How to write an automated job rejection letter

By | April 6, 2023

I’m currently job-hunting, and because of the crazy, topsy-turvy job market we’re in right now it’s been a longer hunt than I’ve experienced before. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs, and I’ve received a lot of automated rejection letters. And a lot of them are bad. I’d like to offer my perspective, as an applicant, on how employers can do better.

First, however, I want to acknowledge that even a bad rejection letter is better than none at all. There was never any excuse for the rudeness of not letting people know when they’re no longer in the running for a job, but in this day and age, when pretty much everybody’s using an applicant tracking system which makes it trivial to send rejection letters, there’s simply no excuse. But apparently some companies can’t even make it over that low bar, so credit is due to the ones who do.

Having said that, here are some tips for how to leave a good impression with your automated rejection letters.

Regrets, you haven’t had a few

Do not, under any circumstances, include the phrase “we regret to inform you” or any variant of it. You don’t regret anything. If you’re rejecting a candidate, it’s either because you don’t think they’re qualified or you’ve found someone better. The candidate may regret being rejected, but you don’t regret rejecting them, and saying you do in an automated later sounds phony.

A series of fortunate events

Another word you should avoid is “unfortunately.” The purpose of any company’s hiring process is to enable companies to hire the best candidates and for candidates to find the jobs that are best for them. If someone isn’t a good fit for a job, you don’t want to hire them, and arguably they don’t want the job. It’s not unfortunate that you’re rejecting them, it’s the right thing.

The candidate may indeed feel it is unfortunate to be rejected from a job they wanted or needed. But that’s how they feel about the rejection, not about how you feel rejecting them. You shouldn’t presume to describe how they feel to them in an automated letter.

Here’s how to do it right

I received this rejection letter recently from RISC Zero. This letter is absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a word. I present it without further comment as an example of how to reject candidates respectfully, in a way that leaves them feeling good(ish) about the rejection.

Dear Jonathan,
I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out and provide an update on the status of your application at RISC Zero, Inc. We appreciate your interest in our company and your application.
After careful review of your qualifications and experience, we have decided to move forward with other candidates whose skills and experience more closely match our current needs. This decision was not a reflection on your qualifications, but rather a difficult choice among a highly competitive field of candidates.
We want to thank you for taking the time to apply and for your interest in our company. We understand the time and effort required to submit an application, and we appreciate the interest you have shown in our company.
We encourage you to continue to explore other opportunities that may be a great fit for your skills and experience. We wish you all the best in your job search, and we hope that you find a position that is a great fit for your career goals.
Thank you again for your interest in our company!
RISC Zero, Inc

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