Ghosting stinks. Learn to write a rejection email.

Photo: Blindphoto

Is there anything you hate more than businesspeople who “ghost” you?

In case you’re not up on the slang, “ghosting” is ending a relationship by just disappearing and failing to respond to all forms of communication (social media, texting, or email, for example). In a personal relationship, that’s cowardly.

In a professional relationship, it’s very bad manners. Scott Monty wrote about it on LinkedIn, addressing what happens when a candidate interviews with a company, and then hears nothing . . . no call back, no response to emails, nothing.

Not sending a rejection letter is not only poor form, it’s lazy and downright rude. If a company has taken the time—of its executives, of the individual they’re wooing—it’s only natural that the process comes to a closure, whether it’s good news or bad news for the candidate.

This happened to me. A person who saw me give a writing workshop said he wanted me to do one with his company. We discussed it. I sent materials. He turned it over to his HR staff. They discussed it among themselves. Then they emailed me and went so far as to request and agree to a date in September.

I had one more question before committing: to whom do I send a bill, and with whom do I work to get things set up?

Response: nothing. Follow up in a week: No response. In a month: No response. In another few weeks: No response. I asked my original contact, he said he’d look into it, and now he has gone dark, too.

It’s like wrestling with Jell-O, only less satisfying.

This isn’t about sales contacts

I get sales emails all the time. I usually write back to say I’m not interested. Sometimes I just don’t respond.

If a salesperson gets no response after a couple of contacts, they should just give up. And I don’t blame the person failing to respond. If you gave no indication of interest, you don’t owe the salesperson anything, even a quick note (although sending one would be nice).

This is different. This is about people who go well down the road with you on a professional relationship, then disappear.

Learn to write a freaking rejection, people

I think the people who act this way don’t know how to say “no.” Or, they they may not have an answer, due to conditions at their company (like budgets or politics). So they don’t know how to say “maybe,” either.

If this is you, rather than just complain about your bad behavior, I’ll solve the problem for you. I’ll provide rejection letter you can use.

Here’s what to write when you’ve changed your mind and don’t want to work with/hire someone. Go ahead, copy it from here and past it into your email. Replace “Alan” with the person’s name.

To: Candidate
Re: I’m sorry, but it turns out we won’t be able to work together


Thanks for the time you put into educating us about you [and your product/service].

It seemed promising, but conditions on our end have changed and we can no longer go forward with you.

Please don’t attempt to restart things . . . there is no way to go back from this point. It’s all on us: we’re just no longer in a position to act on your offer.

Thanks again for your time, we enjoyed talking to you.

The correct response from the candidate is a perfunctory “thank you” and pleasantries. And that’s it.

I think sometimes, the reason people ghost is that internal politics and complexities at their end make it impossible for them to say either “yes” or “no.” So they say nothing. This is also bad manners. So here’s an email for when you don’t have an actual answer:

To: Candidate

Re: Things have become complicated at our end, we can’t commit


Thanks for the time you put into educating us about you [and your product/service].

There’s a lot happening here and that has complicated our response. I wish we could work together, but at this point, I don’t think I can get you a definite answer — and I don’t anticipate having one for at least a month.

In good conscience, I’d urge you to pursue other possibilities, since we can’t commit. If you’re still available, re-contact me in a couple of months.

I promise you that if I can resolve the challenges at this end, I’ll be back in touch. We remain interested in what you have to offer, we just can’t act on it right now.

Thanks again for your time, we enjoyed talking to you.

Why you should send a note

Why are you not sending a note? Are you afraid of what the candidate or consultant will say? Are you afraid they will respond and pester you?

Let me explain what’s actually happening. Your non-response is a response. By not responding, you ensure that the candidate will pester you, because you never got back to them. So as a pester-resistance strategy, ghosting sucks.

Not only that, the candidate is starting to think of you as a loser with bad manners. They think your company is screwed up. They will tell other people you’re a pain to work with. So as far as your reputation goes, ghosting is a disaster.

You’ve also proven you are a coward. Not a great image.

Compare that to sending a rejection or “can’t respond right now” letter. Everyone knows that rejections happen. Now they know what happened (or didn’t happen) and why. If they keep pestering you after that, then they’re the ones with the bad manners. At least you behaved honorably.

And any negative reaction to a rejection is not going to be as bad as the reaction to ghosting.

Now that you have these templates, you have no excuse at all. Unless you actually are a wimp. Stop sniveling and get back to people!

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  1. Few things rankle me more than this. When I consulted, subcontractors would often pull this nonsense. I agree: It’s not just rude; it’s downright hostile.

  2. I’m always amazed at how people in business don’t know how to say no at all. I’m nearly equally amazed at how many people in business who do say no say it tactlessly. No is just a word. If said with tact and grace, saying it doesn’t mean the end of a business relationship. It often is the beginning of a relationship based on trust and openness, in fact. Fear is common. People who still act, even in the face of fear, are not.

    There are a lot of things that I detest more than businesspeople who ghost me, but in the realm of business relationships, at least, that’s top of my list, too.