Since online employer rating portals created a platform for jobseekers and employees to rate their interview and employment experience respectively, the rejections have been taken to the next level of professionalism. Questions that HR needs to ask are what to say, what not to say, what can harm all of your employer branding efforts and what can help you attract applicants in the future. Alison Green argues that rejecting candidates by phone, in silence or by announcing the new hire is not a proper way to do so. So, how to write it?
There are some 3 types of rejection letters, depending on your recruitment process design:
- after CV screening,
- after a telephone interview,
- after an on-site interview.
Applicants regularly share that every second potential employer never responds with an answer. It became a rule of thumb that not hearing back from a prospective employer within 2-3 weeks indicates a rejection. Nonetheless, the rest actually do reach out to the applicants with a rejection letter.
Most companies write generic emails with only a few customized parts, e.g. name of the applicant and the position title. A vast majority in here tends to position themselves as desired places of work that are overrun by jobseekers.
It turns out to be a pretty common strategy even for start-ups with 50 or fewer staff and which have been in existence for less than 18 months. An up-and-coming real estate portal tries to convince in the following way:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for employment. As you can imagine, we have received a large number of applications. After reviewing your qualifications, we have decided that another candidate's credentials more closely match our requirements.
We appreciate your interest in XXX and wish you the best of luck in your job search and career.
The Recruiting Team
There are companies who feel the need to share their work load on top of that. Consider the Munich-based online fashion and shoe store's rejection letter:
Thank you very much for your application and your interest in XXX.
We received a large quantity of applications for the position XXX; it has been a difficult task to shortlist all candidates. We are very sorry to inform you today that after careful consideration, we have chosen other candidates.
Nevertheless it would be great to keep in touch with you. Why don’t you follow us on our LinkedIn profile? We regularly update it with great news about XXX and our latest job offers that you shouldn't miss: XXX
We thank you for taking the time to apply and wish you every success with your future career.
Name of the Recruiter
A modern touch is obviously an invitation to keep in touch via the professional social media channels. From this perspective, becoming a part of a company-dedicated career portal seems like an old-fashioned solution, a strategy of a US manufacturer of audio products.
Dear Name and Surname of Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the XXX position in with XXX. We regret to inform you that after a thorough evaluation of your background and qualifications, while impressive, we have decided to pursue other candidates who more closely meet our current needs. Please note that if you applied to other positions, you may still be considered for those positions.
Although we have moved forward with other individuals for this opportunity, we remain very interested in your candidacy and invite you to apply to other positions you might be interested in. Please keep your profile up-to-date on our website at XXX as we continually update this site with new opportunities.
Thank you again and we appreciate your interest in XXX and wish you every success in your career.
XXX Talent Acquisition Team
An online game developer uses the rejection letter to capture applicants interests in their products.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for employment. We have reviewed your background and qualifications and find that we do not have an appropriate position for you at this time.
We appreciate your interest in XXX and wish you success in your job search and hopefully in continuing to the next level of our games.
And finally please follow us on Linkedin
The XXX Recruiting Team
All of the above examples avoid getting into the conversation on applicant’s skill set and rather emphasize the strengths of other job seekers' profiles. Contrary to this, the largest community of music creators and fans provides more specific feedback by disclosing selection criteria. This may help applicants to target their application efforts in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to send us your application. For this role we have receive a lot of applicants, giving me the luxury position to focus on candidates coming from a similar role and industry. Unfortunately I have decided to move forward with other candidates.
We appreciate your interest in XXX, and wish you all the best with your job search.
Name of the Hiring Manager
p.s. Although it didn’t work out this time around, you can stay up to date with our latest openings on Twitter (@XXX) and Linkedin (XXX) for other roles you see a good fit for.
Keeping it short and simple looks like a good strategy. A ground transportation newcomer leaves out details, stays informal and clear.
Thank you for your mail and your application at our company.
We regret to inform you that your profile does not fully match the requirements for the vacant position.
We wish you all the best for your future career.
Best, First name
The next way to reject a candidate is to write that the company does not have any open positions that match the jobseeker's profile. Now, this is a hard one. It basically questions the jobseekers' judgment. He or she read a recruitment ad, felt strongly about his candidacy, applied and now hears that the company does not have an open position to match his or her skills. I found this condescending approach for instance at the Food Order online store:
Thank you for your application and the interest shown for a position in our company.
On the basis of your application we were able to get a positive impression of you and your qualifications. It is with regret that we must inform you that we currently have no open positions that match your particular skill-set and interests.
We wish you every personal and professional success with your search and in the future.
The XXX Recruiting Team
Some rejection letters also have unexpected content. The Recruiting Team of a company in the wind power sector regrets that they cannot help a job seeker out of his misery of working for his current employer where he would rather quit and of unemployment status - "We are sorry that we cannot help you on this occasion". From the business side, starting with "We regret not being able to give you a more favorable response" would be more appropriate.
Dear Mr. XXX,
thank you for your patience and for expressing an interest in joining XXX.
Due to the large quantity of applications received, it was an extremely difficult task to short-list candidates and, after careful consideration we have decided not to take your application any further.
We are sorry that we cannot help you on this occasion, but would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the interest you have shown in XX and to wish you every success in your future career.
The XXX Recruiting Team
A pleasant surprise is a rejection letter of one of the most successful online handicraft market places. The HR Team caresses the applicant's ego. It invites him or her to stay in touch, complies with the regulations and calls for immediate action. On top of that it also encourages feedback and further discussion:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for employment.
While we were impressed with your background and experience, we have concluded that other candidate's qualifications match our requirements more closely. However, we liked your profile and would love to stay in touch. If you are interested in us getting back to you should a more suitable vacancy come up, please give us your permission to keep your application documents by sending us an email reply. We are otherwise obliged to delete your data.
Also, should you have further questions or feedback regarding the recruitment process, we would appreciate your getting in contact with us.
We wish you all the best for your future endeavors and hope to hear from you soon!
The XXX HR Team
On the other hand, an online furniture store communicates the completion of the recruitment process:
Thank you for your interest in the XXX position at XXX. We have filled this position. Feel free to continue to check the Careers section of our website and apply for other roles that fit your qualifications and interests. As one of the world's largest XXX, we're growing fast and adding a variety of positions all the time.
We wish you great success in your job search, and would like to extend our warmest thanks again for your time and interest in applying with us.
The XXX Recruiting Team
When an interview took place, rejecting a candidate might be even tougher. Companies apply a variety of strategies. A restaurant booking platform keeps it generic:
Thank you for taking the time to interview for a career at XXX.
We regret to inform you, that although it was a tough decision due to the high caliber of applicants we received for this role, we will not be moving forward with your candidacy.
We truly appreciate your interest in a career with our company and we wish you the best in your future professional endeavors.
A Dutch travel booking site offers very specific and honest feedback instead:
Thank you for the interview this week.
Meanwhile I have decided that I'd like to put your application in "waiting mode"; that means that I will proceed with other candidates and maybe get back to you, though likely not.
The reason for this decision: during the interview I observed you were using many sentences and I perceived that as not coming to the point. In our business managers stop listening when key message is not delivered instantly.
I understand this is probably not what you'd like to hear. For now thank you for your interest in our company.
Name and Surname of Interviewer
An US accounting service provider leaves a door open for future employment and encourages further feedback on the interview process.
We wish to express our appreciation for the time and consideration you gave XXX during our recent discussions about the XXX position.
It is always difficult to choose among the many candidates whom we interview. After careful consideration, we have decided not to offer you a position at this time. However, we will maintain your resume in our active files which we continuously review as new career opportunities develop. We also encourage you to regularly visit our careers website at XXX.
It is an exciting time at XXX as we grow our great company. We consistently review our process to deliver the best hiring decision while providing every candidate with a stellar interview experience. To measure our success toward this goal, we have developed a tool for you to share your experience and provide feedback directly to our talent acquisition team. Please take a moment and click on the link below to answer a few questions and share your perspective. We thank you in advance for your feedback.
Again, we thank you for your interest in XXX and we wish you every success.
Name and Surname
Talent Acquisition Department
Writing a rejection letter is a tough process and the outcome will rarely be satisfying for all applicants. However, it is worth spending some time on it and design the candidate communication process thoroughly.
Sounds familiar? In recent years, stories about college grads working as cashiers made headlines across Germany, and Poland as well. Neither German nor Polish colleges train students in sales. The colleges undervalue sales and overrate marketing. Sales requires soft skills and these are harder to convey in the classroom than best practices in marketing. Business studies are B2C driven requiring brand and marketing strategies. In addition, some college profs favor trainee programs over direct sales success, e.g. Peter Winkelmann, professor at the Department of Marketing and Sales at the University of Applied Sciences Landshut, believes the key to obtaining sales experience is a trainee programs. "By participating in a trainee program, graduates should develop a connection to the market and customers". In his opinion, graduates should not be salespersons with a degree.
A majority of students would probably agree with this. It is rare that students/graduates have the desire to master duties such as cold-calling and customer service. They very often assume that strategic planning and marketing communication are the key to a successful career. Graduates of business schools primary want to analyse, analyse, analyse and subsequently devise strategies; be Key Account Managers on long-term accounts, and of course Sales Managers and Directors; be farmers, not hunters.
But is this really just an obstacle of Generation Y? I believe that college graduates have never been heavily oriented towards sales. Actually, irrespective of time and educational background, "the selling profession isn't most folks’ first choice for a profession, many will fall into a sales career after college and just survive rather than thrive".
Graduates are not interested in sales for many reasons:
1. They have student loans to pay off and need a steady income.
2. As accidental salespersons, they have had bad experiences in sales. One of the Fines Department Stores used to hire students as hostesses for one or two days. As students turned up for work, they were asked to convince clients to sign up for a loyalty card.
3. They have had bad experiences with sales as customers.
4. They hold on to stereotypes about sales, incl. having to sell stuff that nobody needs, manipulation, etc.
5. They do not want to have to struggle at work, swallow rejections or keep up with performance expectations.
6. They want to be paid for their work, not just their success.
Big companies know how to sweeten the deal. According to the Compensation Consulting Firm Personalmarkt, the highest starting salaries in Germany are paid in the construction, chemical and pharmaceutical industries with an average of around EUR 47K gross salary per year. Across the industries, sales people within the first 2 years of experience earn around EUR 38K. Professionals working in sales for more than 5 years earn more then 70K on average.
In Berlin, many businesses assume a EUR 21K basic salary for their sales professionals. Before Germany's first nationwide minimum wage was introduced in January 2015, there were also companies that had sales professionals in their books earning as little as EUR 14Kbase. Only after nobody wanted to be hired for that, a EUR 19K was offered. Although a top salesperson is able to double it through top performance, for the majority of sales consultants, it does remain a "so so" basic salary with "bonus potential". With 3-month chunk rates at 20-30%, the time one has to prove one’s abilities is short. This causes stress – a huge amount of stress – that prevents one from focusing on priorities.
So what can companies do to attract graduates to sales positions?
A few ideas:
- increase the average starting salaries;
- do not burn talent;
- support sales talent with really good marketing and communication campaigns, try new services, eg. vendisys.com;
- give them time to succeed, one or even two years;
- provide them with training and know-how that colleges do not teach, e.g: the further south in Germany you are, the more time you will need to spend with the customer in order to seal the deal;
- inspire people to a career in sales through initiatives similar to Geek Girls Carrots, make use of gamification approaches;
- improve image of sales (emphasize partnering with the client, solving problems as integral components of the roles etc.);
- reassure that students understand that the most promising way to get to C-Suite is via sales department;
- outline benefits of a career in sales (crisis-resistant, universal across sectors, earning potential, performance satisfaction, working with people);
- let them be a co-owner of your business. A vast majority (99%) of the job-seeking public have zero interest in jobs without a base salary or with a very little pay, unless it is in their own company.
What students can do to develop interest in sales?
- practice "show and tell" exercises;
- polish communication, presentation, story-telling skills;
- join the closeby section of Toastmaster's Club;
- organize a garage sale/jumble sale;
- join a flea market as a seller;
- work a part-time or holiday job in retail or telesales.
Do you have any other ideas?