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Thursday, May 20, 2010

job rejections should come via email, not via a phone call

A reader writes:

Please pass this information on to the interviewers and managers. I prefer NOT to receive a "thanks, but no thanks" telephone call/message when I didn't get a job. I truly appreciate the relay of information; however, only via email or snail mail. When the phone rings, or I listen to a vague message for me to return a call, my hopes are lifted.

I vote "NO" for a phone call. Please, ONLY call if you will hire me, or inform me about a second (or third, etc.) interview.

I agree that email is better than a phone call for job rejections.

For the candidate, a call puts them on the spot: They have to react to the rejection while they're still in the immediate moment of disappointment. It's awkward. And like this reader pointed out, before it's clear what the call is for, it creates a moment of false hope, and then demands that the candidate pull it together to be gracious about disappointment a second later.

And email is better on the employer's side too, since some candidates will try to argue the decision when it's not up for debate. Or occasionally you get a bunch of anger and vitriol thrown at you.

Of course, this assumes that an employer even bothers to issue rejections at all, when we all know that plenty don't. But those employers are inconsiderate jerks.

Anyone out there actually prefer a phone call to tell you that you didn't get the job?

40 comments:

Amina's Mama said...

I hate the phone calls. I used to think it meant you might be considered once another opp came up. Nope. It doesn't. It's a selfish way for the rejector to feel like s/he has done it the "nice" way.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the company thought calling was a better idea.


Make lemonade out of lemons: Although it may be odd and awkward to be rejected on the phone, it's a good opportunity to quickly ask if there are other positions ( perhaps ask if they have contractor positions) or for feedback. Benefit of a call now is you will get their immediate response...

Charles said...

Phone call or email? My goodness, AAM, some find just about anything to complain about. Personally, I'd be happy with either!

Anonymous said...

Yes. Phone calls should be positive. I really want to see your number on my caller I.D. when you are calling me for an interview, calling me back for another interview, or want me to come in about a job offer. Otherwise, send me some sort of mail so I can read your rejection in peace and on my own time. I don't want to fake enthusiasm and a "thank you for your time" when I'd rather stew it over and get over it. I know the rejection is just a form letter that claims I had great qualities (although apparently not great enough), I'd rather get that than having to really speak to someone and have that awkward conversation.

I wonder how the employer feels? Is it a power trip or are some really feeling bad about making the call?

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

When I was a finalist for a full-time college teaching position, I appreciated the phone call because the person making the decision made the call -- and told me that I'd interviewed well, but lacked the experience of the other candidate. That made sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Charles,

I am the author of the original post.

As I mentioned, "I truly appreciate the relay of information; however, only via email or snail mail." In fact, the subject heading of the email I sent to AAM was, "Can't Win Observation (For the Potential Employer) :D" because I understand the majority of employers do not inform about candidate status.

My observation relates with the invested time for a rejection phone call. In fact, this manager and I engaged in phone tag over two days. I do not believe a quick email (or typing a letter, and sending it in the mail), is additional time (in comparison) nor asking a lot.

The Golden Rule exists in this situation. If the tables were turned, would the manager, as a person, wish to receive a rejection phone call? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I got a phone call to tell me that they had selected another candidate for a position, but to keep trying because the hiring manager thought that I would be a good fit. I appreciated getting a call because most of the others either sent a vague email "we have decided on candidates more closely matching the skills we require" or no response at all.
It turned out that the first candidate didn't work out - I got to interview again and I will get the job pending a background investigation. Yea!

Shackleford Hurtmore said...

I'd agree 99% with preferring to hear if I hadn't got the job via email. The only situation where I wouldn't want to find out by email is if I was applying for an internal position somewhere I already worked.

CK said...

Ugh. I so much prefer an e-mail rejection than a phone call. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a phone call rejection. That just seems weird to me, unless it's a case like Anon@2:18 said where they wanted you to keep applying to other positions.

And speaking of bad interviewer behavior. What is up with people recruiting you for a position and then falling off the planet? Seriously. YOU found ME. And then you disappear. Do hiring managers forget that job seekers are people, too?

Anonymous said...

Personalized e-mail vs. personalized phone call? Either is great! Both are much better than a form e-mail, which in turn is much better than snail mail. To me, physical mail says "we made this decision weeks ago, but since we decided on someone else we were in no hurry to inform you."

Suzanne said...

Just don't send me a postcard. My mail carrier doesn't need to know I didn't get the job before I do.

Tony said...

I'd rather get a phone call from someone who would be able to answer the question: did I lose out to a superior candidate or did I put you off somehow?

Good luck trying to find that out after you've received a letter or email.

New Hire said...

I prefer a phone call. Yes, they are awkward and uncomfortable... but that's life. All this email stuff is just another way for folks to avoid "the hard stuff" in personal interaction, which is a fleeting thing.

If I've spent time to prepare and come into interview with you face to face, I expect at least a little courtesy to let me know I didn't get the job from a live person who can answer my questions. I've always been gracious and that's gone a long way, even if we never cross paths again.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer a phone call as it gives you further chance to have a dialogue and sometimes can provide you with insightful information to assist you as you move forward with your job search. Also, if you handle the rejection professionally it can be a way to expand your network.

KellyK said...

I think that if the person making the decision wants to talk to you personally, to let you know why or to advise you of another possible opening, that's a good reason to do it by phone. Otherwise, e-mail or snail mail is better for all the reasons stated--not giving false hope, not forcing the person to handle rejection on the spot, etc.

Plus, the call is likely to take longer than filling in a form e-mail anyway.

Lise F said...

I agree with this. When I interviewed with Bose, I played phone tag for a week with an HR rep, all so that she could tell me I didn't get the job. Very frustrating!

On the upside, I finally found a full-time job after nearly a year of looking!

TheLabRat said...

Phone calls for situations like anon (rejected but still in the running) or rejected but referring to another department/company/whatever work fine.

Long before I left California late last year, I was trying to get hired at one of the state departments in Sacramento as an admin schmoe. The lady who would have been my boss called me with the rejection but wanted to let me know that I was her first choice and it was only because of some weird internal politics she couldn't hire me (they were being forced to take on an employee from another department). But she'd put my name in with several colleagues in related departments. So yeah, that worked too (but man I wanted that job).

All of that said, yeah at this point I'd be happy any of them told me anything at all.

Anonymous said...

These days I'm happy (well, not "happy") to get an a notice of rejection at all! I went on 10 interviews last month - still need to follow up with two of them, but out of the 8 that I did (and let the appropriate amount of time pass before I considered myself rejected), only ONE sent me the "thanks but no thanks" email.

Anonymous said...

I am the original post

When I asked for feedback, the manager seemed stunned with the question. She then stammered a few words and then relayed to me the rather generic wording an email or a letter would provide.

Therefore, I will clarify my opinion due to the mixed opinions in the comment. The manager should only provide rejection via phone, if s/he is willing to volunteer as to why I was not selected. The phone call's primary purpose should then shift towards the status of mentor (and the providing of feedback).

Ask a Manager said...

I agree with the OP that there's no point in calling if you're not going to give feedback, and A LOT of people aren't willing to give feedback ... because they're afraid of being sued if something they say is twisted, or they're afraid of the candidate debating them, or they just feel awkward about telling someone their shortcomings.

And sometimes the reason really is "well, you were good but someone else was better," and that often sounds like form letter BS but is completely true.

I'm someone who often (but not always) is willing to give feedback to rejected candidates, but I usually want to do it in email anyway, because I want to be able to think about and really choose my words carefully, since offering feedback to someone I don't really know well can be a delicate situation.

Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting discussion for me. At my place, the policy is to call people we've interviewed either way, yes or no. I'm often the one making those calls and it's really awkward, especially when I know the person I'm calling because he or she holds another position with us. I've always felt it was a matter of professional courtesy, not taking the "easy way out" by sending an email. However, I'm not allowed to give any real feedback (which I so wish I could do in some cases). So after reading this discussion I'm really starting to question our past practice. I certainly don't want to be seen as dodging a real contact because it's uncomfortable for me--but maybe it's even worse for the person on the other end.

As a note, I interviewed at my place of work twice and got "the bad call" the first time. I knew I'd be called so I literally practiced what I would say so I could get through the conversation.

Ask a Manager said...

Anonymous, I do think that if it's someone who already works for you, they deserve something more than an email -- ideally a face-to-face conversation, actually! But yeah, for people who aren't internal candidates, I'd go with email.

thomast said...

What an interesting conversation! Like the previous Anonymous commenter, at my office the practice is to call anyone interviewed in-person. I'm not sure what Amina's Mama means by implying that selfishness is the motivation for trying to offer a "nice" and more personal touch to what is inevitably a difficult conversation at both ends (though undoubtedly more so for the rejected candidate); I can assure you that the preference of most hiring managers here would be to use a written notification.

I've had both positive and negative responses when making these calls - one positive one I remember was a candidate for an Executive Assistant job who got the interview with a home-run of a cover letter in spite of being a recent grad up against folks with rather lengthy relevant experience. I did contact her for another position later, and though she was working in another position by that time, the way she handled the turn-down call cemented the positive impression she'd left.

I've also gotten frosty, terse (but professional) responses.

The diversity of responses suggests to me that there's no one right answer here. However, it does seem like there's nobody who resents a written rejection as opposed to a phone call, so maybe that's the safer route.

Anonymous said...

Original Post Author

AAM,

For future interviews, is there a tactful and professional manner for addressing this issue?

If not, I shall prepare myself, when answering a call (or returning) to hear, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I know, I will eventually hear, “You are hired!” :D

cherylb said...

TOTALLY agree that phone calls should be reserved to offer you the job, NOT to say, "sorry, we're rejecting you." I've gotten the rejection phone call twice, and both times was left a message to call back. Of course, being human, you hope you're calling back to be offered the job. I don't care if they're willing to give feedback or not, rejection should be by letter (preferred) or email. Yes, when I've been the one interviewing and hiring, and knew a candidate well, I also called, as a courtesy. And yes, of course, any notification at all is better than nothing--but that doesn't mean a phone call is the way to go.

T. Alex Beamish said...

You could always try to put a positive spin on having the "You didn't get the job" recruiter on the line.

"Can you give me some pointers as to why the position wasn't offered to me? Will the company be hiring in this department again soon? Are any of your colleagues at other companies looking for candidates with the same background?"

Just call me an incurable optimist.

Anonymous said...

To Suzanne above,

Are you being sarcastic or did this really happen? If it did, then, I am shocked beyond belief.

Anthony said...

I prefer the phone call. Awkward? Yes. Informative, definitely. As someone in a management position (in charge of promoting supervisors etc.) I know that it is difficult to reject someone in person or on the phone, I respect someone who will tell me straight up why I didn't get the position.

Anonymous said...

I agree with previous commenters that ANY contact at all regarding the outcome of one's application is great. That said, I am finding the job hunt process to be incredibly dehumanizing, and a phone call, more than a letter or e-mail, would make me feel like I had finally found one employer that actually does consider me as a human being rather than a mere piece of paper (or digital file, or abstract set of qualifications). I would rather be rejected by phone than by another method because then at least I have evidence that a real person has taken a few moments to consider that I exist in a form other than my resume. I could really use that kind of acknowledgment to help keep my morale up.

A phone call also provides an immediate opportunity to make a good impression by handling the news gracefully. I may not have gotten one position, but it never hurts to leave someone in power thinking better of you than they did before.

Anonymous said...

We call everyone that interviewed in both scenarios. It's a friendlier alternative to the Dear John letter. Plus it allows a moment of feedback for those that request it.

Right now, the tables are turned and we have tons of qualified good fit candidates. The last thing we want to do is burn a bridge with an impersonal, could care less attitude toward a future employee. Make sense?

Anonymous said...

Original Post Author

For managers who prefer to call with rejections:

All I ask, if I answer the phone, please volunteer feedback as to why I was not selected.

Furthermore, if you receive voice mail, please say in the message, "unfortunately you were not hired, if you have any questions, please call."

The vague voice mail message is the worst, especially if there are days of phone tag. I would rather you provide the "thanks, but no thanks" in the message.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What! I completely disagree with the author! I would definitely prefer a phone call because it is out of courtesy and respect for the interviewee, especially when both parties have taken the time to interview for a position. A phone call shows just that - that the employer isn't wasting your time and that the employer does care. Anyway, it is way much better than getting a mass e-mail saying that you are not considered after you took the time to apply.

Robyn said...

I absolutely hate getting phone calls like this.

The one that springs to mind is when I was told I didn't get the job, as a Personal Assistant, because I was too 'aggressive'. The recruiter said 'I'm telling you this so you can work on it.' Um, what? What does that even mean? Also, I was in my late 30s at the time. A little late to change my personality!

Amy said...

At my current employer as well as a former employer, we always called to do a turndown if the person had actually interviewed. Emailed form letters were only sent to applicants who applied online but did not meet the criteria right off the bat. You spend all this time interviewing people and then can't be bothered to make a simple phone call to let them know they didn't make it? Emailed turndowns are so impersonal, especially after you've built a candidate/recruiter relationship.

Ask a Manager said...

Relatedly, here's a post I just published over at U.S. News about the common reasons that employers won't tell you why you weren't hired:
http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2010/5/24/5-reasons-employers-dont-explain-why-you-werent-hired.html

Anonymous said...

Here's my personal policy (though based on the feedback here, I'm wondering if I should change it):

* Apply, don't get an interview: Mass form letter sent through our AMS, no specifics.

* Interview, didn't send a thank-you note: Emailed response. I don't tell them that's a reason, but I figure if they can't make a gesture toward me, I don't owe them one in return.

* Interview, sent a thank-you note: Phone call. I generally don't give a lot of feedback, unless they ask and there's something specific and helpful that I can tell them. Also, none of this phone tag BS. That's cruel to the applicant and just prevents me from getting it over with.

But reading through these responses, I'm wondering if I should split the interviewees into people I want to encourage to apply again and people who shouldn't bother. The former would get a personalized phone call, the latter just an email.

P.S. One other thing I do is commit during the interview to getting back to the person. That way, when the time comes and I'm dreading the task, I can remind myself that I gave my word.

Anonymous said...

I got an email the night before I was supposed to start a new job saying that they were closing the offices, and my new job was no more. I think THIS situation warranted a phone call!

Ask a Manager said...

Anonymous, wow. Yes, they absolutely should have called you and were cowardly and rude not to!

Kelly said...

Call me only if you're going to offer me the job. You're only doing this to make yourself feel better. Someone else is going to get the phone call that I wanted. Nothing you can say over the phone is going to make things better except 'we'd like to offer you the job'. Not keeping looking, we enjoyed meeting you, etc.

Thank you for calling me and waking me up at 8:30 am to inform me that I wasn't selected. Thank you for ruining my day. I'm the one who has to cope with your rejection when I know that I could have done the job well.

I really wanted this job. It would have gotten me out of retail, which I am hating and is ruining my health. It also would have gotten me a Monday through Friday job. I am tired of working nights and weekends.

Anonymous said...

After a second interview and being told it was between me and one other person, I received a voicemail from the Director asking me to call him back. This seemed like a pretty strong signal that they were offering me the job, but in fact he wanted to reject me in person. I also got a letter a few days later reiterating what he told me on the phone, why I'm not sure.

I'm sure he thought it was the right thing to do, but I would have MUCH preferred an email- OR to be notified in his voicemail so I didn't spend the day thinking I got the job.