I was recently made responsible for hiring a few students for the summer internships at my company. I've designed a simple homework for them to solve to get rid of some of the applications as early as possible. The task was very simple and didn't require too much effort to do.

One of the candidates tried very hard and overdid it, and I didn't find his submission good enough to warrant a meeting. Adhering to the policy I've set for myself, I emailed him with all the feedback and encouraged to try again next year. I specifically pointed out that his solution was overblown.

After that, though, he responded with another version of his solution that, while simpler, still doesn't look good enough to me. To be honest, I hate to be in this position, and it strikes me as rather pushy. I really don't want to answer with more feedback again, to be met with yet another, "final" version.

How should I deal with this situation? Should I respond at all? I've read that stating all the reasoning again opens up more debate, but then again a very short reply like "we're really not interested at this moment" reads almost rude to me.

  • I would suggest rewording "to get rid of some of them" to "to get rid of some of the applicants". I spent quite a few seconds re-reading the paragraph to understand why you would want to get rid of your interns until I realised what you meant! Jun 1, 2018 at 12:33
  • I had a similiar situation where an applicant sent in code and I reviewed it to give feedback. This led to all kinds of discussions and questions. I was not expecting that and I don’t think I will discuss submissions in this way anymore.
    – eckes
    Jun 1, 2018 at 14:17
  • Coming from a similar minded one, maybe the applicant just likes challenges. Jun 2, 2018 at 6:24
  • Maybe he is genuinely excited about this particular position. In that case, you have to give him props for that. If you still don't want to continue the process, just give him a generic rejection email without any feedback
    – user47813
    Jun 8, 2018 at 9:10

7 Answers 7


Being charitable, the candidate may not have any experience with applying for "jobs" and may genuinely think that if they keep throwing different variations of the assignment at you that they will hit on the "right" answer. So while I'd say it's not unreasonable to simply ignore the candidate, at this point you could respond with something like:

While we appreciate your continued interest in our internship program, as stated in our previous communication we are no longer considering you for this year's intake and encourage you to apply again next year.

And then leave it there. Any further attempts to engage you in this year's process should just be ignored.


Ignore anything that is unsolicited, anything else is just asking to continue the dialogue.


This would be my response:

Thank you for your continued interest, but once you've been rejected from my company, you have to wait at least one year before you can apply again.

Should you wish to continue practicing similar technical problems, I would personally recommend the following sites:



[insert your favorite practice sites here]

Good luck,

And of course, I wouldn't give him any more feedback on the last solution he submitted.

If he wants feedback, he'll have to use those other sites.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Jun 2, 2018 at 22:30

You set a policy for yourself, you adhered to it and you made clear that it was the end of the road for him this year. Seems like you did everything the way it should be done.

Archive or delete his last e-mail and ignore it.

  • If it's an European country, according to the new GDPR law, it's worth noting that such applications can only be saved with permission. And usually just for up to 6 months if there isn't a very good reason to keep them longer (and you need permission to do so).
    – Gertsen
    Jun 1, 2018 at 10:48
  • 4
    @gertsen That is presuming quite a bit. There are no specifics regarding a retention policy on applications of this kind. Furthermore there may be compelling reasons to archive such applications longer depending on local law, including things such as hiring discrimination lawsuits, laws regarding HR in general (some countries have mandatory retention of HR information up to 10 years) or business interests. GDPR is much too complex to interpret it in a comment on SE which everyone seems to love to do.
    – DRF
    Jun 1, 2018 at 10:56
  • @Gertsen We require an explicit consent line for data processing and retention on all applications, and even if we didn't, it's customary for the applicants to include it, so I don't think that's a problem. Even if, it's the decision that our legal team made, I'm not really responsible for that. Jun 1, 2018 at 14:26

How about this?

We have moved to the next stage and cannot accept new application.

I would also recommend giving external resources. What if they don't want to be nagging too, but genuinely want to learn more? Don't forget that after all, the only key to success is not intelligence, not hard working, but persistence. The combination would serve two purposes:

  • Asking them to respect the limit
  • Helping them to learn

To quote @Nicholas:

[T]he key point in the question is that these applicants are students. They don't have any experience and have limited-to-no soft skills. It's appropriate in this situation to take the time to explain to them what they're doing wrong so that they can learn. It's not required, of course, but is kind not just to the student, but to the rest of the workworld that will need to interact with that student in the next 50 years.

You can also combine this with other suggestions too.


As you're dealing with a person who is most likely a student, it may be worth asking some clarifying questions to see what they're really after.

One interpretation of their behavior is they really want to intern with your company, and are being pushy.

Another is that they've accepted they missed out this time, and are really flattered by feedback from a Real Programmer™ and have latched on to this perceived opportunity.

If you're up for being a mentor, and that's what they are truly after, you may have a chance to help shape them into the kind of programmer you'd want to work with.

If not, it provides a way to let them down easy.


I have mixed feelings. Because I enjoy teaching and mentoring, and I think it’s very important, I personally would reply, but prefix the reply with the person under discussion is still not being considered (if that’s actually the case).

Here’s the thing: if they come up with an acceptable answer, without it being handed to them, it means they’re teachable. This is a disturbingly difficult quality to find. If that possibility concerns you, then don’t reply.

There’s a fine line between stalking and persistence-without context it’s difficult to know which category this now falls in to, and which category it may fall into in the future.

Hopefully the candidate accepts whatever decision you make with grace: their reaction may also determine current or future suitability for your role.

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