Best way to be rejected

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For anyone hoping to build a more human workplace, start with the way you tell someone you don't want them to work with you.

A friend of mine recently applied for a job at a progressive start-up that is doing good in the world.

She didn't get the job.

Instead, she got one of the most empowering, praise-giving invitations to begin a relationship with the company that didn't have a job for her...yet.

The 'rejection letter' was so different, so unique, so awesome that she sent it to me and shared that rather than feel terrible about not getting to the next round of interviews, she immediately subscribed to their newsletter. Rather than think "I stink...they didn't want me", she thought "This is amazing" and wanted to wave her rejection letter around proudly and shout "This is how you reject someone, people!!"

With her permission, I am sharing this letter with you today.

@goian on Unsplash

This is how we make work more human(e). A standard letter - something we take for granted - dressed up to be human, appreciative, and empowering. It's a true moment that matters to a brand, a company, and a connection.

As it's been said "How you do anything is how you do everything."

I can't wait to watch and learn from Appleseed...

The letter:

Thank you for the considerable time and effort you spent to apply to Appleseed's position, and for awaiting our response. We have made the difficult decision not to continue exploring a fit with you.

To say this is a competitive hiring process would be an understatement. We've received over 200+ applicants in the past few weeks, and as a resource-constrained organization, we've had to make many difficult cuts based on stringent criteria to select just 10 to interview further.​ 

Actually, your particular candidacy was one of the most difficult to turn away... It was reviewed several times, and we debated it back and forth before ultimately determining it wouldn't be a fit, for one minor reason or another. We trust you know that this says nothing about you as a person or a candidate. In fact, we were extremely impressed by you as a candidate, and we were honored you applied to Appleseed.

Thank you for sharing your background and your sources of inspiration with us, via heartfelt responses to our questions about mission and leadership. We are inspired by you and your desire to make a difference. We also know that creating a concise 1-minute video can be challenging, requiring courage, preparation, and sometimes multiple takes, so thank you for that as well. (note: your video will not be shared nor stored).

While we won't be continuing to explore a fit with you right now, we hope the application process provided you with a good opportunity for reflection and growth. Also, we wish you the very best in your continued search for a well-fitting, purpose-driven role that maximizes your talents. If you sincerely believe in Appleseed's mission, as it seems you do from your application, please do stay in touch via LinkedIn or sign up to our mailing list, if you haven't already. 

By this point, even though we haven't spoken, I feel that I know you. I sincerely hope to cross paths with you at some point down the road.

All the best,

Philip Kao

Yes, my friends. We can do better. We can question the way things have 'always' been done and begin to do them differently humanely. Or, maybe we invent a new word -- human-ly , which I'd define as: (adjective 1. behaving as a human, appreciating the gifts, time and talents of other humans. In all things, leading and behaving with respect to one another.)

@dsmacinnes on Unsplash


  1. Thank you Amy for sharing and practicing this humaness in all your interactions. It is one of the reasons I value you and any conversation we have. You are not only talented-you live the values you teach. Hope you will come to the Orlando Regional OD conference next Feb. 28 and I get to meet you in person.

  2. I always enjoy your thoughts which contain so much wisdom, insights, common sense and respect for fellow humans.

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