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How NOT to Respond to Rejection

How NOT to Respond to Rejection

I recently filled a position for a company.  It came down to two finalists – let’s call them Dierdre and Fred.  Both had strong backgrounds and references, but Dierdre consistently outshone Fred through out the interview process that included meetings with the Hiring Manager, a panel of peers, and the Owner of the company.  She was more prepared for the interviews, more articulate, more assertive about her ideas for how she could contribute, and generally more fun to interview.

As I conversed with the hiring manager about which candidate to make an offer to, we agreed that we would make the offer to Dierdre.  We also agreed that Fred was a strong player but just not right for this role.  We discussed another position that we expected to come open within the next couple of months that might be a good match for him.  I sent Fred a personalized letter thanking him for the time and interest he had invested in the company, acknowledging his considerable skills, and suggesting that we would save his resume and perhaps talk again in the future.  To my dismay I received this e-mail in response:

“Thank you for your response.  Obviously, I had wished that it had been a more positive message.  Personally, I thought my skill set and those required for the position were a reasonably good match.”

Fred’s passive-aggressive e-mail demonstrates both poor judgment and poor communication skills and confirms our choice of Deidre for the position.  It also ensures that we won’t be contacting him if and when the other position opens up.

The moral of the story is: whether you win the job or not, be gracious.  You never know what other opportunities may be available for you, and being petty will never get you anywhere worthwhile.

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  1. I can understand both sides to the argument so I’ll say this:

    Emails can easily be misinterpreted by the receipient. Might I suggest that, since you have gone to the trouble to “personalise” the “unsuccessful email” you sent to the candidate in quesion, you could take the time to pick up the phone to call him to advise that he was unsuccessful and why?

    As integral to everyday life as emails are, they can appear inpolite/robotic/impersonal, especially when the content is not 100% positive. I always call candidates (that have completed the interview process) to explain, on the phone, why they have been unsuccessful. 99% of the time they will appreciate the honesty and the courtesy.

    From a candidate point of view, I agree with some of the above comments. As recruiters, we’ve probably all seen a lot worse. Had there been an additional paragraph along the lines of:

    “in closing, I would like to thank you for your time and feedback, and would greatly appreciate if you could keep me posted should any similar positions materialise in future”.

    …the email would appear a little easier on the eye.

    It’s polite and professional and would ensure that you are in the forefront of a recruiters mind, for some time.

    Just my 2 cents worth….!

  2. Sorry, need to retype due to typos: Personally interviews are very superficial, you can look all confident, fake a bubbly personality etc, fake it and look great, say all the things that the interviewer wants to hear, but when it comes to actually doing the job and working with somebody day to day, that is the actual way to get to know if they are the right candidate. There should be a better way to get to know someone to hire. Also, people who are not super-dee-duper in an interview are sometimes the best employees. I have been on both sides of the interviewing process. Would you marry someone (or make a serious long term relationship committment) based on a one or two hour interview and a resume and then immediately decide to live with them? No way.

  3. You exchanged standardised letters /emails -and now you’re grumpy? ‘Personalised’ means only that you put his name on the top, not that you changed the wording.

    His reply highlights a deficiency in your response. You told him you went for someone with better skills, when in fact you chose someone his equal in skills but more fun to interview.

    Perhaps you could change the wording of the letter for someone you’ve liked enough to interview 3 times.

  4. I’m curious, what other option would you offer up? Clearly, he is expressing his disappointment, and reiterating that he feels he was a good ‘match.’ Nothing more. While I tend to probably be much ‘perkier’ in my responses in general, I’m not sure I am reading enough in here to ‘burn a bridge.’

  5. “How NOT to OVERREACT to a Response of Rejection”, is a more accurate title for this blog post because the response cited was professional and straight forward. While the assessment of the response was unfair, shortsighted and unprofessional if it becomes grounds to not consider this viable candidate for future openings.

  6. This has made me laugh. I have seen so much worse than that response, that I view this as boardering on polite!

    As with most written material from an individual (email/text/letter), it is how the reader interprets the response and can sometimes be read differently depending on the mood of the reader.

    Personally I see nothing wrong with the response of the candidate in question.

  7. As a recent graduate, many of the rejection notices I receive (after an interview) have been more of a form nature than the “personalized” email suggested in the article. Is it in bad taste to NOT reply to those automated rejection notices, keeping in mind that I do, if at all possible, send a thank you note to the interviewer following the interview?

  8. Frankly, I do not see a problem with the response you quoted. I was expecting sour grapes with an insult to boot it home.

    Instead, this response is straight forward and honest. It expresses appreciation for your communications; a wish that the decision was more favorable which suggest he really wanted to work for you. And the observation that he felt he was a “reasonably good match” for the job is pretty much what most candidates feel after a face-to-face set of job interviews. Rarely do I hear, “I blew that interview.”

    And for you to admit that he was a “strong player” and could be considered for a possible future opportunity does not jive with this “fall from grace” blog post based a the vanilla response to your written rejection.

  9. Ridiculous. You are reading into the email. Passive/aggressive? Petty? WTF?

    “It also ensures that we won’t be contacting him if and when the other position opens up.”

    That’s just crazytalk. He politely spoke his truth.

  10. Errr… could you point out what part of this message is aggressive? It looks like a polite and sincere answer.
    Or did you expect something more in line with “yes master, I humbly bow to your decision” ;)

  11. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. Part cordially, learn for your mistakes and nail the next interview. And burning your bridges is NEVER a good idea, on any level. You may wind up meeting the hiring manager at the next trade show and find out that he or she was actually thinking about you for a different position.

  12. If you decide you need to make comments back to the employer make them positive!

  13. While I totally agree with everything said, including the comments – I do not see the negativity in Fred’s response.
    He thanked you for your email.
    He expresses that he had hoped for a YES instead of a NO, since he really liked the job.
    From *his* point of view it looked like his skills and the requirements for the job were a good match. Which they were, to a degree, otherwise he wouldn’t have been a finalist. And of course he doesn’t have any insights on how Dierdre’s interviews went; he only has his own point of view.

    That’s my interpretation. I’m not a recruiter and I might not see what you see. However I might send an email like this, thinking I send a polite, friendly response (I’m not native English speaking).

    What would have been a better way to respond?

    Thank you,

  14. Professionalism includes how to accept rejection gracefully. We seldom know the real story behind the rejection and should not burn our bridges. How you handle yourself here indicates how you would handle yourself on the job.

  15. Sometimes it is best to keep your anger and harsh feelings under control. The employee who gets upset and blows up will only hurt himself. The ‘grapevine’ is very long and can do much damage to an employee who ‘blows up’ at his previous place of employment.

  16. Lack of professionalism won’t get you anywhere except written off… I have a detailed case on my blog I chalked up to frustration gone wrong. I live in a small town – tick off a few HR peeps you might have to move.

  17. Absolutely correct. Similar to the old adage of “never burn bridges”, do not fail to build them as well. Additionally, as we all know, sometimes the chosen candidate may not work out for any number of reasons, placing you as the front runner, if not an immediate replacement.

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