It’s a Courtesy to Reject Candidates

by wpengine on April 8, 2014 in Staffing, Workforce


All too often I hear from friends, family, and acquaintances that one of the worst parts of a job search is being ignored. Whether you’ve spent the time to draft a new resumé and cover letter to apply for a position that seems perfect for you, or you’ve interviewed for a job that you think you could possibly get – in either case you’ve put yourself out there and you want to hear back – good or bad. Floating in limbo is a place all job seekers despise (I’d bet on it). You are left to wonder things like, did they make a decision already, did my resumé get lost, is hiring delayed? Or to over analyze everything, maybe I shouldn’t have said that, I should have worn the other shirt, I knew I shouldn’t have put ____ on my resumé.

I Googled “rejected or ignored” and the search results proved that this is a common debate. It appears based on the online surveys that the option of being rejected vs. ignored is not limited to job seekers but also applies in other situations like dating or childhood. Most agree that they would rather be rejected than ignored. One response on Yahoo! Answers explained, “Rejection is honest. To ignore is to be passive-aggressive and only protract an unpleasant situation by putting off its inevitable unpleasant outcome.” Another said, “To ignore is to not even acknowledge that the other person exists. Rejection is to refuse the other.  I’d rather be rejected any day…

CareerBuilder also did a survey of job seekers on the subject and found that ignoring candidates can have a very negative impact on your company’s reputation. Candidates who are ignored will take to the streets or social media to share their impression of you. Here are some of the things people said – to see the rest go to the CareerBuilder blog.

  • “It does make the company look totally pathetic and sad that they couldn’t get back to me with the status of the job I interviewed for. I will warn any of my past co-workers…to stay away from this company, they are very unprofessional.”
  • “It’s really easy to set up [rejection email] templates…and it takes less time to use one as a reply for an email than it does to actually review the application. If you’ve got time to read applications, you’ve got time to send form replies, and if you don’t have time to read applications, you shouldn’t be advertising jobs.”
  • “Yes, being told ‘No, we don’t want you’ sucks…but what hurts more is just never knowing. Okay, you don’t want to hire me, I get it, but at least have the decency to tell me.”
  • “Indeed it is cold and unprofessional not to email back a brief ‘rejection’ letter after an INTERVIEW. After someone took the time to get nicely dressed and groomed, spent money on gas, a new haircut, and took up valuable job searching time for an interview, it makes sense just to get back to them.”

As an employer, I would take these comments to heart. The few minutes it takes to set up a rejection template is worth it to save your reputation from ignored candidates. Sure, it’s not the most fun part of your job but if you’re going to ask people to take time out of their day to apply for your jobs (and it’s your role to fill those jobs) and/or come in for an interview then you should have the courtesy to let them know yes or no. When you do send a rejection letter or make a rejection phone call, don’t give false hope or be vague. It doesn’t help anyone to hear that you will keep them in mind if you don’t plan on it and it also won’t help the candidate improve if you give a template response for why – let them know the real reason so they can do better next time. The CareerBuilder blog suggests a few other “Do’s and Don’ts for Rejecting Candidates” but if there is one thing to take away, remember – It’s a courtesy to reject candidates.

What about you – would you rather be rejected or ignored? Send us your thoughts through our contact form and we’ll add them to the blog (our comments section is broken).

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