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Are We Dehumanising Recruitment?

By June 13, 20134 Comments

I received an interesting email this week.  It was from an acquaintance of mine who spent the glory years of recruitment drinking, smoking and consulting his way to the top of the tree in a UK household name in recruitment, before moving here to New Zealand for a “breather” (and a bit more recruiting).

Nowadays he is involved in far more…er…altruistic endeavors.  BUT, he recently had the need to hire a Management Accountant for his company and undertook the process himself.  Nothing too ground-breaking in the process:  60 responses from advert and networks –> 5 interviewed –> 1 hired.  Job done…

However, it was the response to his rejection letter to the 59 unsuccessful applicants that has left him amazed and baffled.  He was literally showered with praise, thanks and general well-wishing.  Seriously.  Check out some of the responses below:

Thanks very much for your generous feedback, really appreciated.  

As much as I am passionate about what your organisation is doing, empowering people to have better lives, I had also a great interest in working with you. You seem like a great person to work with (I read your LinkedIn profile), so yes what a shame I did not get a chance to meet you!

Congratulation on getting your new staff, and wish you all the best.

Renny, now I am just wondering if it would be okay for you if I add you to my LinkedIn contacts? Who knows we will cross paths in the future, somehow.


Thanks for your email. It is possibly the nicest rejection letter I have received!!

Which makes it all the more disappointing that I am not going to be working with you and your team!!

However it was clearly not meant to be this time.

I am very keen to work with organisations helping those with mental health issues so please do keep me in mind should any other roles come up.

Thanks for your time.


Thank you also for your time to acknowledge my application and respond – unfortunately in today’s world that is a nice surprise rather than a common courtesy.

I wish you all the best with your recruitment and hope you find your ideal candidate too.


 I would have to say that this is the best “no” correspondence I have seen.

Thank you for responding and I hope that you get the right person.


Thanks very much for the lovely response Renny, really appreciate it…anyway best of luck with the recruitment process.

Many thanks and best regards


Thanks for the reply – I appreciate your feedback If things don’t work out for any reason please keep me in mind, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to meet.


This is by far the nicest thanks but no thanks letter I have received. 

I wish you and your management team well with your recruitment process for this position.


 Thanks for the email Renny, that’s the most delightful ‘no’ I have ever heard.  Have a lovely weekend.


Thanks! I really like your letter.


And there’s plenty more that I have had to edit out… trust me.

So you get the picture right?  Would you regard this as a typically impassioned and emotive collective response to being rejected for a job in Glenfield?  Certainly if you’re a professional recruiter, whether agency or internal, you will get the occasional response like this on the odd occasion, but certainly not in such volume.

There could be a number of reasons for this:  Agency recruiters working 25+ open vacancies often don’t have time to individually tailor a rejection letter for every role being recruited, do they?  Internal recruiters tearing their hair out at the number of unsuitable responses from jobseekers who clearly haven’t read the job ad have naturally resorted to automated responses from clever ATS’s just to cope.

Or maybe jobseekers have got so used to being rejected nowadays that they too have just got better at handling a rejection…

But I’m not so sure any of these arguments carry quite enough weight.  I wonder if, as we rely more and more on speed, efficiency, technology and automation, we are somehow dehumanizing our industry.  We shouldn’t ignore the gut reaction from an industry veteran who performed his craft in more people-focused times… Even if he was only recruiting one single role and could adapt his response accordingly.

Oh yes, I almost forgot….here is Renny’s letter.  I don’t believe it’s copyrighted:


I’m afraid it’s a ‘no’.   

Your application for the Management Accountant Role at Connect Supporting Recovery in Glenfield is sadly being rejected.  Two of us have thoroughly read your cv and covering letter, along with everyone else’s, and although there are many appealing aspects, we feel there is a small handful of other applicants who seem, on paper, to be a ‘closer fit’.   

Of course we could be making a terrible mistake – you probably think we are – but recruitment is always an imperfect and time-short process.  We have to draw a line somewhere.

If it helps, there were more than 60 responses and we’ve chosen 5 people to meet with.  Of course we’ll eventually have to reject 4 of those, too.  All 5 have recent management accounting experience in multi-division environments; have had good recent  exposure to the not-for-profit world; live very locally; and write a good letter!

It’s somewhat of a cliché to wish you well in your current search but it’s also the truth. We do.  

Thank you once again for taking such an interest in our organisation and making the effort to apply – what a shame we didn’t get to meet. 


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kevin C says:

    Very nicely written, and understand why he got the response back he did. I always try to tailor my “rejection” letters individually, but don’t bother too much if the applicant clearly hasn’t read the requirements. Interestingly, I worked on a role recently in a similar sector – client branded – and sent a nice email back to most of the 120 applicants I got (took me some time to do it…) and out of that, only 4 bothered to thank me! I was left with the feeling of “why bother?” And whilst my words weren’t quite as syrupy as Renny’s, the flavour was similar. Perhaps next time I’ll add lots more syrup and a sprinkle of nuts as well!!

  • James C says:

    Funny I read your intro and as soon as the words “glory years of recruitment drinking, smoking and consulting” mixed with “altruistic” I knew EXACTLY who you meant – even before the Christian name popped up…he was human even in the glory days of UK recruitment and was much respected within that “Household name” . “R” managed not only to survive, but to get to the top in a market, and company, that was fiercely competitive. “Never forget – every candidate has a beating heart” One experienced Aussie recruiter once said and “R” was showing that even in those glory years. He wrote like a poet then too !

  • Steven M says:

    Great post, and great reject letter! As you say, it’s so difficult in the ‘volume’ space to individually tailor letters, but it’s not difficult to write even bulk replies with some warmth, in conversational English, rather than the robotic-sounding “We regret to inform you…”