How to Use Rejection Letters to Empower Students and Your Employment Brand, not Leave Them in the Dark

How to Use Rejection Letters to Empower Students and Your Employer BrandThis past month InternMatch was swamped.   We received over 492 applications (most of which were phenomenal) for 2 summer marketing internship openings and we were scrambling to respond in the midst of our busiest season.  Managing this mountain of applications, we fell victim to a problem we frequently speak to other employers about; the importance of getting back to students quickly and candidly about their application status.

After we made our selections, I wrote the below email to the 490 students we couldn’t accept.  I thought I might get panned for being behind schedule or for being the bearer of bad news, instead the response from students was extraordinarily positive and within hours we received a myriad of responses, thanking us for the note, sharing status updates about their internship search, or telling us where around the country they were heading off to go intern. (Thanks again to all who applied!).

If you are one of the 90% of companies who do not respond to all their candidates, it might be worth changing your tune.  Sending a clear and helpful rejection letter, might be one of the easiest things you can do to substantially improve your employment brand with students and build a better applicant pipeline in years to come (students talk!). Not to mention, it’s an opportunity to provide feedback and support to the student community who will be your future work force and who is currently facing one of the worst hiring environments of all time.

I sent a version of this email to the 490 marketing applicants, we couldn’t accept, the response was immediate and positive:

Dear Summer Marketing Internship Applicants,

This email is overdue. As the nation’s leading internship site, we take pride in having an exceptional internship program and also in using best practices in responding to candidates and keeping you informed about how our selection process is going. This summer we received over 490 applicants for our 2 summer marketing roles. We were honored to have so much interest and we reviewed every candidate’s resume; however this took way longer than we expected (during our busiest season as well) so I apologize for any delays in getting back to you.

As of last week we finalized our last hire for this summer, so if you are receiving this I wanted to say we truly appreciate your interest in InternMatch but regret to inform you that you have not been selected as a summer intern this year. We’d be excited to have you apply again, either for a Campus Ambassador role, or next summer.

3 things students we hired did exceptionally well:

1.) Followed-up with us on twitter, LinkedIn and by email to share why they were excited to work with us. We are big believers in following-up and those who go this extra mile earn bonus points in our book: http://www.internmatch.com/guides/the-ultimate-guide-to-following-up

2.) Create a custom cover letter that explains why you are interested in startups/helping students find internships. We read all these and they matter.
3.) Had a resume that included a lot of outside the classroom experience. As a startup company we like working with self-starters, who have run clubs, thrown conferences and generally proven that they are driven to achieve goals in fields they are excited about.

If you felt like you accomplished all the above and still were not selected then we apologize, the position was extremely competitive.

If you are still looking for internships, don’t fret, hundreds of fantastic marketing positions are still being posted every day and at some truly incredible firms. I wanted to point you in the direction of a few that are extremely high quality:

500 Startups is one of the nation’s most recognized startup accelerators, led by Silicon Valley icon Dave McClure. They are seeking a social media intern and design intern.
Silicon Valley Bank is the leading bank for tech/startup companies and Shai is one of their most influential partners. This paid marketing position based in NYC was posted last week and rocks.
Digital Surgeons is a leading digital marketing firm based in Boston that converts many of their interns into FT hires. This marketing strategy role offers a great educational experience and the opportunity to work with an exceptional team.
Tie Society is an awesome startup based in Washington DC offering a paid markting internship.

Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to contact me at any point.

Cheers,

Nathan

(Note: we only included the recommended positions to students who made it through our first review process, and we choose firms based on relevance to our role, but located in various cities around the country).

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Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells is VP of Marketing and co-founder of Looksharp. He has spent the past decade helping students launch their career, researching best practices for hiring millennials (including running Looksharp's annual "State of College Hiring") and sharing these insights with employers. Nathan's work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider and more. Outside of work, Nathan is an avid rock climber, back packer and Bob Dylan fan.