Sometimes we have the unfortunate experience of needing to write a rejection letter to a job candidate. It’s possible that the candidate was an awesome person, someone who could be your best friend. But maybe the position has been filled internally, or that someone else was just a better cultural fit or has more expertise for a skill you need. It’s also possible that this candidate wasn’t at all what you needed.

Whatever the reason a candidate isn’t selected, they deserve a response. You must write a rejection letter or email – no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s not only the right thing to do but it’s the human thing to do. Candidates invest their time and effort too and if you have all done your due diligence, it is very likely they will be disappointed. That’s expected. But while it is still a rejection, a properly crafted letter may soften the no. It also mitigates a growing epidemic of candidate resentment that is growing among top talent.

But how do you write a rejection letter that won’t sting too hard or create resentment?  We want to help you (and the people that you’re rejecting) make a better candidate experience so you know what to do.

Keep reading to learn some of our top tips on writing that dreaded job rejection letter and for a good template and example.

Say Thank You

The first thing that you have to do is thank your candidate. Remember, they took time out of their busy schedule and they chose your company to apply to. Even if it was only a job to them, you owe them a sign of appreciation.

It doesn’t have to be apologetic or cold. A simple “Thank you for applying to our company” is often enough. But if you want to offer something with a bit more humanity and compassion, try something along the lines of “It was a pleasure to meet and learn more about your ambitions, skills, and accomplishments.”

It’s also important to not use this time to lead your candidate on. Even though it’s only a sentence or two, it’s possible that your candidate will take something that feels too positive as an affirmation and then get disappointed when the rest of the news hits them.

Keep It Brief

While this is a rejection letter, it’s not good form to write pages (or even a full page) of text. A paragraph or two will suffice. It lets you move on to the next candidate and it lets your candidate move on to the next job application.

Three or four sentences can say everything that needs to be said. Don’t clutter your language in hopes that flowery words will ease your rejected candidate’s disappointment or discomfort.

Give a Reason

Job candidates want to know why they didn’t get the position that they were after. It’s important not to be too harsh here, even if your reasoning is obvious. If the candidate was a terrible fit, was rude at the interview, or had a poor resume, it’s still important that you find some way to let them off gently.

It’s not a bad idea to say that the position has been filled (even if it hasn’t), but that will lead to an uncomfortable situation for the candidate if they see your job posting later on.

If your candidate is good, but inexperienced, (perhaps they didn’t pass your skill test or leadership test) consider saying something along the lines of “We reviewed your application with interest, but the application response for this role was strong with many high-caliber candidates applying. Unfortunately, we will not be considering you for this job.”

This is an actionable reason. The candidate knows that to get a job on the level that they want, they’ll need more experience.

You can also try something like “While we enjoyed talking to you, we’ve found that we need someone with more expertise.”

While this one isn’t as actionable, the candidate won’t feel as though they’re “bad” for not getting the job. They weren’t the right fit.

Give Praise and Feedback

You should try this if your candidate was fantastic, but someone else was a better fit, or the job was closed.

For this, you want to offer something that the candidate did well or something that would make them a great person for the job. This should come after the notice of rejection.

Then, you give your reasoning for why they aren’t being hired and how they may make a better candidate in the future.

After this, give them another reason why they were a great candidate for the position even if they aren’t being accepted at this time. We’ll show you how we like to do this when we give you the example rejection letters.

End With Hope (If Applicable)

If you had a very poor applicant, you might not want to end this way. If the applicant was great but beaten by someone else, this is a great way to close out your rejection letter.

Say something that will indicate that you’ll contact them if the job opens up, or that you’ll be keeping their information on file in the event that a position they’re better suited for comes along.

Example Rejection Letters

So how do you put these concepts into practice? We have two examples here that can help you stay positive and let your candidate off gently. Whether your candidate was almost perfect or they weren’t a great fit, we have one for both situations.

Note that both of these are polite and brief while still being encouraging.

Simple Rejection Letter

Dear [candidate],

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to apply for [position] at [company].  We value each and every candidate who applies but at this time, your application was not selected and we won’t be moving forward.

We enjoyed your interview but we’ve discovered that we need a candidate with more experience with [specific skill] for this position. That said, we’d love to keep your information on file in the event that another position opens up.

[your name or business name]

Rejection Letter for a Perfect Candidate

Dear [candidate],

We appreciate your interest in [position] at [company]. We know there are many businesses to choose from. We received an extraordinary strong response from many high-caliber candidates and unfortunately, you didn’t make the cut.

We enjoyed our conversation and your quick wit during the interview, but we’re looking for someone with more experience in a senior position. Your application was impressive for someone so new to the field, though, and we hope that you don’t mind if we keep your information on file and reach out in the future.

[your name or business name]

Rejecting Candidates Is Never Easy

The first time that you have to write a rejection letter can be nerve-wracking. Don’t worry, though. Rejection is a part of life, and your candidates understand the possibility that they won’t be the right fit for your company.

As long as you’re kind and warm with your rejection, you can feel good knowing that you’ve done the right thing.

Are you looking for a more in-depth view of making the recruitment process easier for both you and the candidates? We want to help. We have courses available to help make you the best possible hiring manager as well as comprehensive pre-employment tests to help with the screening process. Contact us so we can set you on the right path.