Just say 'no.' Seriously, I can take it.
I say 'no' all the time and my life is far less complicated because of it.
The same applies to this seemingly futile job hunt I've been on. The employers that state outright that due to the number of applicants they receive that they will only contact candidates they are interested in get a pass. I wish others would respond to applications, emails, CVs with something like, "If you don't hear from us in X number of weeks, we've chosen another applicant" or "We don't think you're a good match for the position." It can be a form letter. Employers put in bold face "no phone calls" because they don't want to be swamped with the follow-ups. I get it. But give the applicants some sort of response.
My most recent pitches have been to indie bookstores to get my book on their shelves. Same thing applies in this process; some acceptances, some rejections but mainly silence. So I follow-up.
Last month, I sent a series of follow-ups. Out of that batch, I did get two responses with positive updates and received an email within minutes in which the respondent wrote: