A few days ago I was scrolling through a group on Facebook, and I stopped to read the comments on a post. A nonprofit sent a letter to a job applicant in the mail and essentially informed her that she was not chosen for the position.

You would think that’s a good thing, but not in this case.

The letter became an example of how not do reach out to someone who applied for a job within your organization.

What Not to Say in a Letter

Here’s some of what the letter said:

The talented pool of candidates made our decision very difficult. In addition to the submitted documents, references, and personal interviews, we also consider applicants’ interests and areas of expertise, backgrounds, and administrative experience. The committee was impressed with your credentials, but in selecting the finalist, it meant we had to find the right balance for the future…

The issue was that the organization never reached out to the applicant before the cut letter went in the mail. There was no submission for review by the job applicant, nor any documents (except for her resume), references or personal interviews.

The organization also made the following mistake in the final sentence of the letter, which read, “We hope that you will continue supporting the mission of…” Those few words were interpreted by the applicant and others to mean that the nonprofit was using a euphemism to ask for financial assistance. Essentially, a soft sell.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Time to Show You’ve Got Your Act Together

On the one hand, it’s commendable (sort of) that the charity took the time to mail a form letter to this applicant and at least reach out. I think one of the worst things we’ve done in the business world is to have people take the time to apply for our jobs and then not give them the courtesy of a reply. 

I know. We’re all busy, but that’s wrong. Since when did being too busy become more important than connecting with others and always putting your best foot forward? Since when did doing the little thoughtful things disappear and the Golden Rule of treating others like you’d like to be treated become a prized commodity?

In the case of this particular organization, if they were going through the expense and effort of putting a letter in the mail, then they should have gotten their facts right. What they demonstrated was that they were only moderately better than organizations that don’t contact candidates who will be moving forward in the process. However, since the applicant did not send anything more than a resume, they demonstrated to the applicant that they didn’t care about her. I’m sure that wasn’t their intention.

That’s not something you want to perpetuate when you’re the leader of a nonprofit or any business for that matter. In this case, less would have been a whole lot more. Just acknowledging that she applied for a position and that her “information” was reviewed, but there were other candidates who more closely aligned with the nonprofit, would have been sufficient.

But what of that last sentence for continued support?

Well, in my opinion, if they would have gotten the top paragraph correct, the last sentence could have been chalked up to an innocuous sentence. But, a few people who commented on the post took it to read that the nonprofit was asking for a charitable donation. We’ll never really know, but the charity lost the benefit of the doubt by stating how thorough they were in reviewing all of the credentials she provided, which she didn’t do. The organization had lost all credibility by the time the last sentence was written.

I think the organization gets a few points for sending a letter. Like I said, these days many businesses believe they are excused from common courtesy and respect toward job applicants.

But, if you’re going to make an effort (and have the expense of sending something in the mail), then please don’t put yourself in a position of appearing as if you just set up shop a day ago and have no idea how to run an organization. That doesn’t inspire any confidence in anyone, including job applicants.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.