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Informing someone of a rejection

Posted by tylerh1701, 12 October 2012 · 120 views

I'm in the final stage of hiring a new employee to work in our office, and there were 2 candidates that have different but useful skills for the position. I've done 2 rounds of interviewing with each of them, and I've decided who I'm going to hire, but the hardest part is letting the other person know that I'm not hiring them for the job. I've done some research online about the most appropriate way to inform this person, but the consensus is very split.

Specifically, I'm wondering if a phone call or email is the better method of communication? The way I see it:

Phone Call Pros and Cons:

+ More Personal
+ More Direct
+ Can answer any questions they may have
- Awkward for both parties
- May initially get their hopes up to see that I'm calling, only to have their hopes dashed
- If they don't answer, should I leave a message? Call back?

Email Pros and Cons:

+ Less awkward for both parties
+ Less likely to get hopes up
+ Still gives option for candidate to reach out for feedback if they would like.
+ Avoids any difficult, emotion-filled conversations with a person I hardly know.
- Far less personal
- Not direct. Email may sit in their inbox for days before they notice it.

As I mentioned, the online consensus is rather mixed on this. What do you guys think, if you were in the position of the candidate, would you want a call informing you of the rejection or would you rather have an email? And if you were in my position, what would you do?




I'm in the final stage of hiring a new employee to work in our office, and there were 2 candidates that have different but useful skills for the position. I've done 2 rounds of interviewing with each of them, and I've decided who I'm going to hire, but the hardest part is letting the other person know that I'm not hiring them for the job. I've done some research online about the most appropriate way to inform this person, but the consensus is very split.

Specifically, I'm wondering if a phone call or email is the better method of communication? The way I see it:

Phone Call Pros and Cons:

+ More Personal
+ More Direct
+ Can answer any questions they may have
- Awkward for both parties
- May initially get their hopes up to see that I'm calling, only to have their hopes dashed
- If they don't answer, should I leave a message? Call back?

Email Pros and Cons:

+ Less awkward for both parties
+ Less likely to get hopes up
+ Still gives option for candidate to reach out for feedback if they would like.
+ Avoids any difficult, emotion-filled conversations with a person I hardly know.
- Far less personal
- Not direct. Email may sit in their inbox for days before they notice it.

As I mentioned, the online consensus is rather mixed on this. What do you guys think, if you were in the position of the candidate, would you want a call informing you of the rejection or would you rather have an email? And if you were in my position, what would you do?
email for sure. it would allow the person to form meaningful thank you and ask for feedback. A phone call, after the let down, the person is probably just want to get off the phone after thanking you for your consideration to lick their wound. 10 minutes later, they will go, damn, I should've took the chance to get some feedback etc etc but then its awkward for all around since they now have to reach out to you again after the issue is "closed".
I always email.
Not because I believe calling will "get their hopes up" as I believe an email does the same when they see who it is from.

It's simply these three scenarios:

#1 - You call, they answer, you thank them kindly for their time and explain why you chose to go another direction.

#2 - You call, get no answer, try calling back again later, get no answer, then they notice, get over-excited and call you thinking they have most certainly gotten the job since you "have been trying to call them". Massive disappointment after they get ahold of you or, if you do get ahold of them on your 3rd attempt.

#3 - You call, no answer, so you send an email. Of course, it takes time for you to settle on an email, and it's sent at least a couple hours after your call attempt. They see both the call and the email. Upon seeing the email is informing them that they did not get the position, they either (A) believe that you were calling to give them the position and blame themselves for not being available or (B) believe you were calling to give them the position and then quickly decided to go with someone else undermining your management position as they will lose trust in your decision making skills.

Basically, with a call, only 33% of the scenarios are positive whereas, in my opinion, email is a nearly guaranteed positive method of communication barring human error.
I would definitely say email, but with one caveat.

As someone that has applied to hundreds and hundreds of positions over the past 2.5 years, I've had my fair share of rejections. :P

The only thing about an email rejection that bums me out more than anything, even the rejection itself, is that 99% of the time, I get a cliched, copy and paste rejection email. Something like...

"We are fortunate to have many talented and qualified applicants apply for our positions, and unfortunately we have decided to move forward with other applicants at this time. Thank you and best of luck in your job search."

And then... that's that... Nothing else. This is maybe ok if you only sent an application in and never even interviewed (even then though I wish I got more feedback), but I've received this type of email from places I've done on-site interviews at.

People job hunting on constantly on the edge of their seat, anxiety levels through the roof... if you have done even at least a phone interview with a job applicant, PLEASE PLEASE send them a personal email. What to write exactly? Depends on the person I guess, but what I would be looking for is the real honest reason why I didn't get the job. Especially if I had an onsite interview, all I would be wondering about is all the little things I might have did or said that maybe came across wrongly, or turned the company off, even if I didn't really do anything wrong, and truly did lose to a more qualified applicant. Companies NEVER do this though because of the risk of people suing them for the reasons they didn't get hired, so be careful, but really, that's what the job hunter wants I think. Still this is dangerous water, so on second thought, maybe avoid giving direct feedback in the email unless you know the person very well personally. Maybe the best thing would be to offer that you are available for feedback, but on the terms that the applicant actually requests it. Still, be careful of the bag of worms you can open with bitter applicants.

But regardless of any of that, please still be personal in your rejection. Don't use a cookie cutter rejection, but give your sincere thanks, commend their credentials, but inform them that due to company needs, there is a more qualified applicant at the time, and encourage them to reapply when another position opens.

I would say avoid phone calls, as dv8mad, there's a lot of negative outcomes to this. Usually phone calls are traditionally used for OFFERING the job, not rejecting. Any job hunter out there would get super psyched that they were about to get a job if they saw the company number dialing, and imagine your huge crash into sadness when it was the exact opposite.

So yea, please don't call to reject an applicant, just not many good outcomes. Only reason why you might ever do it is if the job was coordinated all through phone or in person, without any email contact, but in today's world, that will be rare.

So email, what to write, hard to say, but I'm sure you will find something that is positive.
I wish all hiring managers were as nice as you, if I don't get a job offer a few days after the interview, I usually never hear from the company again...
email.
Email. As much as it seems impersonal, if you have a rapport with them (which I'm assuming you have from the two rounds of interviews), then they won't feel weird about contacting you.
Hmm, I'm going to say phone. It's unpleasant, but in my experience, once the candidate gets over the initial disappointment then they'll be appreciative that you chose the more personal route. I've finished a couple of those calls with the candidate having a much better understanding of why s/he didn't get the job.

If you do call and they don't answer, I advise leaving a message with the bad news. As far as getting hopes up, the worst thing you could do is call and ask for them to call back only to be disappointed.
Thanks for all the input guys. I went the email route, and I think I'll stick with that route in the future. To be honest it's quite a bit easier on me, but I honestly think it's actually a little bit easier for the applicant. I know there a lot of great people out there who would very much appreciate a call, take the rejection in stride, and move on. But there's also a lot of people who don't fully understand how competitive applying for a job can be, and will get super defensive upon finding out they didn't get the job.

@dv8mad - I agree with your comment. Especially about placing a call and them not answering. Eventually they're going to see on their phone that I called and that will get their hopes up, and then I really wouldn't want to have to play phone tag with them in case I miss their return call.

@the_grimace - I tried to make the rejection email as personal as I could. I guess I could have mentioned the candidates qualifications a little more, but I really don't think it came off as a form letter. My employer sends out form letter rejections to those that don't get interviews, which I think is ok, but I agree with you that form letters after interviews aren't very considerate.

I work for a public higher education institute, and we are advised to give as little feedback as possible to rejected applicants because of the liability involved in it. Apparently people are a lot more sue-happy when it comes to state and federal institutions, so we have a lot of red tape to work around when it comes to hiring.

@Hybrid5006 - Thanks. I think leaving interview applicants hanging is a really uncaring thing to do. I've applied for a lot of jobs in my life, and I myself really hate being left in limbo. Even if the answer is no, I'd much rather hear that than nothing.

@Blank Earth - I agree with you, leaving a message with the bad news is far better than leaving a message asking for a call back or not leaving a message.
Written letter.
sorry you work at a shitty job and have to shit on people.
edit: to keep your shitty job.
instead of asking people what you should do, look at it differently how would you prefer to know that you you didn't get hired.
At least you take the time to follow up with people. I thought I landed a great job a couple months back. Went to the interview, everything went well, employer sent me to take drug test the next day. 2 weeks later, I call after not hearing back and he tells me he doesn't know what he is going to do yet......Talk about a big disappointment! In my experience with jobs, when you send someone to take the drug test that your company is paying for, you clearly have intentions on hiring that person.
First of all, I thank you for getting back to the person that isn't going to get a job. It shows that you and the company care, and it at least lets the person move on rather than waiting for something that they aren't going to get.

Second, send the e-mail. It'll allow you to not have to leave a messy voicemail and let the rejected person gather themselves for possible feedback. If I get rejected over the phone, I want to get off as quick as possible.
@SolidSnake - Written letters, or even a typed letter that I sign would be very nice, but mailing time puts me off on those, because it will leave the person hanging for a couple more days than necessary.

@4nik8tor - It's not too bad of a job. Most managers who have any sort of hiring to do will have to go through the same thing.

@cmb00 - I'd probably rather find out by email. I remember when I got a job a few years ago after almost a year of unemployment, I nailed my 2nd interview and the hiring manager said he would let me know in just a few hours. I was so nervous I didn't want to go home, so I went to the dollar movies and watched Star Trek to try and get my mind off of it. He called me about half way through the movie to inform me I got the job. When I saw he was calling I was super nervous and excited, luckily he had positive news for me. If he had bad news for me I would have been super disappointed.

@krashhole - Ya that sucks. We actually don't do drug testing anymore, but I'm sure we wouldn't bother doing it until we tendered an offer to an employee, otherwise why bother do the test? The biggest dick move was the guy leaving you hanging for 2 weeks to the point where you had to call him to find out what the hell was going on. I've promised myself that as long as I'm a manager, I'll never do that potential employees.

@bascubs29 - I'm with you, if I got a rejection call, I definitely want to get off the phone ASAP. I'll thank them for their time and that's it.
A while back I was hiring for a management in training position and I had three excellent candidates; I truly wish I could've hired them all but my department budget only allowed for one. When I made my decision I sent emails out to the candidates, it wasn't a copy and paste job, but a thought out email from me. The response from the two candidates was very positive, I've maintained contact with one of them, who landed a management job with a subsidiary of the company I work for and she reaches out to me for advice on different work related matters. :)
@ED

hmm... a lot of my rejection letters/emails are the usual cut and paste from HR saying "The decision was difficult but another candidate was selected and accepted the position".

When I get rejection emails, I just don't waste time responding. I use to but 90% of the time those people forget those emails. I have rarely gotten an email seeking me out after I applied for a position previously.

What erks me more is that when when a interviewer pulls your chain into thinking you got the job , then later emails you/calls you and says something like are numbers of different that I thought so we don't have the position but your more than welcome to be a sub for us in the future......ummm ok.... F them.
Whatever happend to getting a rejection letter via US Mail? Am I really that old now?...
hostyl1

It still happens...I got a rejection letter in the mail two days ago for a job.