your business. It is (hopefully) an exciting time for a company as new personalities and talent comes
on board, as well as for the new employees who bring fresh passion for their role. However, what
about those candidates who didn’t get the job? They applied for a position hoping it was a new start
for them in an area they wanted to excel in but there was ‘no such luck’ this time.
Surveys show that the main thing people despise when going through the job process is not hearing
back from an interview. It’s not nice for someone to hear they didn’t get the job, and it isn’t ideal for
the recruiter to have to deliver the bad news, however if nothing else, it’s important from an
employer branding point of view to inform unsuccessful candidates as soon as possible after your
decision has been made. It is also important to ensure the letter isn’t cold and impersonal with little
When is the right time?
It might seem a bit harsh, but giving a candidate feedback as soon as you know they aren’t right for
the job is the best thing. It lets the interviewee move on quickly or perhaps accept another role they
may have been offered.
Quite often, the interviewer knows before the end of the interview if the candidate is suitable for
the position or not and most people have an idea if it hasn’t gone well, so sometimes it’s better to
say there and then what your concerns are. Giving feedback at the end of the interview not only
saves time following up at a later date, it also gives the candidate a chance to counter your opinion.
They may be nervous or inexperienced but if they want the job, they will fight for their place.
If you don’t feel comfortable telling the candidate that you don’t think they are right for the role,
make sure to follow up with them at latest a few days after the interview. It’s not necessary to wait
until you’ve filled the role to inform someone that they haven’t got the job.
What should be included?
A rejection letter should include some kind of constructive and personalised feedback. How you
relay the information very much depends on the method your company takes throughout the entire
employment process – professional and to the point or friendlier and more approachable.
No matter which approach is taken, constructive criticism should also start with the positives,
including some compliments about the candidate before commenting on the areas they didn’t do so
well. At the end of the letter, focus again on any strong points to soften the blow and prevent any
negative impressions of the company.
Where possible, always include areas of the interview where they could have performed better.
These most likely won’t come as a surprise to the candidate, yet it is useful information for them to
take away and focus on for future interviews.
If the company might be interested in hiring the candidate for future opportunities, inform them
that you will keep their details on file and are interested in keeping in touch with them.
How do you humanize a rejection letter?
Simple changes to a rejection letter make all the difference to the unsuccessful candidate. I have
included a few small changes below which might just make the rejection that much easier:
Thank the Candidate Amicably
“Thank you for applying to POSITION with The HR Department” can be worded slightly differently.
Try “I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with us last week regarding the POSITION at The
Leave the Door Open
“We’ll keep your details on file for future available positions” could be worded as a question, such as
“I hope you don't mind if I keep your details on file and reach out to you in the future should more
Provide an Explanation
“Your expertise is not a good fit at this time” may be straight to the point but it makes the candidate
feel undervalued. More detail makes it easier for the candidate to understand, for example, “We are
currently concentrating on hiring HR professionals who specialise in mediation.”
Finally, I want to go back to a point I touched on earlier and in a previous article – candidates are
also customers. A survey carried out by The Talent Board discovered that 8% of applicants had
negative feelings about their experience, and in turn it affected their relationship as a client of that
company. Take the following example:
If a company employs 500 people per year and receives 100 CVs per job posting, that amounts to
49,500 rejected applicants. The 8% left with a negative outlook on the company could mean the
business potentially loses nearly 5000 current or potential customers.
Don’t let that happen to your company – write the rejection letter.
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