Does writing job rejection letters really matter?

Imagine … you applied for a job ten days ago. You know that you invested a lot of time to write a tailor-made cover letter, you customised your CV for a certain position and two weeks went by and nothing happened. You wonder whether you will ever get a phone call, a letter in the mailbox or an email from the company’s HR department. Does this sound familiar? How would you feel as a candidate?

Now imagine … that you are the recruiter. You are working for a company who claims on their website that they have brilliant credentials and provide consistently a high level of customer service. The job ad you published DID NOT mention a clause at the bottom that stated

“We regret that due to the high volume of applications we are unable to acknowledge every application. Please bear in mind that if you are selected for an interview we will contact you within the next 7 days. However, if we think that your skills and qualifications may be suitable for other similar positions we may hold your details on our database and contact you in the future.”

How do you think will your company be perceived by potential new hires if they don’t get any response? Whenever this happened to me I felt: this company is not credible, people working there don’t care about their own company’s image and reputation, they do not respect my time that I invested in applying for the position and they don’t value my interest in their company.

Possible reasons that companies do not reply to job candidates could be:

  • They don’t have any time and staff for this task if faced with a particular high number of applications.
  • They might not know how to do it in a kind, thoughtful and professional way.
  • They might think it does not make any difference to their company’s bottom line and it doesn’t really matter.

However, HR Managers need to reconsider whether they can really afford to not reply to potential job candidates. In today’s day and age (I’m talking about the social media world in particular) this would mean that theoretically any disgruntled candidate can harm a company’s reputation in a few seconds, from all over the world, just with a click from any device, fully free of charge - if that would be their intention! And imagine…. there is only one job and one lucky person who will land the job. How many other disappointed jobseekers might feel like voicing their opinion online in their own words? Think about it, not once, but twice!

When I was writing my MBA dissertation about “Recommendation Marketing” I learnt an important lesson: a negative experience is being passed on to more friends, relatives and acquaintances than actually a positive experience. What can we learn from this?

  • Include a clause in your job ad if you know from the beginning that you are not able to deal with a high volume of applications. That shows that your company has a professional approach and respects their job candidates’ time.
  • If you don’t include any clause then reply to each job applicant. You can do this with a phone call or with an email or letter.
  • Do it by using a kind and professional tone. A rejection is never a positive experience but if you do it with consideration and respect then it will be perceived very differently. I remember how the rejection letters sounded that I received in the past. They were often filled with negative words such as “unsuccessful”, “unfortunately”, “unable to consider you for this position” etc. It’s anything else than positive and encouraging.
  • Make it a bit more personal and don’t write it like a typical standard letter. I remember when recently I was looking for a logo designer. I received more than 22 responses. At the end of my rejection letter I added to every declined person “Never give up!” A very short sentence but it made a difference to those who bid on my project. Many replied back with very positive comments. I was pleased of having taken the time to reply to them.
  • Always end by wishing the person success.
  • If you write a rejection letter after having invited a candidate to an interview, don’t promise and encourage the job candidate to apply for other corporate jobs if you know that the candidate was not a good “cultural fit”. Don’t fool anyone in that regard.

      Remember that a good rejection letter still gives your company the opportunity to build good will and leave a professional impression in the candidates’ eyes, while ignoring them might lead to increased negative word-of-mouth. People do talk and share their experiences with people they love, live and deal with. Nowadays in an unprecedented way!  

      Karin Schroeck-Singh
      Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.