Job Rejection Letters – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

When Dr Sara Davis received the "best rejection letter" ever, it sparked a discussion around how to tell someone they didn't get a job – and how not to.
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No one likes receiving a job rejection, but it’s clear some employers need to take a masterclass in dishing them out – because they really can suck.

Some people have sat through long phone calls filled with positivity about their interview, only to find out they didn’t get it at the very last minute. Others simply didn’t hear back at all. Yes, the phenomenon of job ghosting is very much alive – a survey by Jobsite found one in four people have experienced it. The least we deserve is a response.

So, what are some of the good, the bad, and the ugly job rejections people have received? We asked.

The good

Not all rejection letters are created equal, as Dr Sara Davis, from New York State, discovered. She received “the best rejection letter” ever in response to her application for a position she didn’t even get to interview for.

The letter read: “The faculty position you applied for ... attracted over 65 candidates. I have chaired many searches over a long career and I found myself telling all my friends on campus ‘wow, what an amazing pool – exceptionally strong this year.’ I will never understand the phenomenon: sometimes job notices fail to attract an appropriate group, while other years there is an absolute embarrassment of riches in the collected files.

“Thus, it has taken our committee additional time to carefully evaluate each application, but we have now filled the opening.”

The letter continued: “We appreciate that you dedicated substantial time to tailoring your materials to introduce us.

“Writing these communiques is never easy, and over the years, I have both received and sent similar news. I am truly sorry that your efforts did not yield the result you hoped for, but we were pleased to have come to know about your work.”

Dr Davis said the response made her “feel great” and urged hiring committees to take note. Many people replied to her tweet to say they felt the same. One person wrote: “Top-notch service work, that.”

Trudy Keil, a teacher from Canada, replied to say she had a positive experience when she interviewed for her first teaching job. The manager said he wanted to hire her and told her she had a great interview, she recalled, but the decision wasn’t his to make. “It gave me confidence for subsequent interviews and I got the next one,” she said.

When George Fenwick first moved to London from New Zealand he applied for a role at a mental health charity. “I got an interview but didn’t get the job, but they sent me personalised feedback both congratulating me on getting far in the process and also providing very fair and warranted feedback on how I could’ve improved,” he told HuffPost UK.

He’d applied for up to 70 jobs and this was the only personalised feedback he received. “It was such a nice thing, he said. “It felt very true to their brand and ethics as a charity.”

The bad

One HuffPost reader, who wished to remain anonymous, said she applied for a job and received a rejection by phone call – but it wasn’t clear it was a rejection until the very end of that conversation.

She recalled how an in-house recruiter spoke for about 10 minutes, “asking me how I thought it had gone, if I was interested in the company, if I had got on well with the interviewers,” – a proper digest of the whole process.

“She started saying it had gone well, they were impressed... and THEN, after all that time, she said, ‘So we won’t be taking your application any further.’” Talk about psychological torture.

In response to Davis’ tweet, one disgruntled rejectee also explained that he once received feedback that was completely unhelpful. “I got an email the other day with three points on why I didn’t get the job and they had nothing to do with my experience,” he tweeted. ”[It was] just the admin staff being smart about how great there [sic] company was and how they are after a special fit.”

The ugly

Amanda Moehring said the worst rejection she received was a “badly phrased” letter which said: “We had many excellent applications. Unfortunately, yours was not one of them.” Ouch.

Meanwhile, HuffPost UK reader Lorna was accidentally copied into the world’s most unprofessional email – not meant for her eyes – that read: “Think Lorna would be too gobby for this place.” The email was swiftly recalled and deleted – but the damage was already done.

Perhaps worst of all rejections, however, is the deafening silence that can follow a job application or interview. “I’d honestly take an email with just ‘no’ over silence,” Lenzie Ford tweeted. And judging by that Jobsite poll, we’re sure most people would agree.