A Plea From Job Applicants: Please Reject Us!
Too many companies ignore their job applicants. That's not just unkind - it's also bad for business.
I am a college student. Like my peers, I have applied for many jobs and internships. And we have a request of you, the people who may hire us:
Please, if you do not like us, reject us.
Rejection is rare in our world. For example, I never received a rejection letter from my dream summer internship, but I also never received an offer letter. I never received a notification at all. I only assume I got rejected because the internship was supposed to begin in mid-May.
And I am not alone.
This is what it's like applying for jobs and internships in 2022, where it seems that hiring managers are in constant Halloween mode with the amount of ghosting they do.
How common is this?
I surveyed 25 undergraduate and graduate students from across the US about their experiences getting rejected from jobs and internships. Twenty-one of the respondents had not received a rejection letter from every company that had apparently rejected them. The four respondents who did receive rejection letters could still name a laundry list of friends who had been ghosted by companies. These non-rejection rejections spanned practically every industry.
When an applicant does not get a rejection letter, they become stuck in a real-life Schrödinger's cat scenario. Simultaneously, they have and have not been rejected from a position, and the key to opening the box lies within an email notification that may never come. This volatile position is frankly much worse than simply receiving a rejection letter. Every single person I talked to said they would prefer a rejection letter over nothing at all, because it is useful, concrete confirmation.
We understand that hiring managers are busy, and that they receive many applications for every opening. But still, shouldn't it be standard practice to send rejection letters to candidates who are not selected for a position? Obviously, this simple act benefits the rejected applicants. It is respectful and kind. But I'd argue that a rejection letter also benefits the company doing the rejecting.
How? Because students talk to each other.
The job application process doesn't happen in a vacuum. Information about how a company conducts itself can spread among prospective applicants and ultimately turn them off from applying. In a tight labor market, having a negative reputation among potential applicants is surely bad for business.
Applicants remember when they don't get a rejection letter and they tell others — and not just close friends. Before I started working on this article, I was talking to someone I hadn't spoken to in years; they mentioned how they had been pursuing a summer internship in sports analytics and never got a rejection letter, despite the fact they interviewed with members of a company. Conversations like these are common and negativity can quickly eat away at a company's reputation.
These experiences shape how the next generation of workers view companies — who we know are competing for the best talent. When I asked my survey respondents if they would apply to another job at a company that did not send them a rejection letter, almost everyone said they would not. But almost all respondents said they would apply to another job at a company that sent them a rejection letter.
When a company sends a rejection letter, they preserve their image among applicants and potential applicants.
My peers and I do not need fancy, personalized rejection letters. Most survey respondents said they were completely fine with getting a generic rejection letter and wouldn't think negatively of the company for not personalizing it. A letter could be as simple as:
Dear Applicant (you can put in a name if you want!),
Thank you so much for applying to POSITION NAME HERE. We regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. We appreciate the time you took to apply and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!
HIRING MANAGER NAME or COMPANY NAME
The letter could then be copied and pasted to every rejected applicant individually, or simply sent out as a mass BCC email. It could even be sent through a job application portal.
The only case in which respondents said they wanted a personalized rejection letter was if they made it to an interview round. In that case, a short note from the person they interviewed with would be welcome. A few respondents also mentioned that if they made it to the interview round, especially multiple interview rounds, they would appreciate knowing why they weren't selected for the position, if a company is able to disclose that information.
As we enter the workforce, we are repeatedly told to celebrate and accept the failures we accrue on our journey to hopefully succeeding. But how can we partake in the ever-present "celebration of failure" if we don't have confirmation that we have failed? So, hiring managers, if you don't want to accept us, please reject us! It's time to accept the idea that candidates are okay being rejected — they just don't want to be rejected from getting a rejection letter.
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