HR rejection phrases

HR rejection phrases - the clichés that hurt and the people who get them

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I originally wrote this on my LinkedIn profile but I have decided to also bring it here. Why, you may ask? Because I believe this coronavirus crisis that soon turned into a full-blown social and economic crisis has only managed to reveal all the problems we all knew of in recruitement but loved to hide under the rug.

The scarcity of employment has once again put employers in undeserved positions of power from which they get to decide everything - ghosting the candidates, not answering to applications, enforcing draconic conditions of control for remote workers in particular, knowing that candidates are desperate and, for the most part, in no position to refuse or protest.

However, perhaps the least discussed power grab by companies these days is the rejection e-mail. Without further ado, here's two of the most hurtful HR rejection phrases that recruiters need to stop using:

The clichés that hurt and the people who get them - HR rejection phrases that need to disappear

1. “We’re sorry to inform you we found a better candidate."

Why does it need to disappear, you may ask? There are a bunch of reasons...

Reason #1: It doesn't say anything about the two people involved in the process - the hiring company and the candidate who either applied or even got interviewed by said company. In that sense, not only is it not feedback, but it's an entirely irrelevant observation in the context. An interview or an application is an individual process - assessing the results of that individual process by comparing it to someone else's is just fallacious and misguided.

Reason #2: It's whataboutism. The candidate is well aware that better fits exist for literally EVERYTHING…however, it is not the topic of the conversation. It's like wanting to buy a shirt, trying it on, reaching check-out and having the check-out person say - "that shirt is no longer available because better shirts exist somewhere."

Reason #3: It's a transfer of responsibility. A phrasing such as the one above ONLY exists to help the hiring company “save face” by inserting a third party that is at fault for the failure of the process (in this case, the hire). It's a revamping of the old “it’s not you, it’s us” thing into a “it’s not you, it’s not us, it’s some other person somewhere" (a.k.a the candidate who was deemed better).

If it's that third party's fault that you didn't get the job, you can't exactly sue them, right? All the most reason to bury this in the cemetery of overused, nonsensical HR rejection phrases and throw away the key.

2. “We've had such a large pool of experienced candidates to choose from that this was a hard decision for us to make, however, we regret to inform you…”

This one needs to disappear for a single main reason or, perhaps, the most important one - it's belittling.

Not only is there no feedback involved here either, but it’s also a subtle power flex that HR makes in the name of the company by implying or even asserting that the hiring process was a bigger struggle on the company instead of the candidate. It's a not-so-subtle way of saying:

"You know, this was harder on US than YOU....so have some sympathy....for US."

How does the company know that, exactly? Here's the thing - it doesn't.

It simply assumes.

And even then, it doesn't matter - it's belittling enough that it does.

Why? Because it completely dismisses the effort the candidate put into applying to job ads, tailoring resumés and cover letters or even the fact that recruitment itself is a two-way street, not a contest for pity points.

The clichés that hurt will continue to hurt....but the people that give them, will they continue to give them?

No one likes rejection.

I think a large chunk of that ties into our nature of social beings who crave approval from their peers. However, as adults, the first thing we learn is being great at things we don't like.

And when you deliver it like this, it’s more than rejection…it’s disrespect towards someone who could have become a future client, stakeholder or even brand ambassador.

And maybe it's not someone you need now...but what if you do in the future?

The candidate who got the 50th rejection e-mail today will probably brush it off in the end, crack a joke, get up and try again.

But be sure they will remember the manner in which they were rejected more than the job description they supposedly failed.

Be sure they will tell their friends and families that this is how company X handles communicating rejection.

Who loses in the long-run?