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The Best Way to Reject Candidates

Updated: Jun 14

In the competitive world of recruiting, hiring managers face the difficult task of rejecting numerous candidates. While it’s an unavoidable part of the process, it’s essential to approach rejections with empathy to maintain your company’s reputation. This will help to create a positive experience for all applicants. 

In this extensive guide, we’ll delve into the best practices for managing candidate rejection, providing negative feedback, and preserving your employer brand. This will allow you to demonstrate to candidates that you genuinely care about their well-being. 

Understanding the Candidate Experience

Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate. If they are looking for a new job, there is a high chance that they are under financial pressure or unhappy with their current job. To solve these problems, they browse through a ton of opportunities to select their favorite companies and jobs. Next, they try their best to impress each company so they can get an interview, and eventually be hired for the position. And finally, they sit and wait wondering what will happen next and what they should do. 

If you’ve been in a situation like this before, you know that it is not fun and creates a lot of stress in your life. Understanding how applicants feel during the candidate experience is the first step to improving the candidate experience of your organization. 

The candidate experience encompasses every interaction a job seeker has with your company. It starts with submitting their application and ends with receiving the final decision. Once again, it’s crucial to consider their perspective throughout this journey. How you communicate your decision of rejecting them will significantly influence their opinion of your organization.

Searching for a job can be a highly emotional experience. Candidates invest substantial time and effort into crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, often facing rejection or receiving no response at all. By recognizing the emotional impact of rejection, you’ll be better equipped to deliver negative feedback with kindness and understanding.

Best Practices For Delivering Constructive Feedback

Adhering to best practices when providing negative feedback is crucial for ensuring a positive candidate experience. Be forthright and transparent about the reasons behind their rejection. You must also demonstrate compassion and understanding of their situation. Offer detailed, constructive feedback that can guide them toward improving their prospects for future opportunities.

When communicating rejection to candidates, avoid these big mistakes:

  1. Employing overly generic or impersonal language

  2. Concentrating exclusively on their shortcomings

  3. Neglecting to acknowledge their positive qualities and achievements

  4. Not including actionable feedback or guidance

Constructive feedback is definitely a touchy subject that takes time to master. As long as you avoid these big mistakes, your rejected candidates are less likely to feel neglected and angry at your organization. 

When To Communicate Rejection

The timing of your rejection communication is critical. If you wait too long, candidates may grow frustrated or feel disregarded. But here’s the catch, if you deliver the news too quickly, it may come across as insincere or hasty. Aim to communicate rejection within a suitable time frame, typically within one to two weeks of their interview or application review. This way you have enough time to consider other candidate options, but you respect the rejected candidates by providing them an answer in a timely manner. 

While timeliness is crucial in rejection communication, it’s important not to sacrifice professionalism for speed. Allocate sufficient time to carefully craft a well thought-out and personalized message that exhibits genuine consideration for the candidate’s feelings and future success. Towards the end of this blog post I have a sample rejection letter that you could send to candidates. Of course, you will still need to take the time to personalize it. 

The Benefits Of Personalizing Rejection Letters Or Emails

A customized rejection letter can significantly improve a candidate’s experience. By tailoring your communication to the individual, you demonstrate that you value their time and effort. This is also a great opportunity to acknowledge their unique strengths and accomplishments.

To create a sympathetic and helpful rejection message, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Address the candidate by their name

  2. Reference specific aspects of their application or interview that impressed you

  3. Offer constructive feedback so they can improve

  4. Encourage them to apply for future opportunities within your organization

The key to offering valuable feedback is to be specific and actionable. Point out areas where the candidate fell short, and provide clear recommendations for improvement. This not only demonstrates your commitment to their growth but also helps them view the rejection as an opportunity for learning and development, rather than as a failure.

Maintaining a positive relationship with rejected candidates not only leaves the door open for future opportunities but also cultivates a network of talented professionals who may refer others to your company or even become clients. 

Invite them to join your company’s talent pool or mailing list for future job openings.

It is extremely common for job seekers to talk to other job seekers about their experiences. One bad experience can lead to your company having a negative reputation in the eyes of other potential candidates. 

Not to mention, there are sites like GlassDoor that discuss the opinions of how candidates and employees feel when applying for working for your company. Bad reviews on these sites can make your ability to attract new talent far more difficult. 

Sample Rejection Letter

Here is a sample rejection letter that you could send to one of your candidates that you did not end up hiring. In the short run, it might seem easier to send a generic letter to everyone that you will not hire. Do not do this! It is very important that you take the time to personalize this letter to every rejected candidate of yours. 

If you take the time to show that you actually care about the candidate, they are more likely to talk about how your company valued their application in a professional manner. Another reason to show that you care about every rejected candidate is they can provide you with great feedback. This will allow you to continuously improve your hiring process and candidate experience. 

Not to mention, in the future one of your rejected candidates could be interested in another position at your organization. If they had a bad experience when you rejected them the first time, they are unlikely to apply the second time. 

Dear [Candidate’s Name], Thank you for taking the time to apply and participate in our interview process for the [position title]. We appreciate your interest in us and the effort you put into your application. We regret to inform you that we have decided not to move forward with your application for this position. The decision was not an easy one, as we had a number of highly qualified candidates. While we were impressed with your [write about the candidate’s background and experience], we have chosen to pursue another candidate. We apologize for this outcome and hope that this news is not too disappointing for you. We assure you that this decision does not reflect on your abilities or potential. If you ever see another role at our organization that interests you, you should apply! Your skills and experience may be a great fit for another position. We would appreciate it if you would take a brief moment to fill out this feedback survey [link to a short feedback survey]. We are always trying to improve our hiring process and your feedback would be greatly appreciated.  Once again, thank you for your interest in [Company Name]. We wish you the best of luck in your job search and future endeavors. All the best,[Your Name][Your Title][Company Name][Email Address][Phone Number]

Feel free to copy this sample letter and add in the personalized sections. If you want an even better outcome, make this letter even more personal. 

Tracking Candidate Feedback And Reactions

The best way to improve your rejection process is to create a feedback loop. This way you can learn what all of your candidates thought about your communication efforts. 

Consistently refining your rejection process requires gathering feedback from candidates about their experience. Send follow-up surveys or request informal feedback to gain insights into how your rejection communications are perceived. A great place to do this is in your rejection letter. Each candidates feedback will allow you to identify areas for improvement.

Based on the feedback you receive, make data-driven adjustments to your hiring and rejection process. This might involve revising your messaging, reassessing your timing, or providing additional resources for candidates to enhance their skills. Continuously iterating on your approach ensures that you’re delivering the best possible experience for rejected candidates.

In some instances, rejected candidates may reach out for further clarification or feedback. Be prepared to address their concerns professionally and empathetically, reinforcing the positive aspects of their application and providing specific guidance for improvement.

Even if a candidate wasn’t the right fit for a particular role, they might be perfect for a different position in the future. Keep a record of strong candidates and stay in touch through occasional emails, networking events, or social media interactions. This helps build goodwill and ensures your company stays top of mind for future opportunities.


Preserving your employer brand and building positive candidate relations is a must for all companies. If you fail to do this, you will have a difficult time hiring new employees.

Managing candidate rejection with care and thoughtfulness is crucial for maintaining a robust employer brand and fostering positive relationships with talented professionals. By adhering to the best practices outlined in this extensive guide, you can deliver negative feedback with empathy and integrity, leaving candidates with a favorable impression of your company. Ideally, this will pave the way for future collaborations with each rejected candidate.

If you have any additional questions we would love to hear from you! The best way to communicate with us is through our contact page

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