Writing Business Letters - Tutorial 4: "No" Letters

Robin Henry

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Remember the time when you attended a job interview and thought you had done exceptionally well? As you travelled home, you thought about how well your qualifications and experience matched what the firm wanted; you thought about how impressed your friends would be when you went to work for The Prestigious Company; you envisaged yourself in the nice new office that went with the job, and the extra money you'd have for your family. Wow, life was great!

A week later when you received a letter with The Prestigious Company's logo on it, you felt it could be a letter of offer, but then a cold chill came over you and you thought it might be to advise that you had been unsuccessful. You took the letter inside your house, poured yourself a drink and eventually sat down to open the letter that was about your future. When you read it it said:

Dear Mr Yourname,

Thank you for applying for a job with our company.

Unfortunately, you weren't successful on this occasion as another applicant's qualifications and experience were a better match to our needs.

Thanks for your interest in our company.

Yours sincerely

BAD Writer, Human Resources Manager

Your heart sank into the pit of your stomach and you felt a surge of shattering disappointment. This was the eighth job for which you had applied . . . nobody wanted you.

At the end of the day, bad news has to be conveyed just as good news does. However, the way in which it is conveyed can create a different response for the recipient. There's a mnemonic: KKK which stands for: K - Kiss; K - Kick; K - Kiss again.

This suggests that what we should do is write something positive first (Kiss), then deliver the bad news(Kick) and Kiss again with another positive statement. Here's an example of a “No" job letter that follows this formula. See if you can identify the KKK elements:

Dear Mr Yourname

Thank you for applying for a job with The Prestigious Company.

We have considered your application and were very impressed with the breadth of experience you have and your excellent academic achievements. In particular, we were impressed with the work you have done with the disabled in Chicago.

We received applications from many well qualified and experienced applicants and it was difficult for us to choose just one applicant to fill this position. On this occasion, we have chosen another applicant whose experience is more suitable.

Your interest in our company is appreciated and I wish you every success with your job search.

Yours sincerely

GOOD Writer, Human Resources Manager

This type of letter is of course, still disappointing for recipients. But letting them know that they were worthwhile candidates, that there were numbers of other equally well qualified candidates and you found someone who was more suitable, is a less damaging approach.

The last sentence helps to create goodwill for the company.

Obviously, there are dozens of different scenarios for bad news letters and I can't deal with every scenario here. If you remember the formula and sit in the receiver's chair ie, think what it would be like for you to receive the letter you write, you'll do a better job.

The trick is to say “no" or deliver the bad news with compassion for the dignity and feelings of the recipient. If you follow the formula, you'll find it works well.

Copyright 2005, Robin Henry

Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet entrepreneur. He helps small and home-based businesses and individuals improve performance by applying smart technology and processes and developing personally. He runs his business Desert Wave Enterprises from his home base at Alice Springs in Central Australia, although at present he is working in the United Arab Emirates.

If you need to streamline your business email system, implement a link management program, get a world class Internet site management program, or simply need to know how to apply for a government job, Robin can help.


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