Your Job Rejection Emails Suck

(or But At Least You Told Me That I Didn’t Get The Job)

I recently went through a very lengthy job hunt. This is the same job hunt that prompted this mental head clearing rant I posted a few months ago (though I wrote the post back in February…I didn’t want to talk about the search while it was going on though), as well as the epitaph to my job from a couple of weeks back. Truth be told, it’s something I have no intention of going through again at any point in the near future. Even though I learned a lot during the job search process — some things good, some not — that would help me in future job searches, those things weren’t the thing that stuck with me once the search was finally done.

Of the 392+1As I mentioned in an earlier post, I received emails confirming my application submission for 392 jobs. There are at least 2 — likely quite a few more — jobs that I applied for that never sent a confirmation email. jobs I applied for between finding out our office was closing and when I was offered my new job, I received rejection emails for 108 positions. These rejection emails came at various points in the interviewing process2Most came before even a phone screening, but I had some phone screenings and a handful of interviews in there too., though all of them told me I wasn’t, for whatever reason, getting the job.

Just because I got 108 rejection emails out of 392+ jobs applied for doesn’t mean that I got offered 284 jobs. That would be ridiculous. What it does mean, however, is that 72.4% of jobs I applied for didn’t even bother to send any sort of communication letting me know that I didn’t get the job. Some of the companies that didn’t reply back didn’t mean much to me. They were just jobs I found on job boards that sounded interesting, so I applied. There were three companies that I applied for that were dream companies that I would have considered leaving a great job for. Of those three companies, only WordPress took the time to send me a rejection email3Nothing against the other two companies, hence not sharing who the other two companies are. But it was incredibly disappointing, particularly considering how both companies present themselves to their client base..

That said, there were still 108 rejection emails that I got. Most of those emails were form emails that looked something like this.

Dear Timothy,

Thank you for your interest in 55555EX – Business Worker at The Business Company and for the time you took to submit your interest in this position. We carefully review hundreds of resumes daily, and while your skills and accomplishments caught our eye, we have decided to pursue other candidates.

However, this isn’t goodbye! Just as we value our customers, we also value you and appreciate that you considered The Business Company during your job search. We invite you to keep checking our careers website, as new opportunities are added daily.

We wish you much success as you continue your job search.

Best wishes,

The Business Company Talent Acquisition Team

I understand that large organizations receive countless resumes on a daily basis. If that organization is telling me no without even giving a phone screening for the position, as the email above was for, I find this to be an acceptable email. Sure, it’s impersonal. And after you’ve received 12 of these emails from the same company4The company who wrote this particular form email employs a ton of people in Northern Ohio. As such, they have numerous job postings year round., it does come off as disingenuous. But that said, it’s not a bad email, per say.

On the other hand, there’s emails like this.

Dear Timothy,

Thank you for submitting your application for the Business Worker position. We appreciate your interest in The Business Company.

We received numerous applications for this position and were not able to consider them all. Unfortunately, your application was not reviewed for this position.

We look forward to speaking with you in the future as new opportunities become available.

Thank you again for your interest and good luck in your job search!

The Business Company Talent Acquisition Team

While this wasn’t the worst rejection email I received5It wasn’t even the worst form email I got., it is representative of some of the most frustrating ones I got. To tell a candidate that the time they took to apply for your job was so wasted that you didn’t even look at their application is an embarrassing way to represent your company. Not only does that deter someone from applying to work for your company in the future, it also deters them from being one of your customers.

I recognize that not ever employer can take the time to give a personalized response to each and every applicant that applies for a job with a company. I also recognize that not every applicant to a position will meet the basic qualifications for the position they’re applying for6Oddly enough, I was better qualified for the job in the second email than the first one., hence complicating individualized candidate review processes. So how does a company make a rejection email better? Oddly enough, I think another form rejection email I received can point us in the right direction.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your interest in the Business Worker position at The Business Company. Although you were not selected, we wish to thank you for presenting yourself for candidacy and encourage you to continue to review our employment opportunities at [website redacted] and apply for any position that meets your qualifications as they become available.

We sincerely thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Business Company family and look forward to you presenting your candidacy again.

Cordially,
The Business Company Human Resources Group

When I got the email above the first time, I didn’t think much of it. I had applied for a position that was a massive reach for my qualifications and experience. I applied for three more roles with this company at various points in early 2018, only to get the same form email back each time. That said, this one never got on my nerves. If anything, I felt a bit uplifted when I read it. I think the main reason for this is one small section of a giant run-on sentence.

“Apply for any position that meets your qualifications as they become available.”

To me, this specific sentence reads as “hey…you didn’t get this role…but you should apply to the roles you feel you’d succeed in as you continue your job search”. After reading repeated form emails where I was told my qualifications didn’t exactly fit the role’s requirements7If I had a dollar for every “entry level” job where the job poster wanted 3-5 years or more of experience, I wouldn’t have needed a new job., seeing this sentence was a welcome light in the sea of frustration that was my job search. If you can’t, as a company, find a way to review every application8You should. or give a personalized rejection email to every candidate who isn’t considered, at least give them some encouragement to continue their job search on their terms.

Oh. And if you’re one of the companies that can’t be bothered to send rejection emails to people you’re not considering for a job, get your shit together. People don’t spend two hours filling out an application that has five essay questions to be ignored.

Update: Since writing this post in May, I received an email from a company I applied for back in February that was apparently just getting through their resume review process. It holds a special place in my heart because of this post, as you’ll see once you read it.

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your interest in the Business Worker position at The Business Company. We have reviewed your application. I must regretfully inform you that the position has been filled. However, we will maintain your resume on file for a one-year period. We will contact you should there be an opening that matches your profile during that time.

We wish to thank you for your interest in our company and wish you great success in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,
via email only

 

Wanted For Immediate Employerment: Somewhere That Fuels Passion

I hate when people say that school — be that high school, college, or some other form of education — doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Categorically, the statement is false. Education teaches us many skills even beyond those we learn in the classroom, such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication, honesty, and compassion1At the very least, if you’re taking school even a little seriously, you get some of this out of school..

That said, there is some validity to the statement. There are a handful of things that schools don’t do a particularly good job of preparing students for the non-school world on. As a rule of thumb, these items are money-driven items that American society puts low value on, yet are critical to being a successful adult. In my estimation, that list includes, but is not limited to, the following items.

  • Money management/balancing a checkbook
  • Interviewing
  • Job searching
  • Not being a jerk to people on the internet
  • Developing relationships with people you don’t see in person (think telecommuters or companies that have many interconnected offices globally)

I want to use today’s post to talk about the third item on that list. Hunting for a job is a surprisingly stressful part of adult life. With the explosion of technology over the last decade and a half, the way employees look for a job, as well as the way companies search for potential employees, has changed drastically.

The way I got my first job was pretty much the same way my dad and my grandfather got their first jobs. I walked into the pizza shop down the road from my house, asked if they were hiring, filled out an application, interviewed, and got hired. With no experience and minimal in terms of marketable skills, I managed to land my first job at the age of 14 the same way people I knew had done so in the 1970s and 1950s. I had a similarly easy experience looking for my next two jobs. I got a job in my college dorm at age 18 and a job as a cook in a restaurant at age 20 via the exact same method.

To be clear, all three of those situations came before the era of Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and other job boards dominating the job hunting market. But I was still proud of getting them. I really didn’t care what I was doing at the time. I was happy to be able to have money to pay bills. I wasn’t about to let myself end up in a situation where I couldn’t support myself2Or others in my life in the future, which was, stunningly, a thought on my mind at age 14..

It’s been about 16 years since I got my first job. The job searching experience has grossly changed since then. While you could (I’m certain) still walk into some businesses and try to get a job the same way I did when I was 14, the more practical and prudent thing to do is to review online job boards or company websites to look for jobs. This isn’t necessarily a bad change. A major advantage to the job board culture is the ability for job seekers to be exposed to companies and jobs they would never have otherwise heard of without that technology.

There are, however, a couple of major problems with the job board culture. For whatever reason, most companies don’t put salary or salary ranges on job postings online. I can’t imagine what the companies are trying to avoid by doing that3Wage discrimination lawsuits. It’s wage discrimination lawsuits.. This has slowed down my own personal job search drastically, as many companies write their job descriptions for people that have more experience than what they’re actually looking for. Which is fine. You’re not going to get the perfect candidate more often than not, so aim high so that you still get the things you need if you fall short. But it’s incredibly disheartening as a job seeker to get into the interviewing process only to find out that a job requiring 3-5 of job-field experience only pays entry level salary4For non-US readers, in the US, it is often considered unprofessional to ask about salary for a job prior to the offer letter stage. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when a company told me they wouldn’t be continuing the interview process because I asked about salary during the HR screening..

The second, and arguably more important thing, missing from most job board postings is why the job matters. I realize that having a passion for what you do isn’t a draw to a job for some people. As an interviewer, I’ve had people tell me that they’re looking for a job for a paycheck and nothing more. And that’s fine. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I also recognize that people have their own motivations and needs. What’s important to the person sitting across the table from me in an interview, regardless of which side of the interview I’m on, is not necessarily the same thing that’s important to me.

That very fact also makes job searching incredibly difficult. As a job seeker, you can’t just go to a job posting and figure out if most positions are going to make you feel good about what you do purely from reading the job description. Granted, some positions make it completely obvious whether or not you’re doing the right thing at the job you’re applying for. But in most situations, it’ll require more research to determine if the company you’re considering applying to is ethical, responsible, charitable, or whatever you’re looking for in an employer. You should be researching companies you’re considering working for anyway. It’s the responsible thing to do as a job seeker. But to not see those factors in a job posting makes the job seeker’s path much harder5Nevermind the fact that job postings are still a bit of marketing from a company. They want to put their best foot forward to attract the best talent possible. If this means not mentioning your company’s flaws, that’s not misleading, that’s responsible marketing. Remember rule #2 of this blog: Everything is marketing..

So how do you, as a job seeker, find a job that fulfills your passion? I really wish I had a good answer to give, especially after making you read 1000 words already before getting to that question6Let’s be real though. If you’re still reading at this point, you like long-form reads. I don’t do non-long-form pieces, at least not generally.. I’m going through my own job search now — and have been for a few months now — and I’ve yet to find a job that screams ‘You will care about this’ to me. Of course, by the time this posts, that could change7I tend to write my posts 3-6 weeks in advance, as I only (usually) have one post go up a week. So I’m writing this in mid-October.. But as of when I’m writing it, not so much.

I want to care about what I do. I want to feel like what I do has a positive impact on people — be it those I work with directly or those that my company works with directly. I want the company I work for to be transparent and honest about its directives and actions, as well as its purpose. That’s not to say previous or current companies I’ve worked for have or haven’t done this. That said, I do know what I want in the future. And it’s hard to find. Especially since there’s no job board for employees seeking work with purpose.

What Twenty Somethings Hate Being Asked In Job Interviews

I’m learning that I’m in what is a somewhat uncommon role as a young professional. I’m a twenty-something((I just turned 27 in November)) who devotes part of his time to doing job interviews. It’s one of the parts of my job I truly adore. I love getting to analyze answers that people give to various questions. I’ve been told my interviewing style is unorthodox — so much so that a majority of my interviewees have commented that my interviews are strange, thought-provoking, and very enjoyable.

In spite of said unorthodox style, there are still some standard questions I’ll start off by asking in most interviews. They’re typically pretty job specific to the position I’m interviewing for. A major reason I don’t interview in a traditional manner is because of how much I despise specific types of questions in the interview process. You know the questions. They’re the questions that seemingly every interviewer asks that have little to do with the actual job itself, yet are so mundane that job seekers are on auto-pilot when these questions are asked((I do ask a handful of non-job specific questions…but they’re certainly not standard. I may share some of those in a separate post)).

A couple of weeks ago, I took a survey of twenty somethings via Twitter, asking what interview questions they hate being asked. I felt pretty happy that there’s only one question on this list that I’ve ever asked (and have since dropped from my mental list for reasons I’ll explain below). I’ll talk about the three most common responses I received below.

What is your biggest weakness?

Why Interviewers Ask It: This is the lone question from this list that I’ve found myself asking in a handful of interviews. I was taught this question tells you a lot about how good a person is at spinning a negative into a positive. From a very basic level, I can see how this would be possible. After all, no one wants their negative traits to reflect too poorly on them. That said…

Why Twenty Somethings Hate It: …it’s the single most overused question in the interviewing process. Literally every place I’ve ever interviewed at has used some variation of this question. It’s so pervasive that most people who think quickly on their feet already have a completely bullshit answer made up for this question before they even step foot into an interview. I do think there’s a general dislike for talking about our personality/work blemishes, though I do not believe that is only a twenty something problem in the slightest.

What was your favorite thing about your last job?

Why Interviewers Ask It: Ultimately, an interviewer is looking for one of two things here. They’re either looking to see if you have the capability to say something nice about a place you’re leaving, or they’re looking to make sure that you’re not a total cynic. It’s a completely attitude-driven question.

Why Twenty Somethings Hate It: The question is a trap question that has no great answer. The average millennial has seven job changes in their 20s((http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0)), and there are numerous employers that look down on such job-hopping((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-vuleta/career-change_b_836473.html)). If you can’t say something nice about your last job, an interviewer will likely assume you’re going to have a bad attitude if there are struggles at this job. It’s unfair…interviewees recognize that.

Why do you want to work here?

Why Interviewers Ask It: An interviewer wants to know why specifically you want to work for their company.

Why Twenty Somethings Hate It: Because the primary reason the majority of people want any job is because we like getting paid. This is even more true for twenty somethings, who are often dealing with the burdens of student loan debt while trying to come into the workforce at poor-paying entry-level jobs. There are other ways to ask this question — What interested you about ABC Company? Why did you choose to take this interview instead of other interviews? If we like you as a candidate, what would make you more inclined to accept this job over other offers — that get your point across as an interviewer.

 

What other questions do you hate being asked as an interviewee? Sound off in the comments.

Front page image credit: Ludovic Bertron on Flickr