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How to: Reject a Job Applicant (Without Making an Enemy!)

Rejecting a job applicant is never easy, and it’s something that many hiring managers and recruiters dread. However, it’s a crucial part of the recruitment process, and when done thoughtfully and respectfully, it can leave a positive impression on the candidates and enhance your company’s overall reputation.

In this guide, we will explore the best practices for rejecting a job applicant without creating animosity. We’ll also delve into why this process is essential and how it can impact your organization in the long run. Let’s get started.

Reject Job Applicant

The Importance of Graceful Rejection

Before we dive into the how-to, let’s take a moment to understand why rejecting a job applicant matters. While it may seem like a minor aspect of the hiring process, with the focus needing to be greater on successful candidates, it can have far-reaching implications for both your company’s image and the candidate’s perception of your organization.

  • Enhanced Company Reputation: According to a survey by LinkedIn, 83% of candidates say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked. By providing a respectful and professional rejection experience, you can safeguard your company’s reputation and maintain a positive employer brand.
  • Future Talent Acquisition: The rejected candidate today could be a potential employee or customer in the future. Maintaining a positive relationship can leave the door open for them to reapply or refer other top talent to your organization.
  • Legal Considerations: Handling rejections improperly can lead to legal issues. You must ensure that your rejection process is fair and unbiased. Consult with your legal or HR team if you’re unsure about what to include in a job rejection letter. 

The Rejection Process

Now that we understand the importance of a graceful rejection, let’s break down the steps for achieving it.

1. Timeliness

Responding promptly is crucial. Delaying a rejection can create unnecessary anxiety for the candidate and send the wrong message about your company’s efficiency. According to research by Greenhouse, 58% of candidates expect to hear back from employers within one week of the interview. Strive to meet or exceed these expectations.

2. Personalization

Avoid generic rejection emails or form letters. Personalize your response to the specific candidate and their qualifications. Mention something positive about their application or interview to show that you genuinely considered their candidacy. As SocialTalent’s candidate experience expert, Andrew MacAskill says: “never forget what it’s like to be on the job market.”

3. Clarity

Be clear and straightforward in your rejection message. While it might be tempting to sugarcoat the rejection, ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings. Politely but firmly communicate that the candidate was not selected for the position.

4. Feedback (Optional)

Offer constructive feedback if appropriate. While some candidates may not want feedback, others genuinely appreciate it as it helps them improve for future opportunities. If providing feedback, focus on specific aspects of their application or interview performance and offer suggestions for improvement.

5. Gratitude

Express gratitude for their interest in your company and the time they invested in the application and interview process. A simple thank-you can go a long way in maintaining a positive impression.

6. Encourage Future Engagement

Invite the candidate to stay connected with your company. This can be through subscribing to your job alerts, following your social media channels, or joining your talent network. It keeps the door open for potential future opportunities.

7. Follow Up

After sending the rejection, consider following up with a phone call or personalized email if the candidate requests feedback or has questions. This extra step demonstrates your commitment to the candidate experience.


Sample Job Rejection Letters for Different Scenarios

Different scenarios may call for different types of job rejection letters. For a candidate who didn’t make it past the first round, a brief, polite rejection may suffice. For a candidate who made it to the final stages, a more detailed explanation and feedback may be appropriate. Here are a few samples to guide you:


  • Early-stage candidate: “Thank you for your interest in our company and for taking the time to apply. While we were impressed with your qualifications, we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates who more closely align with the requirements for this role. We appreciate your interest and encourage you to apply for future positions that match your skills and experience.”


  • Finalist candidate: “Thank you for taking the time to interview with us. Your skills and experience are impressive, and we enjoyed learning more about your background. However, after careful consideration, we’ve decided to extend the offer to another candidate who we feel is a better match for this particular role at this time. We appreciate your interest in our company and hope to have the opportunity to consider you for future roles.”


  • Internal candidate: “We appreciate your interest in the [job title] position and the time you’ve invested in the application process. After thorough consideration, we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate for this role. This decision was not easy, and it does not diminish the value we see in your contributions to our team. We encourage you to apply for future opportunities within our organization.”


Remember, these are just samples. It’s important to personalize your job rejection letters to reflect the specific situation and the individual candidate.


Rejecting a job applicant doesn’t have to be a painful or awkward process. When handled with care, it can leave a positive impression on the candidate and enhance your company’s reputation. Remember, a rejection email is more than just a notification. It’s an opportunity to maintain a positive relationship with the candidate, provide helpful feedback, and enhance your company’s reputation. By mastering this art, you can turn a potentially negative interaction into a positive one, opening the door for future opportunities.

Looking to take candidate experience to that next level? SocialTalent’s Recruiting Training and Interviewing Skills Training ensures that the hiring process leaves nothing but a positive impression.

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