How to Write a Rejection Letter So the Applicant Doesn’t Hate Your Organization Forever

How to Write a Rejection Letter

As someone who has been turned down for more jobs than all the members of Congress put together claim to have created, I’ve seen all sorts of rejections letters, and I have some advice for the people who write them: Streamline. Cut the crap. No one believes you really want to thank us for applying, that it was a really hard decision, or that all the candidates were really wonderful.

Unless you drink on the job, in which case, yay you.

How to Write a Rejection Letter W. T. Fallon @wtfallonauthor Jobs
How to Write a Rejection Letter


So I’m going to suggest here that HR departments just start sending out letters that say, “Thank you for your interest in X position, but you’re not good enough.”

I know, I know, the person in legal would scream at you that you’re inviting lawsuits for hurting someone’s feelings. The person in PR would yell that you were making the company look bad and discouraging good candidates from applying again. But you know what? Those people are wrong, and I’m going to tell you why.

Because regardless of how politely or nicely you phrase “no,” the recipient reads the message the exact same way: You’re not good enough.

What rejection letters say:

“Thank you for your interest in X position. We had many talented applicants this year, and unfortunately we are pursuing other candidates at this time.”

What the recipients read:

“You’re not good enough.”

“Thank you for your interest in X position.We have decided to move forward with a candidate who better fits our needs at this time. Please keep us in mind for future job openings.”

What the recipients read:

“You’re not good enough.”

No matter how you put it, the person getting that letter is only going to read one thing: You’re not good enough. Adding bullshit never makes anything smell better, so don’t do it. Nothing you say can possibly take the sting out of a “no” letter.

But you can sure make it worse! There is one thing you should never, ever, ever say in a rejection letter: “Don’t get discouraged.” A company I have applied to more than thirty times (and been rejected as many without ever getting an interview), used to have this in their standard letter. I know, I got dozens of them.

Of course, I get mildly annoyed every time I get a no. But when I saw “Don’t get discouraged” I was more than mildly annoyed, I was Level 1000 pissed. You don’t want to give me a job but you want to tell me how to feel? Fuck you! (To be fair, that company eventually stopped using that line, I assume because they got so many complaints.)

As for me, I’m not really looking anymore. Oh, I’m keeping an eye out for openings in my field, but I’m sick of wasting time interviewing for $10/hr crap jobs. I once took one of those jobs “until something better comes along.” Ten years later, I was still in that hellhole. Nothing better ever came along. Instead, I’m spending my time reselling stuff on the internet, which is nice because I can set my own schedule. Plus I always wanted to be a professional shopper.

My advice for HR departments is solid though, it really is. What do you think? Would you rather just get an honest letter that says, “You’re not good enough,” or even just, “No?” Or do you actually enjoy reading all that bullshit about how much they appreciated your rejected application?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, a science fiction book series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans abandoned Earth—and we’re what’s left? 


6 thoughts on “How to Write a Rejection Letter So the Applicant Doesn’t Hate Your Organization Forever

  1. I just love the ones where you go in and they tell you about how the hire those with no experience all the time. How the prefer that because then they can teach them their way with zero problems but when you go to apply they suddenly can’t hire you because you don’t have 7+years of experince.
    Or those places that do only hire those with experince but constantly send you emails about how they loved your resume. When you call though it turns out that it was just some mistake.
    Considering you can get between 4 to 5 emails with them asking to set up an interview with you, that is a ton of mistakes that they have to own up to.


    1. I know how you feel. Once, shortly after graduating, I applied for an “entry level position” that was “perfect for a recent graduate.”
      They wanted two years of experience in the field. WTF? How is that entry level? What should I have been looking for, basement level?


  2. I have to admit I prefer the bullshit! I totally read it the same way too, but at least there’s comfort in the bullshit…. To spell it out that I’m not good enough directly would upset me I think.

    Very entertaining post. 🙂


  3. Too funny! 🙂
    What about the candidates who send a nasty email back, outraged that they’ve been rejected? Brave or stupid? Probably both. Are they burning their bridges? Maybe the person could have landed a job with that company at some future stage? On the other hand, maybe not. LOL
    Thanks for the early morning laugh.
    Writer In Transit


    1. I’ve always refrained from doing that, much as I wanted to, LOL. Although I’ve found that lots of places are happy to reject me repeatedly anyway, I still wouldn’t want to burn a bridge.


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