1. Thomas*

        It’s fairly common, but it has the effect that if the referee is malicious and dishonest, the candidate has no way to find out about that. So I’m not sure it’s a good approach.

    2. House On The Rock*

      Alternately, why on earth would a hiring manager provide feedback to a candidate about a bad reference? The candidate is also outside the organization! It’s normal to discount candidates for bad references – especially those provided by the candidate.

      I once was close to hiring someone but one of their references said “I told them never to use me as a reference, we are not on speaking terms”. That’s valuable information about both the candidate and their judgement and I’d never share that back to the candidate, that is not my place.

    3. Kella*

      Wait, are you arguing that hiring managers shouldn’t use reference checks in their decision making process about whether to hire someone?

    4. Pickle Shoes*

      I’d consider it much more of an odd stance to think of references as “… something, anything, no matter how nonsensical it may be, to differentiate them…” since they’re supposed to be coming from people with actual experience working with the candidate.

      A good hiring manager is going to factor in whether a reference is in line with the rest of the information they can see, but of course they’ll generally offer confidentiality as an incentive for people to be honest.

    5. Pierrot*

      Think of it this way, if someone harassed their coworkers or was a bully and they were applying for a job at your workplace, wouldn’t you want the candidate’s former boss or reference from said company to be honest with you? If a reference is honest about the negative qualities about someone and it gets back to the candidate, the reference might have to worry about getting sued for slander (which does happen).On this website alone, there have been letters about the consequences of hiring a candidate after their reference lied to cover up the candidate’s issues. If someone interviews well and has a good resume but they’re a nightmare to work with, there’s no way for the hiring manager or HR to find that out unless they have honest references.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        My experience is that the same protection bullies enjoy in one role (a shielding supervisor, productivity/knowledge hoarding, etc) enable them to pass the reference checks. The individuals I have seen torpedoed by the reference check are usually those who don’t job-hop vigorously enough and have trouble providing the requisite number of recent, discreet references.

        Your scenario of a highly productive nightmare to work with? I’d expect good references from those eager to see that person move on to your organization and be a hindrance there.

        It’s all woo to me. I’d put more stock in Astrology; at least with the stars you can rule out malfeasance, Machiavelli, and downright mala fide.

        But if you’re going to use the woo and think it’s a good thing, own up to it. At least tell the candidate that the auspices were poor and you’re blocklisting them lest you incur the wrath of the gods.

    6. Aitch Arr*

      References are provided by the candidate. They KNOW who they submitted and therefore, who likely responded.

      The content of those references is what is kept confidential. I’m not going to tell the candidate that Ex-Manager Y rated them a 3 on a 7 point scale for dependability and in the open comment field said they needed to improve on their client-facing communications skills.

  23. tabloidtained*

    For the applicants who are officially on your “never hire” list due to bad behavior, would it be possible to block their email addresses or numbers? Or an email filter that automatically collects their applications into a separate folder?

  24. Margaret Cavendish*

    OP, are you responding to every application you receive, regardless of whether you’re inviting the person for an interview? You have permission from this internet stranger to stop doing that!

    I can’t remember the last time I got anything other than an automated confirmation to my applications, at the first stage. Most job postings say something to the effect of “we will only contact who are selected for further consideration.” A colleague of mine posted a position last month – he had 100 applications by the end of the first day, and over 1000 by the end of the posting period. And 5 who where shortlisted for an interview. It’s just not possible to write a personal response to 995 people – especially when most of them didn’t even understand the qualifications, never mind actually meeting them!

    And honestly, I don’t think most people are expecting a personal response. Especially if they’re resume bombing or trying to meet a quota – they send off their resumes and assume they’ll hear nothing back. So now is the time for you to lean into that, and start contacting only the people you actually want to speak to. Good luck!

    1. amoeba*

      Well, no, but you can set up your ATS to send an automated rejection to people who are not moved forward, right? That’s what 99% of companies in my field do and I’m honestly glad because it means you almost never get no reply at all.

  25. Clydesdales coconuts*

    My question is why do you have such a high turnover that your positions are constantly posted?

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Large firms often have lots of entry and just-above-entry level positions that need to be filled. Turnover is from people moving up in their careers, or going back to school, or moving to other places.
      As a specific example, in academia, there is ALWAYS a need for lab techs. Techs are generally expected to work 1-2 years before either going to a form of grad school, moving states to another university position, or being promoted out of being an entry level tech. It’s not a negative reflection on Harvard, for example, to always have a plethora of positions at their teaching hospitals.

    2. Lauren*

      Companies have growth so more customers = more employees doing the same work just more of it.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      If a company has 100 people (which is a small company) and they stay an average of ten years, then the company still needs to hire 10 new employees every year. If the company is larger, people stay for shorter, or the want to increase staff, then they have to hire more every year.

  26. Immortal for a limited time*

    I work in state government and we have applicants who apply for everything and are always overlooked. A hiring manager in another part of gov’t told me that people can set up filters on Indeed dot com to apply for them, and that sometimes those people don’t even know what job they’ve applied for — or that they’ve applied — when contacted for an interview. We ignore repeat applicants because they NEVER follow the stated instructions. If we say we require a cover letter and a resume, then we require both to be attached; period. The cover letter can tell us a lot about someone’s writing skills, not to mention their ability to follow directions. Both are important in our office. I saw an article on the CNBC “Make It” section the other day that advised readers not to write cover letters because they’re almost never necessary or mandatory. Wrong! That’s terrible advice. In our agency, no cover letter means no interview.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I think there’s a difference between a cover letter being a mandatory part of the job application vs it being an add on. I find for 90% of jobs, a cover letter doesn’t add much to what’s on the resume. But if it’s considered mandatory, sure, you can then cull out those that don’t follow the directions.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Requiring a cover letter simply for the sake of requiring one – when everyone knows that the cover letters never get read – is dumb.

        It’s not outrageous to reject people for not following directions (like in this case with the cover letters), but employers who still require cover letters need to start being honest with themselves and with applicants and, in most jobs, stop requiring cover letters.

        1. ThreeDogsInATrenchcoat*

          I absolutely read cover letters and an application without one will usually get moved to the bottom of the pile. That’s because I need to hire for a combination of skills that can be gained a number of ways, and it’s not going to be immediately obvious from the resume how those skills combine and at what level without some explanation on a candidate’s part. It’s not just about “can they follow directions”.

  27. None The Wiser*

    Our online application portal will acknowledge a new application via email. And in that email there is language that basically says “unless your application moves forward, you won’t hear from us again. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”.

    It’s more polite than that, but pretty firm.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      If you are using an ATS, there is no reason not to send automated rejections to candidates you don’t want to talk to. I can see why some wouldn’t send rejections to applications sent by email, but with an ATS there’s no excuse. This company is being lazy and cruel.

  28. Sanibel Island*

    Some people also (re)apply to jobs because the company name can be listed as confidential. I usually ask upper management if they want to keep our company masked on job sites, depending on what position we’re posting for.

    My company has had had a few ex-employees apply to our job listings with the name of our company masked. It’s made for some colorful dialogue internally. And an instant rejection, depending on the circumstances around the ex-employee.

  29. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I imagine some (many?) of these very persistent candidates are using third-party help to find a job, especially if they’ve been unemployed for a long time or possibly collect any government assistance (unemployment, disability, SNAP). It may not even be that the individual person themself is sending in multiple applications. It could be a family member, social worker or placement agency duplicating the applications. Just filter out their emails or auto reject their online applications. If you have the ability in your system to completely block an IP address, that might help too — but you risk blocking out, for instance, any application from the public library computer or something.

  30. RD*

    Can you tailor your application process more? We don’t ask for cover letters, but we do ask for a statement including x, y, and z. Or include some check boxes for minimum skills.

  31. Medium Sized Manager*

    Is there something you can set up in your application process that ties in with their previous applications? I know I have probably applied to the same job more than once because a) who can remember an application from last year and b) I don’t know if I wasn’t selected because they got too many applicants to look at my resume or if I truly wasn’t a good fit for the role.

  32. PennyFarthing*

    In the UK it’s common to see job ads with PREVIOUS APPLICANTS NEED NOT APPLY. You don’t make it clear that you are stating this in the ad.

    1. House On The Rock*

      The application system at my organization (large, public university) won’t let people apply for the same job multiple times even if it’s reposted after not being filled. That helps cut down on this to some degree and also save me from the awkward “I applied before but am now trying again” cover letter.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        There needs to be a difference between “this position was not filled and is being reposted” and “a new position has been posted and is identical to the previous one”. Blocking all previous applicants from applying in the second case would make no sense. Some of them were rejected because they were second- or third-best, not because they did anything to warrant being blacklisted!

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Yeah I worked in a place that actually had a dumb policy (along with others) like that.

          There actually was a memo that went around — example, Fergus applies for a position as a chocolate teapot engineer, and doesn’t get the job because he didn’t have enough experience OR …. his experience was in CARAMEL teapots. OK, good luck with your new hire, and Fergus accepted the rejection in stride.

          Seven months later, the company decides to start a caramel teapot line. Under this bizarro rule, they would not call Fergus in. So Fergus is working for the competition but you’ve blacklisted him.


    2. Thomas*

      Even that, though, I would interpret as meaning previous applicants for the same job, not previous applicants for anything.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Even then – a position – say – COBOL programmer – you may have a prime candidate who accepts a position, and a very, very good candidate that you have to reject because you’ve only got ONE opening.

        Do you blackball the guy or gal you rejected? If several more positions open, wouldn’t it make sense to allow him/her to apply again?

        I think the policy was brought in to cater to the egos of managers. They didn’t want to have to be in the same space of someone they’ve rejected, no matter how good the guy/gal is.

  33. vox*

    i had a help desk tech that i fired for gross incompetence and terrible attitude who after i fired him applied for every open position i had for the next year. i finally called him and explained to him that there was no possibility he would ever be rehired under any circumstances.

  34. Anon in Canada*

    People who have been placed on a do-not-hire list deserve to know that.

    I got one of my jobs by applying over and over and over again to identical positions at the same company. It was a very big company (over 80,000 employees) with hundreds of locations all across Canada. Just because I was not interviewed for one particular position didn’t mean I was blacklisted! They simply get lots and lots of applications (and handle each opening separately), and just because I didn’t make the cut one particular time doesn’t mean I won’t make it another time when the candidate pool is different. I eventually got hired after 10+ rejected applications (within the company, not at a single location).

    Blacklisting someone after an interview, or after finding out they lied on their resume, etc. is an acceptable thing to do, but there has to be a way of communicating that so that the candidate knows where to stand and that there is no point in being persistent anymore.

    1. Mimmy*

      This is exactly why I sometimes apply to the same position or institution multiple times. Additionally, a candidate could tweak their resume and/or cover letter to better match the qualifications.

    2. WestsideStory*

      I would agree that someone who is blacklisted should be notified at least that, and perhaps why they have been. One of my relatives (middle-aged) has been looking for a new position in his field and has applied to a particular very large firm that has frequent exec-level positions available, I’d say he applied maybe 2-3 times a year at this one place since Covid laid him off. I’ve looked at the job postings myself and agree with him he’d be “perfect” as his background (ten years experience doing exactly what the position does). Sometimes he even gets interviews! And then nothing.
      My feeling is there is something in that company’s HR that is throwing a red flag. Either that or he is managing to piss off his interviewers in some way not shared with me. In either case it would be a mercy to send along feedback.

  35. Lauren*

    Add real salary ranges – this will kick out half the people immediately unless your salaries are awesome and everyone thinks that they are at the top.

    I’m a big fan explaining salary ranges:
    50-70k – Range for new to career applicants or those with under 3 years experience
    80-100k – Range for mid-career applicants with 5 years experience in 1/2 qualifications listed
    100-120k – Range for senior candidates with 10 years experience and 2/3 qualifications listed
    120+k – Exceptional candidates with 15+ years experience and meeting 90% of qualifications and/or a mid-career candidate with direct industry or competitor experience.

      1. WellRed*

        Right? Between this and the previous letter about salary I’m wondering where all these jobs are!

    1. londonedit*

      Not necessarily. Last year we were hiring for an entry-level position and we listed the specific salary (not even a range, just the salary that would be offered). Didn’t stop people applying with stated salary expectations £20k higher (which, frankly, just shows that they have no idea about the industry or about entry-level jobs within it).

  36. MollyGodiva*

    It is very rare for companies to tell you why you did not get an interview or hired. You could have been second place, the job might have lost funding, it might have been a ghost job posing. Applicants have no idea. Also it is encouraged to apply to the same company if you get rejected. Unless this company clearly communicates that the person is being rejected on their own merit, then they have zero basis to blame the applicants.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      This! If you simply receive a form email from an ATS saying you were rejected, you have no idea if it means “rejected for this one opening because there were better-qualified candidates”, or “blacklisted from the company for life”. It’s only reasonable to assume it’s the former, as blacklistings are not super common.

      If you are permanently blacklisting a candidate from the company, you need to tell them, otherwise they have no way of knowing and will likely keep applying.

  37. Just Thinkin' Here*

    You’re dealing with folks who are unemployed, under-employed, or looking for something better. To the applicant, it’s a numbers game – you have to apply to be considered. If you are located in a limited market or rural area, you are going to see the same pool of candidates because both you and them have limited geographic options.

    I wouldn’t be against someone who has applied before. I applied multiple times to a large employer before my resume finally ‘hit’. When it did, I had 3 hiring managers asking for me to interview – the recruiter asked which one I wanted to start with. I landed the job and was very successful for the time I was there.

    1. DannyG*

      Some on unemployment or other aid programs have a requirement to be actively seeking employment. That might explain some application bombing from otherwise unqualified applicants. They may just be trying to make their minimum effort number.

  38. NotARealManager*

    I’d imagine a lot of it is people not realizing they’ve applied to the job/company before or they are required to submit applications by unemployment and they don’t care where they’re going.

    If it’s someone who isn’t in these categories, just send them straight to the round file when you receive their application.

  39. Czhorat*

    I’ve tried again and been hired by companies that have turned me down before. It happens.

    Heck, when I was single I’d often see the same personal ads from the same people occasionally vanishing and then reappearing (as, I assume, they found someone and then the relationship failed to go anywhere). I would even answer some of those again, and that’s a LOT more personal than a job application (results were mixed. Most who ignored me the first time continued to. One dated me for a while, then married me and now have two kids with me. It’s only been 23 years, so you’ll have to wait for the long term update).

    Digression aside, the point is that it’s very easy for the person on the hiring side to not see the struggle from the applicant side, especially with the number of applications that fall into a black hole.

    Questions for thought:

    1) Are there personal rejections sent, with a reason (lack of relevant experience, lack of some certification or education, etc?)

    2) Are there answers of ANY kind sent, beyond an acknowledgment that the application was received?

    If I’m turned down I don’t know if it’s because I’m nowhere NEAR what they want, if I’m a stellar applicant but someone else was just a bit better, or if funding for the position went away and the search ended. If it’s one of the latter two then there’s no reason to not keep trying. If it’s the former I may as well give up.

    1. Czhorat*

      To clarify, this is the part that bothers me:

      “”How do we tell them to stop applying, that they will never be considered, and that we won’t be giving them a reason no matter how hard they press or argue?””

      Why can’t you give them a reason? If you are THAT intent on making them go away, you can say, “we want a veteran AV designer with experience in concert halls and critical listening spaces. Your experience in corporate conference rooms isn’t a good fit, and the position isn’t entry-level enough for us to teach you”. If THAT is the answer I’ll go away, unless I find a way to spend a decade designing theaters first.

      If the answer is, “you’re asking too much money” or “you need X certification” then I could decide if I want to adjust my financial request downward, if I want to get X certification, or move on.

      If it’s “we’ve seen your public and very political social media profile and don’t think you’re a good fit” then I know that I’m not going to be a good cultural fit there and will go away.

      if it’s silence, I know nothing. Maybe one person working there personally dislikes me, and when they leave a door opens. Maybe it was something specific about the position. Maybe, in other words, it’s something that can change,

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Many (most?) organizations have policies against giving any reason on why a candidate was rejected, in order to avoid legal liability.

        However, saying some variation of “you have been blacklisted from our organization for the rest of your life” (or some less harsh wording) does not constitute giving a reason, and should not result in a lawsuit.

        If the employer doesn’t say that, it makes sense for the candidate to keep applying. They may simply have been “good but there was someone better” in every previous application.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        If there are 100s or even dozens of applicants per job, it takes too much work to EM each individual the reasons for their rejection.

  40. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

    Oh wow. I just realized that “the circular filing cabinet” is the trashcan. I assumed it was some sort of Rolodex that went around and around endlessly without being looked at

  41. kiki*

    I do think some of this could be resolved by having an automated filtering system that auto-rejects folks who have been put on a “do not hire” list. The person who is threatening to sue is being silly– they don’t have a right to an interview. I also think that’s (hopefully) a bit of an outlier.

    1. Czhorat*

      I fear we’re conflating two things:

      1) Genuinely problematic candidates, like the guy threatening to sue or calling individuals in the company not related to hiring. That’s legitimately harassment and they can be told on no uncertain terms to stop.

      2) Applicants who are submitting correctly and respectfully, but have no chance of getting hired due to experience, educational background, or something else.

      It’s harder to make the people in pool 2 go away, and if the people you tell to stop are predominantly of one ethnic group, gender, or age cohort you might create the appearance of illegal discrimination.

  42. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I’d have to add–if someone is threatening to sue you, don’t send them anything without passing it through Legal.

  43. JanetM*

    Some 30+ years ago, I applied for a secretarial position, got through two interviews, and received a rejection letter that included the statement, “You will not be considered for future jobs at this company.”

    I have no idea what exactly I did wrong, but I did take it to heart and never reapplied.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I got one of those once – I was lured into an interview under false pretenses, and when it became apparent that the job wasn’t as described and had horrendous scheduling , I terminated the interview process because I wouldn’t accept such a position with the working conditions but I did wish them luck.

      Two years after receiving a “nastygram” rejection letter – I GOT CALLED BACK BY THEM!!!!

      No kidding.

  44. JMR*

    Is there any reason to apply to a position more than once? Some of the comments mentioned multiple applications for open roles, and I can’t tell if we’re talking about a candidate applying to the same position more than once, either because they got overly eager or because they forgot they applied already, or if it’s a situation where there’s a fairly general job posting that’s auto-reposted for perpetuity and the company is basically always hiring for that role.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      In big companies that have a lot of identical positions, it’s possible for identical positions to come up quite often, and for the hiring process for each one to be handled in a completely separate manner (no, they don’t go digging in old applications when a new position opens up).

      Getting rejected once doesn’t mean you’ll never be considered, it can simply mean that you were good but someone else was better. It makes sense to keep applying, as the candidate pool will not be the same from one opening to the next, and at some point you may be the best to apply for that specific opening.

      I got one of my jobs that way, after 10+ rejected applications.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Or something like, Clerk II at the Washougal branch, and Clerk III at the Hazel Dell branch.

  45. Healthcare Manager*

    Ultimately you’ve got to stop replying to the repeat offenders. The more engagement they get the more they’ll keep trying, if they don’t get engagement, they stop*

    You’ve got to stop trying to get them to understand or accept this, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

    *Caveat this doesn’t apply to those that are mass applying as they are unlikely to stop.

  46. Trippedamean*

    Note that some states in the US require certain people to prove to the state that they’ve applied to a particular number of jobs per period to continue to qualify for aid. I’ve heard of this being the case with welfare recipients and had former felons tell me about it. Depending on what the industry is (in the latter case, it was food service), the applicants may not even be trying to get the job but simply keeping their food stamps or their parole.

  47. Cj*

    People do this because they are exhausted by not knowing why they weren’t considered. If I don’t get an interview or get hired after an interview I respectfully ask if there is something I can do to improve my resume or interview skills or anything to improve my chances did r other jobs or for the future. If you are unwilling to tell people why you won’t consider them then they are going to keep trying. Some of these people’s behaviors are clear red flags but if you’d have been honest the first time they asked it may not have escalated.

    Telling someone they got a bad reference isn’t breaking confidentiality because they don’t know who sent a bad reference. However it gives them the opportunity to find new references instead of continuing to use the AH who is agreeing to give a reference and then tanking them. Honestly, I wouldn’t trust a bad reference because that person is clearly pretending to be happy with the applicants performance when they are not, and willing to knowingly prevent someone from getting a job.

    In your rejection letter clearly state if you were impressed by their application/interview and would welcome them to apply again or if you didn’t find them to be a good fit for your organization in general.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      99% of rejection letters are form letters. If they say they were impressed by the application, they are telling it to everyone.

      HR departments are worried about legal liability should they give a reason for a rejection, so they say nothing. Yes, this is frustrating to applicants, and companies should understand that one consequence of their refusing to provide feedback is that rejected applicants will keep applying, because they don’t know whether they are viable applicants or not.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Individually tailored rejections with reasons is probably way too much work to invest in people they don’t want, especially for jobs that receive a huge number of applications.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Some people do get accepted by an org after multiple tries. If you don’t do anything creepy or aggressive, imo no harm in applying repeatedly if you follow the correct procedure. That’s not harassment.

  48. CupcakeCounter*

    We are dealing with a former employee who keeps applying over and over again. She resigned after a bad review and notification she would be put on a PIP (didn’t have the technical skills she claimed and deadlines were constantly missed but she still felt she deserved the highest rating because of her “cultural contributions” which don’t matter that much as an accountant) and has been applying to nearly every job she even remotely qualifies for ever since. Not sure how she thinks is going to work considering she attempted to put the company on blast on LinkedIn for “not paying out her promised PTO” and HR had to get involved. Girl didn’t even work there a full year, spent most of the time in the negative PTO bucket since she had preplanned vacation and surgery before she started, and somehow expected to be paid out for 3 weeks vacation upon her departure in February since she didn’t use any after January 1. Even though it was in my verbal offer, in her offer letter, and on every paystub that PTO was accrued each pay period she somehow thought she would be paid out for a full year of PTO for working 2 months.
    I think she expected us to fight for her and make a counter offer because we literally had to pack up her desk and push her out the door on her last day. She just accepted her 3rd role in a year since leaving us and applied for a posted position one week after announcing her new role on LinkedIn.
    Some people are just straight up delusional.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Sounds like she received a harsh reality check once she quit your org; she can’t keep other jobs and now realises how good she had it with you. Too late, too bad.

  49. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I often see AAM / Alison stating “Do not take advice on job seeking from your parents.”

    During the brief situation in which I (a baby boomer) was out of work, my Greatest Generation parents were continually advising me “keep calling back! And, keep applying to places that have jobs open, even if it isn’t related to what you do!”

    I am surmising that these applicants are receiving that advice.

    In other words, they were advising me to be a pest. When I began working again, we had a need for a specific skill (medical), and posted the ad for the position in a major newspaper.

    We had 500 replies. Going through the resumes/CVs, each one of us took 100. When we were done two days later, we identified only 12 that remotely qualified for the job and we called in five or six. I would guess that 400 out of 500 had no idea as to what the job was about.

    Company policy mandated that we reply to all candidates and keep the applications on file for a year. We printed up postcards and sent them out to most rejectees. It didn’t stop people from calling.

    1. JKateM*

      But they want to be hired. . . or at least interviewed. . . or at least have an interview scheduled so they can no call/no show.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I get highly offended when I hear that line. We now have (in my corner of the country, anyway) the lowest unemployment rates since the end of WW2.

      When you have a 2%-3% unemployment rate, it means that just about everyone is working. Yeah it might be a problem regionally – if, say, the factory in your area closes down and it’s the only major employer within 100 miles. But for most, and I say MOST this isn’t a problem.

  50. Maggie*

    Corporations have spent decades turning the hiring process into a dehumanizing game that applicants have to put hours into playing, knowing the most likely outcome will be dead silence. I have some empathy for the hiring staff who is feeling the brunt of it, but this is the system that makes rich people richer so I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

  51. That person*

    Oh, I’ve been (& will likely again be) that applicant, applying to different jobs at an organization. For most of the jobs I applied for at XYZ, I did have an phone screen, then a first round interview. There were 2 instances where I had a 2nd panel interview. Ultimately, I received the rejection letter! After reading this question, and Alison’s response over at Inc., I decided to re-read my rejection letters. Half of them say: ‘We’ll keep your information on file if future roles come up which we feel may be a good fit,’ and the other half ‘We post new opportunities frequently and encourage you to visit our careers page (with link to their careers page)’

    It has occurred to me that both responses are polite, professional canned responses that I can’t put too much weight in as much as I’d like to.

    I’d personally prefer if a company did politely and professionally tell me to stop applying & move on.

  52. Coverage Associate*

    Do you know how the unwanted applicants are finding your job postings? I know my state unemployment office has a job board with a really random mix of employers on it. Those employers are doing something to get on that board, because it’s very few of the employers with public openings. Maybe they have to opt in. Maybe the coding for their websites allows the unemployment office to sweep up the information. Maybe the unemployment website is sweeping from a some other job board(s).

    If you can connect the unwanted applications with a particular source, shut down that source. Like I know my industry has for profit job boards that automatically sweep in job postings from other sites. It’s not just the unemployment office.

    To figure out the source, you should ask applicants, hopefully as part of submitting each application, so you get the information automatically in a way that’s easy to collect and analyze.

  53. Sailor Susie*

    When I was applying for jobs, I was more likely to mass-apply to all the positions if companies made it time-consuming to make a profile. If I have to tab through an application form to enter first name, last name, address, dates and locations for all schools and jobs, then I might as well spam that profile to every position it might fit. While if all I have to do is import my profile from Indeed, I’m more likely to only apply to the position that attracted me in the first place.

    Sunk cost fallacy. Not logical, and arguably counterproductive. But nevertheless true, at least for me.

  54. Tiger Snake*

    LW is putting the burden on the wrong party. Her company how the power choose to reject applicants, but because they have the power it’s also their responsibility to decide on mechanisms to filter those they don’t want on their side, not the applicants.

  55. Ex-prof*

    “Some of the applicants have had negative references and we do not want to give out that information. We always tell references that their references are confidential, and we want to honor that.”

    Argh argh argh argh.

    Both my sister and I suffered from poison pen references. It took each of us months to figure out why we were weren’t getting interviews: Because two women whom we’d worked under, who’d promised us each glowing references, trashed us to potential employers.

    We each eventually figured it out, and got jobs fairly quickly after we stopped using our detractors as references. But if only someone had told us…

    1. Crunchy Granola*

      I’ve heard of these but never used them. If the Applicant Tracking Systems were intelligent enough to parse a simply formatted resume, there wouldn’t be a need for this. I can’t count how many times I uploaded my resume and had to enter all the information again, or cut & paste where Workday or SAP or ADP or whatever borked it to bits.

      This was after the formatting was simplified per recruiter advice.

  56. Crunchy Granola*

    When I was job hunting, there were some companies that I would have loved to work for. Rejection form letters often say, “Please continue to check our listings for opportunities,” or somesuch. I would have loved to have been told outright that I was not being considered ever and the reason.

  57. Michelle Smith*

    I applied at my current organization for probably a dozen jobs over the course of 4 years before I finally got my current role. Of course, I never argued over a rejection or harassed any hiring managers or employees, and I showed up on time and prepared for any interview I was invited to. But the act of reapplying over and over in and of itself is not necessarily problematic. The X team might be a poor fit right now, but the Y team might be different. Or maybe my resume was redone. Or maybe I got a new certification or something that might make me a stronger candidate or just more experience doing X type work in general because I’ve not moved jobs yet.

  58. Ruby Sunday*

    I’m honestly really shocked by some of the comments I’m reading here. I’m currently job searching, and I have applied to various job postings by the same company all the time…because I really want to work for them! In fact, I often reapply to jobs posted by companies who bring me in for an interview, because I see getting an interview as a sign of interest and a way to make connections to people working at the company.

    Besides, what happens if the applicant improves their candidacy? What if they have upskilled? What if they have more experience? What if they completely rewrote their resume to better show their skills and talents?

    Are we doomed to only ever be as good as our first application with any given company?

    OP, I understand your frustration, but try to see the passion and tenacity that these candidates have – They got knocked down, but they got back up and tried again. Isn’t that a really great quality for an employee? Typically, job seekers don’t get a lot of feedback about our candidacy, so any hint about what we could do to improve is always welcomed. Wouldn’t you want to hire somebody who is willing to do the work to improve their candidacy?

    I’m sure it must be overwhelming to have hundreds or thousands of applications to sort through, but each application is connected to a real human being whose life and livelihood depends on finding work. Try to have some compassion for them.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Typically, job seekers don’t get a lot of feedback about our candidacy

      You have a remarkable gift for understatement.

  59. Remote goblin*

    I work for a very niche, very popular-in-its-niche company – think D&D. Massive geek audience. We have had two vacancies in my team since I started as a manager and both times we have had over 500+ applicants, including people who applied several times to both vacancies. It is not people who forget they have applied – it’s people who purposefully apply because we are such a good place to work in a very interesting industry. We had someone say “I will keep applying to your company for any positions until I get in, even if it’s just sweeping the floor”. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do besides keep rejecting them. I have felt the same frustration and irritation at the time I have to waste reading their applications for the vacancies – which they are wholly unqualified for, time and time again, but I think there isn’t much we can do. I just feel lucky to work somewhere people want to work so much, and have empathy for the people who apply repeatedly.

  60. Ajay*

    emails are unique. It should be easy to reject the problematic emails. Most candidates do not change their emails.

    1. Remote goblin*

      That exists, however unfortunately there have been cases of people who have applied again (for the same position!) with a different, new email after being rejected.

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