Friday, March 29, 2019

Whither rejection letters?

An old school rejection
Credit: The Pulp Magazines Project
What has been your experience with rejection letters or notices? It is the broad consensus of readers
of this blog (I believe) that people prefer to be told, than not to be told, that they did not get hired for a position. If I had to summarize people's ideal rejection process, it would be:
  • as fast as possible
  • personal, not generic
  • not too familiar, not too cold
  • it would offer reasons as to why they were not selected (unlikely, I know) 
  • ways to improve (same)
Readers, your thoughts? 


  1. Candidates number one complaint about the hiring process is lack of feedback, during the application process or after an interview. It's something employers should work harder on because it's damaging to the employer's brand. Those candidates are less likely to apply again in the future and are more likely to speak negatively about the company to others. It's relatively simple to have some sort of automated way to reject applicants who don't interview. Those who do interview should be rejected on a more personal level by phone or email.

    If I were an employer I would discourage hiring managers from telling a candidate why they were not selected for the position because it's too big of a legal minefield. Since employers can't discriminate based on race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin, etc., etc., it's just a matter of time before somebody screws up by saying something like 'we hired an equally qualified female candidate to improve our diversity'. Hiring managers should however provide constructive feedback on how to improve and become a better candidate.

    1. Absolutely agree on not offering reasons why the candidate was not selected (said as a hiring manager; as an applicant, I have usually worked every back channel I can think of with a "can you give me any advice that would improve my future candidacy" if it wasn't clear why I didn't get selected).

      Also, if you go personal instead of generic, I feel like there's a chance of the applicant taking it personally. I prefer the "it's nothing personal, Sonny, it's strictly business" approach.

  2. When I applied for jobs, I got rejection letters from two of the places I interviewed. I was disappointed mostly in not getting the jobs - I don't think I needed the input as to why I didn't get the jobs.

    I didn't like not getting any notice (other than silence) that I wasn't getting the jobs I'd interviewed for, since even with the time of the person writing/copying the letters and mailing them. the cost of the letter was a rounding error to the interview process - it seemed needlessly impolite. In at least one case, they didn't want to send a rejection letter immediately because they might want some of the people if their preferred hires didn't want them, but I never got any notice (other than no job), eventually.

    I didn't want to get rejected at all, but given that I was (and would be if I interviewed again), I would have rather had letters just out of politeness. I don't want an obvious form letter (no awkward blanks) but the letter doesn't have to be personal.

  3. I think everyone would like to hear from a company that they did not get the job, even if it is an automated message from the website where you apply saying "you have been removed from consideration for this position" or something like that. It seems like many of the large companies go through a website where you need to create an account to apply and so on, so why not have notification messages? I can understand if it is a small company that is going through a recruiter or monster/indeed/linkedin/whatever. I also feel it should be borderline mandatory you receive this message if you actually interviewed with the company, whether via phone/skype or on-site, since there is already a level of rapport established. It reflects poorly on the company, in my opinion, that you cannot simply send an automated message to kindly kick rocks.

  4. I had an article rejected from Angewandte, which was no big surprise given how the synthesis didn't quite meet the bar. But what was surprising was how thoughtful the rejection letter was. Not only did the editor compliment my work, but they suggested reasons for why it would not suitable in Angewandte, and promised an expedited publication in Eur JOC (which I did not pursue).

  5. I once applied to a well-known research institute for a scientist position that suited my background nicely. Within an hour I had received a rejection. While I was appalled at the speed of the rejection, I did appreciate that I received one. That was not enough for this institute apparently; they sent me a second rejection e-mail 1 hour later just to make sure.

    1. They already hired someone on an H1B visa, they are only posting the jobs because immigration forces them to. They will reject a qualified person the fastest, they don't want you proving they don't need an H1B visa!

  6. I recently went through the process as I was informed my position within the company I was with was being eliminated. I applied for quite a few positions in various sizes of pharma and biotech companies. I learned quite a bit about the hiring process during this stint, and this may be known by most, but I will lay it out:

    1. Larger companies take quite a bit longer to get back to you after applying. They have their systems/policies in place that have to be followed. For instance, I applied to a company in late February. I just heard back asking for a phone interview, almost a month later

    2. Smaller companies act and react very fast. I had a phone interview on a Friday. The following Tuesday, I was asked to fly out for an onsite interview taking place that upcoming Friday. I eventually turned down that onsite interview because of the complete lack of details, but nevertheless illustrates the point.

    Generally, I didn't hear back if I wasn't selected for an interview. Sometimes the status of the application was updated in their system either with or without an acknowledgement email. I was very lucky though, all of my phone interviews progressed to onsite interviews and all onsite interviews led to offers.

    I worked with several recruiters for several positions and they are by far the best way to go. I received feedback within 24 hours on all interviews I had that stemmed from recruiters. Some good and some bad. For instance, one position I was contacted by a recruiter for told me within 24 hours that the company thought I didn't have enough experience. That was fine for me, even though I met all required and preferred qualifications. To my knowledge, the position has been open since mid-december 2018 and still hasn't been filled. On the other side, the position that I accepted, I received almost instantaneous feedback from the recruiter at all stages of the process. It was very refreshing.

    I hope this helps if anyone is looking for a new position.

    1. Good for you, turned down an onsite interview where they refused to give you details. Don't let them do it to you, make you fly in to see them and they treat you like dirt, a lot of times the people at companies like this will just slander you and make bogus calls trying hurt your chances or even worse call your current employer without your permission, jeopardizing your current job situation.

  7. Waahhh waahhhh, I didn't get a PFO letter, grow up you losers, who cares, they didn't pick you, get over it. Most of you are too stupid to realize how lucky you are to not get a job in this ridiculous industry, most of it is nothing but fraud designed to dupe investors, a fact that a lot of "scientists" are too daft to pick up on.

    1. Not sure it's them who should grow up!

  8. I fully agree with Anonymous March 29, 2019 at 6:58 AM, and hope to see these suggestions being implemented in academia.
    If you have a good network and attend lots of conferences, you may be able to get some feedback. However, lots of search committee members are afraid to commit a legal sin and often will avoid talking about it, even after the search completion.
    Also, the HR is often crazy involved in the search process and depending the institution and the higher ranking administrators, HR can be a rate limiting factor in your promotion if you screw up the process as member of a search committee.
    What is the take of people who participated in a search for candidates? How was your HR flexible on these issues, and how much power you had on them?


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20