I’ve been through a few interviews, a few phone calls and more than a few crushing emails since I started my job search. Within those months, I have gotten to know the standards of rejection letters on a personal level, far closer than I ever wanted to be on the bad end of the employment chain. Here are the six types of rejection letters I have received on my journey to employment. Share your personal experience in the comment section below!
1. The Standard
“Thank you for applying. We have decided to pursue other, more qualified candidates…”
Why it blows: This is the standard for the larger companies, consulting firms and other legally trained HR departments who want to stay very far away from a discrimination law suit. Having worked in employment law, it’s pretty easy to spot the one statement that makes a suit impossible: you are not the most qualified for the position. I now can spot these simply from the title of the email flashing its way to my phone screen. It’s the “Dear John” letter of the 21st century, and while it sucks, it’s not a personal or completely damaging way of losing a job to another candidate.
2. The Pointless
“We have cancelled the position and will no longer be reviewing applications.”
Why it blows: I WROTE A COVER LETTER. A personalized, glowing recommendation of my skills and talents and experiences and it was all for nothing. Nada. Zilch.
3. The Starts-Positive-Ends-Terrible
“Hi there! We loved your application, but decided to move in another direction.”
Why it blows: The false hope. You start to think that maybe this is the one…only to be blown off in the very next sentence. Those two seconds of excitement make the fall to “still unemployed” all the worse.
4. The No Response. At all. Ever.
Why it blows: Weeks of waiting and simply not knowing drive a person crazy. I once had an interview lasting over four hours, a writing assignment, test, and panel interview full of meaningfully stressful questions. I thought it went fairly well; I left excited, followed up, and then received no email responses, no phone call answers. After six weeks, I gave up and realized that I wasn’t a candidate for the position anymore.
5. The Robot
“You are receiving this message because you are no longer in consideration for XYZ position. Please do not respond to this email.”
Why it blows: It’s essentially a form email that hasn’t been given the time to personalize even a greeting or salutation. It feels highly impersonal, though, which is sometimes a better solution than hearing that your qualifications don’t match your dream position.
6. The Most Crushing
“Hi, Erin! We had a great time meeting you and discussing XYZ position. After much careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we cannot offer you a position. Regardless, we wish you the best of luck and hope to see good things from you soon.”
Why it blows: This is what you get after you’ve had a great interview, you’ve connected with the company culture and you’re deep into the process of consideration. At this point, you REALLY want this job. You’re hooked. And then you receive this email, the one you know would have been a phone call if you had been chosen. And it’s over.
Hearing this from a position I was very passionate about was absolutely crushing for me. Regardless, it was nice to have such a personalized, sweet letter from a prospective employer, and I was able to follow up and receive feedback and stay on good terms with the recruiter. If you can’t get the job, at least you can improve your future interviews, and you still have a useful contact in your industry. You never know what might come of this kind of rejection, so keep your responses sweet and grateful.