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The Right Way to Tell a Candidate That They Didn’t Get the Job (With Examples)

As a hiring manager, one of the trickiest parts of the job is how to let a candidate down gently. Depending on where you work, and thanks to this unique job market, you can receive hundreds or even thousands of applicants for a given role. And as an IT staffing firm, we get how daunting this can be. It takes a lot of legwork just to filter out those who simply aren’t right for the job and focus only on the best of the best.   

On the flip side, we also understand how difficult and emotional the job search can be for candidates. This is why it’s important for hiring managers and recruiters to provide clear and timely communication throughout the hiring process, including when it comes to delivering the news that a candidate has not been selected for a position. Not only is this the right thing to do for the people who want to work for your company, but it’s also the right thing to do for your business and reputation.   

The Importance of Keeping Candidates in the Loop—Even if It’s a Rejection   

Hiring managers need to consider the importance of maintaining a company’s employer brand when recruiting. So, what is an employer brand? An employer brand is how a company showcases what makes it a good employer and a great place to work in order to attract and retain great talent.   

Even something as simple as failing to acknowledge an application can impact how job seekers and customers alike perceive your company. For example, if a candidate feels like they were “ghosted,” which creates a poor candidate experience because they weren’t given feedback or never heard back about their application status, a few things can (and often do) happen:   

  1. They could share their experience and express their frustration on their or your company’s social media pages like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or other public review sites. This could ultimately result in a decrease in positive feedback for not just your employer brand, but also your brand and reputation as a whole.   
  2. A candidate who potentially was a good fit for another role at your company now has a bad taste in their mouth and is less likely to apply.   
  3. The candidate was also a customer who initially had a positive impression of your brand but is no longer interested in supporting your company based on their negative experience with your recruiting process.  
  4. The candidate had a friend or colleague who was the right fit, but they told them about their experience, so their friend didn’t apply.   

Five Things to Consider as You Reject a Candidate   

1) Thank Them for Their Time and Engagement With Your Firm  

It’s crucial to show gratitude to candidates for taking the time to apply and go through the process. Job searches can be time consuming, and candidates have likely invested significant effort in their job application at your company. A simple thank you note can go a long way toward showing that their time and effort are appreciated.  

2) Be Empathetic—But Not Over the Top  

Depending on how far a candidate made it through the interview process, they may have high hopes for the position and be disappointed to learn that they have not been selected. As a hiring manager, it’s important to be empathetic, encouraging and understanding of their feelings. However, be mindful not to be overly sympathetic, as this can come across as insincere.  

3) Keep It Personal(ized)  

When rejecting a candidate, keep the communication personal and tailored to the individual. For example, avoid generic rejection emails and provide specific feedback on why your company did not select the candidate. This shows that the candidate’s application was carefully considered and provides them with valuable information that they can use to improve their job search skills (which they could potentially use to pursue another role at your company) in the future.  

4) Be Timely  

No one likes being ghosted—whether it’s a personal or professional relationship. Being timely in your communication can ensure that candidates are not left wondering about the status of their applications. It demonstrates politeness and common courtesy to take the time to respond quickly to someone who put in the effort and showed enough interest to apply to your open role.  

5) Don’t Burn the Bridge  

The job market is constantly changing, and while you may not select this candidate for your current open role, they may be a fantastic fit for a different position in the future. In addition, you can build a robust talent pipeline by maintaining positive relationships with applicants. To avoid burning bridges, don’t use overly generic, formal, negative or harsh language in rejection emails. Instead, be respectful, human and conversational (but professional) throughout the process.   

Candidate Rejection Examples You Can Use   

Example 1: Rejection Email for a Candidate Who Did Not Have an Interview   

Subject Line: Updating You on the Status of Your Application for [Position Name]   

Dear [Applicant Name],   

Thank you for taking the time and effort to apply to [Position Name] at [Company].   

After careful consideration, we have decided not to proceed with your application.   

This decision was not an easy one, and while you may not have been the right fit for this role, we were impressed with your skill set. We’d like to hold onto your resume for future opportunities and encourage you to stay tuned to our [LinkedIn/Career Page] for future positions that may match your qualifications and career goals.   

Thank you again, and we wish you all the best in taking the next step in your career.   

[Company Signature]   

Example 2: Rejection Email for a Candidate That Had an Interview   

Subject Line: Updating You on the Status of Your Application for [Position Name]   

Dear [Applicant Name],   

First and foremost, thank you for engaging in the recruitment process with [Company]. We truly enjoyed meeting with you, were impressed with your skills and background, and appreciate the time and effort you put into your application, as well as your interest in joining our team.   

At this time, we have decided not to further pursue you for this role because [specific reasoning here]. However, I hope you find this feedback useful in your future job search.   

This decision was not an easy one, and I want you to know that we gave your application and unique skills a great deal of attention and consideration.   

So, I encourage you to stay tuned to our [LinkedIn/Career Page] and invite you to apply for other roles that align with your skills, experience and career goals. And we’ll reach out if we think you might be a great fit for a future opportunity.   

In the meantime, I wish you the very best in your job search and professional development.    


[Your Signature]   

Need to Find That Just-Right Fit? TeamSoft Can Help.  

TeamSoft understands the importance of a positive candidate experience, a strong employer brand, and building a healthy talent pipeline. By keeping candidates informed throughout the recruitment process, even (and especially) when they don’t get the job, we maintain a positive relationship with top tech talent and stay competitive in today’s job market.   

We hope this blog post has provided some valuable insights on handling rejection in a sensitive and respectful way. If you’re a hiring manager looking for assistance in finding suitable IT candidates for your open roles, we encourage you to contact TeamSoft. Our team of experienced recruiters is dedicated to helping you find the perfect fit for your organization. Let us help you navigate the recruitment process and find the right talent to achieve your goals.