Can You HANDLE The Truth?

As I sit here and write another rejection to a candidate I wonder how truthful recruiters can be or SHOULD be?

Pet Peeve

Being vague specifically with rejection letters really bothers me. Being vague is a quick and easy way to confuse people. A person takes the time to write and submit a resume, comes in and is interviewed, gets the impression that everything is going well and then BAMN! Gets a rejection letter, which doesn’t explain anything and it’s all over. The rejected candidate then moves on to the next interview and possibly makes the same mistakes.

These are very common rejections after a job interview:

  • You just weren’t the right fit
  • We are going in a different direction


Many readers have told me that they would love honest feedback so they can work on whatever it is that they’re doing wrong so they can actually get a job – but do you really?

Do you really want to hear that you had too many jobs in the last few years? How about that your communication skills are terrible? That you talked way too much and you verbally threw-up over the hiring manager? That you are overqualified for the job and the company is looking for someone that is serious about the role? You didn’t convey any bit of passion or enthusiasm for the job? Or that you didn’t listen and therefore didn’t answer the interview questions well?

Employers don’t have to Send out Rejection Letters

Employers don’t have to contact candidates to notify them of their employment decision. Even though they don’t have to all employers SHOULD notify their candidates if they want to continue to attract the best and the brightest.

Probably 90% of most company’s state that “employees are our most important asset” somewhere in their mission/vision statement. If this statement was true than companies understand that their reputation and how they treat their prospective employees is extremely important. If companies want the opportunity to hire the best in the workforce than it’s in their best interest to notify their candidates if they are not hired.

I think HR departments and recruiters need to re-read companies mission, vision and values statements. They are the ones that often forget how to be courteous and value candidates.

Rejection Letters

Since there are a number stages in the interview process there are number of different rejections that are appropriate. Let’s assume there are only three stages in the interview process and companies could provide you with honest feedback:

  • The Phone Interview
  • First Interview (Face-to-Face)
  • Second Interview (Final Interview)

The Phone Interview

Since this stage is usually used to screen out candidates rather than screen them in, the interviewer should contact the rejected candidate via email/letter. This is an example of a honest phone interview rejection:

Thank you for your interest in X role with Y company. It was a pleasure speaking with you on Z date but after conducting other phone interviews with other candidates we (the company) feel that you are overqualified and will not be moving forward with you for this role. During your interview you also had trouble answering some of the questions particularly when asked why you were interested in the role. We hope this feedback is helpful and we thank you again for your time and interest. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

As the rejected candidate you need to understand that companies want to hire people that will stay in that job for a few years. If you’re overqualified or just applied to get your foot in the door and are really after a more senior job than don’t be shocked when you get this rejection response. Companies spend a lot of time and money on recruitment and want to make sure that they find the person that is serious about the role. This rejection also tells you that you did not communicate well. You only get one chance to make a first impression so when a recruiter calls you make sure that you take the interview seriously and that you are well prepared and don’t let your nerves take over.

The First Interview- Part I

After the first face-to-face interview the company usually learns if you are indeed qualified for the role and if you will fit in with the company culture.

Since you have taken the time to come in and meet with members of the team this rejection should be made by phone call followed by a rejection letter. This is an example of an honest first interview rejection:

X Company thanks you for your time and interest in the role/company but after interviewing a number of candidates the company has determined that another candidate is the most qualified for our requirements for this role and you have not been selected for the position. In regards to your interview, we feel that your past experience with handling customer complaints does not match our vision when communicating with clients. We hope this feedback was helpful and we thank you again for your time and interest. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

As the rejected candidate you need to really understand the rejection. The company feels that another candidate would be more suitable for the role. This tells you that they haven’t found them yet but they know that you are not a fit for the role/company. It’s not just about the perfect amount of years of experience or the degree that you hold that makes you the successful candidate. Your fit in the company’s culture is very important. How you make decisions and how you reacted to past situations tells a company a lot about you and your fit with the team. We all have different personalities and different ways to approach situations. Employers are just trying to find the right candidate that will be able to work, communicate and make important decisions with the other members of the team.

The First Interview- Part II

You may be a good fit but sometimes you don’t have the qualifications that the company is looking for. This rejection response should of course still be made by phone call and followed by a rejection letter. This is an example of an honest first interview rejection:

X company thanks you for your time and interest in the role/company but after some serious consideration we have decided not to move forward with you for this role. In regards to your interview, the interviewers felt that you had a very difficult time talking about your current accomplishments. You seemed to have a hard time articulating your thoughts, which resulted in either poor, unclear or short answers. We hope this feedback was helpful and we thank you again for your time and interest. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

As the rejected candidate you can clearly see that you need to work on your communication skills. Most professional recruiters know how to look past someones nerves but sometimes nerves can really effect your interview performance. You also need to be comfortable and prepared to answer the common interview questions. If you haven’t signed up yet to get this blog sent to you by email you should. After signing up you receive over 80 common interview questions that you can practice with plus questions that you should ask the interviewer. The point is, there is not excuse not to be prepared to answer common interview questions.

The Second Interview

Since you’ve made it this far in the process a phone call followed by a rejection letter is still appropriate. This is an example of an honest second interview rejection:

X company thanks you for your time and interest in the role/company. You were a great candidate but the company has decided to select another candidate for the position. You have many great qualities but for this role the company was looking for someone with a stronger background in pharmaceutical sales. In regards to your interview performance, the interviewers felt that you could have been more concise with your answers. You often drifted off topic and gave lengthy responses, which made your responses difficult to follow. We hope this feedback was helpful and we thank you again for your time and interest. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

As the rejected candidate you need to understand that getting further into the interview process makes the decision to hire more difficult. The company usually has 2 or 3 candidates that make it to the final interview stage. Usually these interviews are with the top executives of the company. This is where you need to be articulate and represent yourself as a true professional. The way you behave and obviously your communication skills are being scrutinized. At this point as well, you hopefully developed a good relationship with the previous interviewers so they have painted a great picture of you to the executive. In the final interview you need to stay calm, be articulate and be yourself but at the same time don’t let you guard down to much and remember that even though this stage may seem less formal at times that it is still an interview.

What is Company Culture?

During interviews employers try to figure out if the prospective employee is a good cultural fit. This mysterious word is brought up in every workplace but what does it mean?!

Culture is actually difficult to define because you can’t see it. Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work. It’s the personality of your company. In a person, personality is made up of the values, beliefs, upbringing and experiences that creates a persons behaviour. Culture in a workplace is the values, beliefs, life experiences, attitudes and behaviours shared by a group of people.

Even though culture is difficult to define recruiters and hiring managers generally know when they have found an employee who appears to be a fit because they just simply feel right.

Why Employers Don’t tell you the Truth

Most rejected candidates just want the truth and honest feedback in regards to their interview performance so they can try to improve for future interviews. Unfortunately, most companies feel that the only feedback that they are able to provide is that they decided to hire another candidate. Most companies will not go into more detail for fear of being sued.

If an employer states that they found a more qualified candidate in a rejection letter, the rejected candidate could possibly sue the employer for discrimination. Lawyers could then request a copy of all the documents (interview notes, resumes) of every candidate who was considered for a role. The purpose of the trial would then be to find out if in fact other candidates were more qualified.

No company wants to be sued so they keep it safe by being vague and just letting you know that another candidate has been chosen for the role.

At the End of the Day

Providing a candidate with honest feedback is a slippery slope and in some instances not the easiest thing to do, but being up front and offering the truth will hopefully better prepare a candidate for future interviews. For some people hearing the truth can be really difficult. An honest rejection letter could cause one person to give up on their dreams and another to work harder. I just believe that the sooner the candidate knows that they are not going to be hired the better. There is no need to keep people waiting for days or weeks when companies know that they will not be moving forward with them.

You may also be interested in:
Successful Interview Skills: How to Prepare and Answer Tough Questions
How to Interview Like a Pro
How to Become More Confident

Are you looking for a job? Check out the job board for job opportunities and feel free to contact me for more information.

Most people struggle to write a good resume or cover letter, let alone a great one. A great resume or cover letter is vital to a successful job search especially when the competition is fierce. This is where I can help. Check out my services page for more information.

9 thoughts on “Can You HANDLE The Truth?

  1. Sandra
    December 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Dear Dorothy: Thank you for this enlightening post. I guess I would rather know the truth than be left guessing, or worse, imagining (and I do have a wild imagination) why they did not hire me. Otherwise, I have a tendency to blame myself in a myriad of ways.

    However, I did not consider the “lawsuit” aspect of the game. You’re absolutely right there–we do live in a litigious society.

    I wanted to share something with you that may or may not give you or others a good belly laugh. I made it thru the 15 minute interview. I was asked to come in for a two-hour interview, and with two other candidates, was given some skills tests, face-to-face interviews, tours of the building, etc. Man, these folks were pros–they would have been great at high stakes poker ’cause they weren’t giving anything away.

    Two days later, I received an automated rejection letter. Since I was vastly overqualified for the job (data entry), I expect this. Right after that, I got another e-mail–asking for MY feedback on THEIR interview process!

    Quite frankly, I thought they had a lot of nerve. Of course I realize it too was automated…but jeepers, after they reject me with a standard say-nothing letter, they want MY feedback!

    I’d be interested to hear your take on this one. Have you ever heard of this happening?

    Thanks! and Happy New Year to you and yours.

    1. December 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      Hahahaaha! Sandra that is so funny and really sad at the same time. I agree with you that they had a lot of nerve to send you a generic automated rejection letter and then ask you for your feedback on their interview process. I have no idea what their HR/Recruitment department is thinking. Thanks for leaving this comment 🙂

  2. smarties66
    January 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Automated rejection letters are the worst; how lazy of HR!!!???

    1. January 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      I agree smarties66. I think if a recruiter interviews a candidate face-to-face the candidate deserves more than an automated rejection. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  3. Rob
    March 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm


    I went through two phone interviews with two different people and one in house interview with two people. I received a rejection E-mail than the next day they called me on the phone and offered me a six month contract position. I retuned back to negotiate / review the contract. Found out it was really to reapply for the same position through their in house temp agency. What is your take on this situation?

  4. Rob
    March 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm


    I just checked the company’s career board and the job is open again. It looks as though I am being used as a place holder until they find a regular full time person. What do you think?

    1. March 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Rob,
      How badly do you want to work? Why not apply and if you get the job even if it’s just a short contract at least you can keep searching for a full-time position while being employed. Good Luck!

  5. M. T.
    June 16, 2012 at 12:44 am

    I am elated a happened upon your article. It has truly been therapeutic. I interviewed for a position and sadly was not selected. I prepared for days for this position. I researched, composed a PowerPoint presentation, and a tabbed folder containing a plan of action for the school term for each interviewer. I was passionate about making a difference in their school. I was sobbing when I found out it was not ment to be. Thanks again for posting.

    Why do you feel I did not get the job.

  6. Paddy
    July 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Hey there;

    I’ve found this website very helpful in helping me deal with a recent string of rejections for internal postings at the company I work for. The last one being the most difficult.

    The interview went extremely well and I was told there were only five applicants selected out of an overwhelming repsonse. Myself, three from the Branch I was applying to and one from outside the company. She immediately dismissed that individual for not having enough experiance in our industry. Towards the end we discussed moving towards the second interview and touched on salary. Reviewer brought that one up and said we’d discuss it further in the second interview. She told me she needed to speak with her current assistant manager, as that person was on holiday and she would contact me in two weeks time.

    During the course of the next two weeks my manager and supervisor had both been contacted about me. The feed back was very strong and I was extremely confident. Let me say that HR has told me I am management material, to continue with my education and that it’s only a matter of time before I move up into the management stream. All my performance reviews have been stellar, I put 200% into every aspect of the operation and have been the, “go to”, person at my Branch for many issues.

    Then I get an e-mail that tells me I was a close 2nd and as the successful candidate was a new hire, they would be subject to a 90 day probationary period. If the new candidate didn’t work out she MAY call me to fill the spot. The company posting the next day announced someone I know in the same industry, who was the successful candidate. This individual is very skilled and accomplished, but has moved from three different companies in our industry over the past 5 to 7 years.

    I was absolutely devestated at this turn of events.

    I’m certain this candidate was a late comer and presented by someone within that Branch Location.

    I feel really betrayed as I had instructed by our HR department to take courses in finance to bolster that skill set. I’m one course shy of a Business Certificate, at my own expense and time, and this position was given to someone outside of the company.

    I’ve applied to eight postions over the last three years and have been interviewed for six. Each time the interviews and response has increased forward and I have been very happy with the progress. The only thing every single interviewer commented on was how valuable my going back to school weighted in my favour.

    Now I’m not so sure. I know I had this job. In my gut and my current Manager felt the same way. I’m guessing this is a, “networked”, success for the other lady, but a real set back for me. Further, as three of the other candidates were from our company, it implies that none of us were good enough. Our company is now trending towards consolodating postions, so when someone leaves the position isn’t necessarily filled or posted. What message does that send existing employees?

    Given my age, 56, and I should mention I’m very fit and look 40, I believe this was the dagger through the heart of my career. I’m really upset by this turn of events and have found it very difficult to move forward. I will, I know I will move forward, but I’m now faced with the prospect of not becoming a Manager or even an Assistant Manager within my company. In my mind, and my Manager’s, this position and location was a perfect fit. This loss has really taken the heart out of me. I sobbed and cried and have only just started to get a grip on this. I’m normally extremely resilient, but this has really gotten under my skin. The rejection was two days ago. And the new hire is starting immediately.