Kudos to you if your organization does the bare minimum and informs job candidates that they didn't make the cut. From what I hear, that puts you in the minority. But have you looked at your rejection letters lately, especially if they're of the automated variety? Might be a good idea. Why? Because how you reject a prospective employee has brand impact. Let them down well and they remain a fan -- or at least neutral. Botch the job and you may just have created someone willing to trash your brand. You know this is true because when it happens you hear about it. What if folks were talking about your rejection letter because it was good? THAT would be great.

A friend recently shared a rejection letter for a job she was completely qualified for. I know, because she asked me to "fact check" her resume and cover letter against the job requirements and duties to make sure she met them all. And she did.

She knew the job was competitive, so not making the final cut wasn't exactly a surprise. What was was this line in the letter:

"We have narrowed our search to those few applicants who have the specific qualification and experience needed for this position. Although your credentials do not specifically meet our current needs, we invite you to view our website."

So the sender (whoever that might be -- there wasn't even a generic "X HR Department") is signally that they didn't read the application or they're lying -- or they're just lazy and sent a stock rejection. That's at best. At worst, they just accused her of applying for a job she's not qualified for -- despite a raft of evidence to the contrary.

Whatever the case, the impact is terrible. My friend (and me, by extension) now thinks the employer is a thoughtless jerk. And so do most of the people she shares the text with.

Look, I know you probably get swamped with applications for openings. And I know a personalized response to every person isn't likely. But we can do better. We can let people down without accusing them of applying for jobs they're not qualified for.

How?

Empathy.

How to write kinder rejection letters

Infusing empathy into a rejection letter doesn't mean lying or soft-pedaling. It just means showing up with a sense of what it's like to be on the receiving end. Even if it's been a while since you looked for a job, tap back into that experience and bring it to your writing. Here's a quick strategy I use to infuse more empathy in my work:

The Feelings Before & After Strategy; © 2019, The Word Factory, LLC

Get step-by-step instructions for how to write with more empathy.

This may feel like a nice-to-have, but I counter that it's a must-have for brand reputation. And an easy one, at that. When your brand interacts with someone in an emotionally charged situation (and job searching is definitely that!), you need to work hard to stay on their good side. Maybe you'd like to hire them for a different position at some point. Or maybe you just don't need them out their trashing your good name because of an AI-generated or inadvertently unkind rejection.

Give it a whirl, or contact me and we can work on it together.

Related Content