You should not send rejection emails to job candidates when there was no interaction. For example, in the case of rejecting someone just from the application, without a screening call.
There’s a mantra that good recruiters and hiring managers take on the difficult task of sending rejection emails instead of just ghosting candidates. But I don’t think this should be a black and white decision. Do you agree? Disagree? Please leave a comment with your point of view, I’m intrigued.
When you had a screening call with the candidate, then the candidate will likely be wondering about the next step, so if the rejection happens at this or any other later stage, then yes, ghosting is extremely rude and you should always send a rejection email and possibly some feedback for the candidate to improve. More on that later.
If there hasn’t been any interaction, you shouldn’t have your only interaction with the candidate be a rejection. The reason for this is that most of us have, at some point, been desperate, and started applying to lots of jobs hoping that someone would pay us some attention, hoping we may accidentally open a door, and because being homeless is worse that shotgunning job ads. And actually, when the job ads are anonymous bland indistinguishable walls of text, there’s not a lot you can do other than hit apply and move on, so don’t hold it against the candidate.
The problem is that then this candidate might have hundreds of applications that result in tens of rejections emails. Rejections for roles the candidate forgot about 10 seconds after hitting apply (how long can you remember a non-descript job post about an anonymous company anyway?), so all you are doing by sending the rejection is reminding the candidate that they didn’t get something they forgot they tried to get. When you get tens of these, one after another, it’s emotionally debilitating. It’s no wonder that a candidate might snap at one too many rejections.
Oh, and about feedback: if you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. If you are going to give feedback, give actionable feedback. Giving someone impossible feedback is a slap in the face. For example, for a few years, I’ve been wanting to have an engineer manager position at a big scale-up or at a big company. When I get rejected and I ask for feedback, most of the time it boils down to “You haven’t been an engineer manager at a big company before”. What am I going to do with that? They might as well tell me “Have you tried being a different person? Have you tried having been born in a different country?” It’s useless and infuriating.
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