What is your company’s policy on ‘rejection letters’ to let people know that they have been unsuccessful in their job applications? Do you use a standard template or take the time to personalise them?

Today Michelle Walkden writes for Diary of an internal communicator from the perspective of a comms professional about receiving such letters. She’s a former journo turned corporate communicator, social media cynic turned Twitter addict, international wanderer turned work-at-home mum. Her excellent comms blog can be found here. She describes herself as ‘writing about whatever comes into my head – providing it’s about making communication more relevant’ and has penned this thought-provoking piece for you to enjoy. Do share your thoughts with her via the comments function below. Over to you Michelle…

A personal rejection boosts your brand reputation
I may not be the best candidate for your vacant position, but that’s no reason to treat me like a number. I spent a lot of time putting together my application. The least you, as a trusted and respected brand, can do is take a few minutes to let me down personally.

Just to explain up front, I’m applying for jobs, so rejection letters are part and parcel of my life. I’m also a communicator, paid (ok, when I’m employed) to build brand perception through relevant content targeted to the audience.

So the formulaic “thanks, but no thanks” emails I’m getting go against all the advice I’d be offering these companies if they had given me the job I’d applied for!

Put simply, the rejection letter is the last direct communication you will have with an applicant and therefore the last chance to make an impression. If you want to come across as a cold, uninterested employer, then sure, fire off one of the countless, soulless pro-forma letters you can find in a simple Google search.

If, however, you want to continue to build your brand as an employer of choice spend a few minutes personalising your rejection.

This may seem a daunting task, especially if you receive hundreds of applications, but each of these would-be employees is a potential brand ambassador. An endorsement from an unsuccessful candidate – someone who missed out on a new opportunity but still speaks highly of your company – is amazingly credible and therefore extremely valuable to your reputation.

So, what can you do?
At a bare minimum address the text of your letter or email to the individual and include the position they applied for.

Dear Michelle

We were pleased to receive your application for the role of Head of Internal Communication.

Unlike this robotic response I received last week.

Dear applicant

Thank you for applying to join the team at FacelessCompany.

Show that you have bothered to read the application (or at least skim it), after all the applicant spent a lot of time preparing it.

Your background in B2B communication in the engineering industry is quite extensive, but at this stage we have decided to limit our search to professionals with a specific background in submersibles.


We have received a lot of applications from many highly skilled candidates and have decided to employ someone whose skill set better matches the requirements of this position.

And, where relevant, recognise that the applicant has invested time and effort in attending an interview.

Thank you for meeting with the interview panel last week. We were impressed with your approach to crisis communication and the success cases you highlighted. We have, however, decided to employ another candidate.

In stark contrast to this rather insulting effort (yes, someone actually sent me this): I regret to inform that you were not successful for the position you interviewed for last week.

Of course there are legal issues that must be taken into account when explaining why someone doesn’t get a job, so it’s always good to check a new format with your legal department. If you can’t be as personal as you would like, remember, the only thing worse than a formulaic rejection is no communication at all.

You can see some good tips and examples of rejection letters here.

Thank you again Michelle. What do you think of what she’s written? Does this ring true for you or your company? Do let us know your thoughts below, Rachel.

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