How to Write Job Candidate Rejection Letters

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How you treat candidates for your jobs really matters. Sending a candidate rejection letter to the applicants who were not selected for the job is an extra, but positive step, your company can take to build goodwill with candidates and establish yourself as an employer of choice.

Your reputation, built one candidate at a time, is critical to your ongoing ability to attract the best and most skilled talent to your firm. Candidates make decisions about your company based on their treatment and officially notifying them of your employment decisions is a point in your favor.

In fact, to retain your reputation as an employer that employees should consider, there are four times during the hiring process that you really need to communicate with your candidates. Even a rejection letter is better for your applicants than to hear nothing for long periods of time. Please note these guidelines for writing your candidate rejection letters and find two sample candidate rejection letters to use as models.

Start With a Follow-up Phone Call

A phone call to the candidate is the first step after you have decided that he or she is not the most qualified for your open position. During the call, you thank the candidates for their application and interview time. State clearly that you have determined that you will offer, or have offered, the position to another candidate.

Then, follow-up your call with the official candidate rejection letter providing the same information. This contact should occur as soon as you know that the candidate is not the person you want to hire. Don't leave your candidates wondering, for weeks on end, whether he or she was the person selected for the job.

Tips for Writing Candidate Rejection Letters

  • Also known as a "thanks, but no thanks letter," candidate rejection letters tell the candidate that he or she was not selected for the position. If you believe that the candidate would qualify for other roles in your company and that he or she appeared to also fit your culture, you can also encourage the person to apply again in the future. Always end your candidate rejection letters on a positive note and wish the person success. Make sure you thank your candidate for the time invested in the application and interview process.
  • Personalize your candidate rejection letters with the candidate's name, the position, and possibly a remark about the interview time. You don't want your candidate to feel as if he or she received a form rejection letter—even if it basically, is.
  • Get straight to the point in your rejection letters. But, especially if you have called, the candidate already knows what to expect in the rejection letter.
  • Make your candidate rejection letter business-like, but gracious. After all, you are puncturing a person's hopes and dreams. Do so with respect and consideration.
  • Never say anything in the candidate rejection letter that you don't mean. For example, don't suggest that the candidate applies for openings in the future if you know the candidate will not fit successfully in your organization.
  • Remember, the candidate rejection letter is your last opportunity to build a relationship with the candidate that will cause him or her to think favorably of your company. Your reputation as an employer is affected by this candidate and the people affected by this candidate's opinions and treatment at your hands. Don't ever believe that this is unimportant for your reputation as a potential employer.

    Sample Candidate Rejection Letter

    This is a sample candidate rejection letter for the candidate that your hiring team found well-qualified and liked. Your goal is to let him know that he should keep applying to your company when a position for which he is qualified is posted.

    Date of the Letter
    Candidate's Name
    City, State Zip Code
    Dear Ronald,
    You've received the news when I called to tell you that another candidate was selected for the position of Accountant at the Mountain Meadow Co. This letter is confirming that phone call.
    My selection team was impressed with both your experience in accounting and the ideas you shared about what an all-star accounting team can provide for an organization. We encourage you to consider applying for positions that may open up in the future in your areas of expertise.
    Thank you for taking the time away from your normal daily activities to come in for the interview with my team members. We appreciate that this is an investment on your part and we were grateful to have the chance to get to know you.
    Best wishes for your continuing job search. Keep us in mind for our open positions in the future.
    Mary Ellen Cordoba
    HR Director
    On Behalf of the  Accountant Selection Committee

    Sample Candidate Rejection Letter

    This is a sample candidate rejection letter for a potential employee who the hiring team determined was not a good fit with your company's goals, objectives, or culture. You do not want to encourage this candidate to apply for your open positions in the future.

    Date of the Letter
    Candidate's Name
    City, State Zip Code
    Dear Emily,
    As I mentioned during our recent phone conversation, we have offered our open position to a different candidate. This is your official notice of this decision so that you can close the book on this position.
    We also want you to know that we appreciate the time you invested in coming into our company for an interview. The team is grateful for the opportunity to speak with you.
    Best wishes as you continue your job search.
    Ethan Windsor
    HR Manager for the Hiring Team