As a hiring manager, I have online postings where candidates can apply for jobs. I have been sending rejections only to those who were both rejected AND sent personal cover letters, but I am wondering if it's rude to ignore those who didn't.

Should I be sending a rejection letter for every candidate who applies for an online job post or only those who took the time to send a cover letter too?

  • 4
    I've gotten used to not hearing from the places that aren't interested, and now I prefer it that way. It saves me from getting my hopes up just to read the standard blow off letter. You could give interns a reply since they're new to the work force won't know what to expect. If you do actually interview someone, you've got to give them a reply. I hate going through an interview and not getting a reply.
    – Xenson
    Apr 17, 2013 at 0:04
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    Hi Melissa, I edited this a bit so it doesn't come off like a poll or something prompting discussion. I encourage you to add into your post approximately how many applications you receive per week, as I think this could affect the answers. If you get 2 applications per week, the answers may be different than if you get 200 per week. At this point, answers should ideally handle both extremes. Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Apr 17, 2013 at 6:36
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    @Thorb no.. they hire who they want to hire, and that isnt determined by if they have a cover letter or not. but the people who send a cover letter will get a letter in return if they arent picked,
    – user5305
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:28
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    If you require a cover letter, why don't you actually require it on your site? Do you see this as some sort of game to weed out those who choose not to include a cover letter?
    – user8365
    Apr 19, 2013 at 16:48
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    We DO NOT require a cover letter. I just always felt it was most polite if I received a personally addressed letter to respond to it in some way.
    – Melissa
    Apr 20, 2013 at 17:32

3 Answers 3


General understanding

As a general rule of thumb candidates understand that employers will be receiving many many more applications for the position than they will be sending out, so it is understood that to write a detailed reply to every candidate would require an inordinate amount of time that could be better spent interviewing other candidates.

Broader Picture

An additional point is that if people have sent out many applications and receive replies from them all it is much harder for them to read through it all, get their hopes out, find out its a cut and paste rejection letter, discard and repeat until they find the acceptance letter.

Remember the broader picture, you don't have time to waste sending out hundreds of rejection letters, they don't have time to receive letters of rejection from every position they apply to. It makes logical sense to avoid that step

So what do I do?

I see two alternatives here, you could simply say that you will only contact people on acceptance for interview within X days, that way the ones who do not get a reply know they have not been accepted. This saves you time and you only need to focus on the people you want to take it further with.

The other option is to email, phone, or inform somehow that they aren't being accepted, which as discussed above, helps no-one. It doesn't tell them why they weren't accepted, it won't help them in the future in any way. It certainly doesn't help you to halve your productivity to do so.

Personally I would say that you can do what you feel most comfortable with, there is no 'right answer' to some situations, there are just multiple approaches.

Is it worth the extra effort? That's a decision only you can make, and perhaps your company but you catch my drift.

Notice of Receipt

As pointed out by Bethlakshmi in the comments it would be advantageous for you to inform them that you have received their application. This can either be automated or manual but it's a nice touch that lets the applicant know that their application wasn't lost along the way.

Be consistent

I would say though that if you are going to pick an approach then make it uniform. Either reply to everyone or to no-one.

This let's everyone know what to expect from their application in an attempt to keep everyone on the same playing field.

Alternately you could write on your job listing that you will respond via letter to those who supply a cover letter, but this seems silly as a cover letter is not mandatory, it does not make one applicant any more experienced or prepared for the job than someone who did not supply one so there is no good reason I can think of as to why they should be treated differently.

If you really don't know. Ask.

If you really are unsure on what to do then there is no shame in speaking to your boss. At the end of the day you are public facing and are representing your company. If you are unsure what to do then ask others how they wish the company to be portrayed, and which approach would help you achieve that.

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    Just one addition - it's nice to know your resume was received, and it didn't hit a flaw in transmission. Even if you don't send a rejection letter, have a way of (automatic is fine) sending a "we received it, we'll be in contact if we wish to follow up" type response, so they know it got through and don't try to resend. Apr 17, 2013 at 13:36
  • Much appreciated @Bethlakshmi i edited into my answer, with proper attribution to yourself, to make it more noticeable to the users
    – user5305
    Apr 17, 2013 at 13:45
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    " they don't have time to receive letters of rejection from every position they apply to" I strongly disagree, it takes almost no time to read a rejection letter. Receiving a rejection letter provides closure. If a company doesn't have the decency to respond, I would consider that a back mark against ever working there in the future. In my experience all top companies from McKinsey & Co to Goldman Sachs will send an email, it is always the second tier companies which can't spare the 20 seconds to send a generic letter.
    – User
    May 8, 2015 at 13:17

In my experience most either reply with a standard (and often automated) response like "Thanks for applying. If we are interested, we'll get back to you." Or, they don't reply at all.

Do you follow up personally and individually to everyone who adds a cover letter to your online form? If so, why do you exclude applicants who don't include a cover letter.

You ask "if it's rude?" That's hard to say, particularly when you are posting a job online and inviting online response. It's basically all set up to be impersonal.

In my company, HR posts all job openings and screens all responses. We get hundreds of responses for every job posting - the vast majority of which are clearly not a fit. They have an automated "thank you" for submissions, but I believe they only respond personally when I need more information or want to conduct a phone interview with a promising applicant. I don't think HR is being rude - just following typical "big company" protocol.

  • Your answer does not really address the current question. That may be because the question was edited after you answered. I would suggest you change your answer to address the current question. Apr 17, 2013 at 13:19

Yes! As someone who has been left hanging after applying for a job, several times by my own company for internal jobs, it's very frustrating not to know where you stand. What is the cost of sending a generic email to rejected applicants? Almost zero. Copy and paste email addresses into the bcc field and at least let them know.

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