“I was, honestly, actually disappointed when after two interviews that went pretty well, I received not only a rejection, but a very impersonal and standard one. I expected something more individualised. Actually, it’s pretty good I wasn’t hired…” was the verdict of my friend, after experiencing the ‘rejection culture’ of a Berlin based company she applied at. Although the company and job seemed to be great, the way in which she was rejected after two personal interviews remains in her mind. This suggests that the company could benefit in spending more time writing rejection letters.

My colleague Falko Brenner already pointed out in an article on the importance of fair selection process: “If candidates who received a rejection perceived the process as fair, they still maintained a commitment and good impression of the company, despite the result.”

Not only the fairness process, but also how the rejection was formulated, affects the perception of the candidates.

Employer Branding … Everybody wants it, but no one does it?

For a third of the companies, according to a HR-trend study of Kienbaum, increasing employer attractiveness is highest priority. However, when we look at the rejection letters of numerous companies, it lacks every nook and cranny of creativity and branding- an error considering that candidates spend a lot of time and hard work for an application! A study by wortwelt® took a close look at rejection letters.

When it comes to activities in employer branding and brand campaigns, companies invest a lot of money in improving their image and communicating with the target group. Nevertheless, when you look behind the facade and see the direct and personal communication with candidates, the plan to make improvements, however, seems to have suddenly been forgotten. If you want to reject an applicant, interchangeable and unappealing, empty phrases are sent.

A rejection letter is an opportunity to position oneself

“The manner in which a company says ‘no, thank you`, can impress a candidate,” says study author Sabine Hödl from wortwelt®. “Rejection letters are actually a chance for companies to position themselves.” According to Hödl, only a few companies have recognised this and implemented it. During the study, rejection letters from a total of 100 Austrian companies were examined (this study related to the Austrian market but I have the strong feeling you can relate to other countries as well… unfortunately!)

Only two of them were standout texts that were formulated differently. The rest did not use this opportunity to make a mark on their company brand, and used standard rejection statements.

The most common phrasing:
  • 74 % Thank you for your application and your interest in our company.
  • 48 % We regret to inform you that you did not make the shortlist.
  • 21 % We will keep your application on file.
  • 16% After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we have chosen another candidate.
  • 13 % We apologize for this decision.
  • 8 % Due to the large number of applications, the decision was not easy.
  • 6 % Unfortunately, we have to give you a negative response.
So you could do better:

Honestly, to formulate ‘good’ rejections, isn’t an art. Simply put yourself in the place of the applicant and ask yourself: “what I would like to read if I were in that position?”

Here are some tips:

  • Leave empty phrases and formulate something personal.
  • Keep your employer brand in mind and let it influence the communication you have with your candidates.
  • Avoid complex words.
  • Select expressions you would use in everyday life.
  • Why not indicate formal errors in the cover letter if they made a bad impression on you?

Please don’t forget: the application process is the first personal contact your company has with candidates. A well-written rejection letter will help make the candidate experience positive.

Thank you recruitingclub.at for your support!