9 to 5 Culture

The Courtesy of a Rejection Letter

As a fresh-faced recent college grad excited about his entry into the “real world” in the spring of 2005, I encountered one of my first soul-crushing obstacles that helped set me on a slow but sure course toward the entrepreneur I am today.

I would send out job applications and never hear anything back.

This sounds pretty silly, if you think about it. Obviously if I was never getting a response it meant that the employer I had submitted my application had chosen a different candidate. But it wasn’t the obvious nature of the rejection that bothered me. It was the fact that I never got a response. Compounded over the course of a couple months and ten job applications later I began to doubt the strength of my resume (and I lost some faith in the very institutions that I was applying to.)

My First Rejection

That spring I got one rejection letter. Though I changed the name of the company and position, it looked something like this, and it came by email:

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your application for the position of Giraffe Cleaner at Bats R’ Us. Unfortunately we have elected to go with another candidate for the position. Best of luck in your job search.


I was incredibly confused. I had just been rejected, but it actually felt good! Someone had given me the time of day and had actually taken a few minutes of their life to write a letter, albeit brief and likely a template.

Employers, take note. If you want to not only contribute some good to the lives of many unemployed people looking for jobs, but also build your reputation as a “nice” company, send out rejection letters. It’s the least you can do. Yes, this can be difficult if you have a lot of applications, it can be frustrating for you to try and reply to all of them. But it’s also a courtesy. Even if you send a standard rejection letter that you downloaded from a template site online, it’s at least a response. This way you are not keeping hopes alive. It also makes your company look better.

As for me, I will make you this promise: if you apply to an ad for a job that I have posted, I will get back to you, even if the news isn’t all that rosy. I know how it feels.



  • Amanda April 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I continually have this same thing happen to me, but it doesn’t bother me as much if I just send them an application or a resume.. that is understandable, it’s when I put in a ton of effort to go to an interview. Iron my clothes, get directions, have resumes and cover letters ready, fill out a background check form, fill out an application, then proceed to spend an hour and a half of my time interviewing with them and then to hear nothing back at all??? Not even an e-mail?? That is just plain rude!



    • Mike April 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Amanda

      I would actually like to see some sort of preliminary alert that companies put out to applicants that says “if you don’t hear back from us by Friday, April 23rd, it means that you were not selected for an interview.” This is a good alternative to sending out a ton of rejection letters in the first round. It lets people know to “give up their hopes” after a certain date. If you interview and are not selected you should get a letter at the very least!


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