Community Content

Humans, Not Applications: Fixing the Rejection Process

Published: Friday, July 13, 2018
Updated: Monday, July 16, 2018

Applicants for jobs are just like us: they are human. So why do we not treat them as humans during rejections?

Sounds silly even to consider, but I also know one of the most difficult tasks I face is calling and writing applicants passed over for a job. There are limitless excuses I can use to avoid contact – it is too difficult to write everyone who applied, the candidate wasn’t a good fit, I never truly said I would let that person I interviewed know if we picked someone else.

None of the excuses count. We are dealing with people, and if we are in a business where people – and relationships – are put first, then I need to humanize my approach to the applicant rejection process.

A candidate spends hours preparing a resume, searching job postings, and preparing for interviews. For those who are fortunate enough to make the first cut and get a job interview, more hours go toward preparation.

A good interview should be a fantastic experience, one which presents the company’s culture and vision in a unique and clear way. Interviews not only are designed to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the position, but are sales opportunities for the business as well.

Applicants not selected can either go away rejected or become a brand ambassador for the company.

I prefer they be our ambassador. This is what I do to help assure they feel they were treated as a human and not just an applicant:

Contact every applicant.

Every applicant took the time to apply. Every applicant, regardless of whether they were a fit for the company or if they interviewed, deserves an acknowledgment their application was received.

Most firms today use an electronic application system. With most systems, candidates are left wondering if the company received the application. Take the worry out of the process. Utilize the electronic system to acknowledge the application was received, along with additional information about the company. Invite applicants to visit the company’s website or follow on social media.

Create a relationship with every applicant.

Many candidates are not a perfect fit for the job they apply for. However, they may have skills which would be helpful in the future.

Every candidate is a person, and everyone deserves a follow-up, even if they aren’t going to be considered for that position.


Leave the door open with the candidate, whether it is an template email or letter, to let them know you value their interest in the company and that you know their circumstances, and yours, might be different later on. Ask them, “Do you mind if we reach out to you in the future?”

Keep the conversation, and the relationship, going. With everyone.

Thank the candidate sincerely.

There are a tremendous amount of jobs out there looking for the right candidate. Every company thanks a candidate for applying: that is the minimum. But, a great company is genuine with the appreciation.

Every candidate I interview can expect two handwritten notes from me, at a minimum.

The first comes immediately following the interview. I thank them for taking the time to visit with me and their interest in the company. I look for at least one human connection from the interview I was impressed with. It might be the project they described or their goals for the future. The important thing is to connect with the individual, value them as a person, and sincerely appreciate their time.

The next handwritten note comes at the end of the hiring process. For those not selected, I reach out to them by phone immediately after the successful candidate accepts the position and let them know.

Before that phone conversation, I pause and remember I am calling a human. I am reaching out to a person who invested a great deal in my company and spent their time and energy hoping to be a member of our team. I look at why they weren’t selected and I prepare for the conversation.

If the successful candidate is more experienced, I tell them. If they are underqualified or their salary expectations aren’t in line, I let them know. While I know they are disappointed, I want them to come away from the conversation with a better understanding of how we arrived at our hiring decision and, perhaps, knowing where they might focus for the next interview.

Immediately after that phone call, I write the second hand written note.

In the note, I again thank them. I also identify a specific strength mentioned in the interview. For me, it is important to leave them with a positive feel for the company and a recognition I see them as a human, a person, just like me.

Crafting your message

The selection process can be a difficult one for employers and job-seekers alike. However, it is also another opportunity to shape the company message and create brand ambassadors. friendsTED is committed to helping develop master artisans, skilled at honing that messaging for their company’s story.

Check out some of our other posts to learn more about our services and how they can help you and your company with training, education, and development on a variety of topics.


GREG BRUCE is co-founder of friendsTED. Greg has worked with some of the nation’s highest performing companies in various areas of the healthcare sector. A student of people, he believes the key to reaching top performance for an organization is recognition that we are all in the people business.

Working with teams to rethink what they believe about people, craft their stories, and build high performing teams is Greg’s passion.

A former member of the editorial board of PHYSICIANS PRACTICE, Greg’s work has been recognized by the American Advertising Federation Club with their ADDY Awards and as the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce volunteer of the year.

While not working with teams, Greg is actively involved in designing exciting new models for care for the long-term care industry. He lives in Texas and spends most of his spare time with his grandchildren, reading, and learning about technology advances.


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