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A Guide and Template for Crafting Rejection Letters the Correct Way

Hiring Success Glossary

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Five Steps for Writing a Thoughtful Rejection Letter

No one likes to give bad news, but a timely and appropriate rejection letter is an important part of the recruiting process that ultimately boosts your employer brand. Rejection letters are a respectful way to advise candidates that they did not receive the position. Imagine interviewing for a job, you think it went well, but days and weeks go by with no word. Companies often ghost their applicants, and it’s one of the top complaints of job seekers. The candidate is left with so many questions--Was the job filled? Did I do something wrong? After applicants invest time and care into your hiring process, it’s not fair to leave them guessing. But it’s not just about feelings, if ignoring rejected applicants becomes a habit, you could do irreparable damage to your employer brand. Candidate experience is key to attracting top talent, and that experience counts even when the applicant isn’t selected. Today’s job seeker is savvy and organized--most of them will track their applications and refrain from applying to companies that have ghosted them in the past. Just because a candidate wasn’t selected for a particular job, doesn’t mean you want to end the relationship (especially on a bad note). This candidate could be right for another role and it behooves you to keep them in your talent pool since you already know they are interested in the company. In this sense, a good rejection strategy just makes sense. Even recruiters with high applicant volumes can use the below template to notify candidates, in a timely and kind way. If you want to go the extra mile, then consider creating a rejection letter tailored to your employer brand. These guidelines will help you design a letter that is clear and helpful to your candidates. Check out these five steps to thoughtful rejection letters.

Thank the Candidate

Make sure your candidates feel recognized by acknowledging their efforts. Applicants put a great deal of effort into researching your company, often tailoring their cover letters and resumes to the role specifications. Remember, it takes time to prepare for interviews, some of these job seekers may have taken time off from their current employment to meet with your hiring team. A simple “thank you” goes a long way in giving rejected applicants a good candidate experience. Failing to notify these job seekers will damage your employer brand and shrink your talent pool.

Leave the Door Open

Don’t discard silver medal candidates from your talent pool. Maybe the candidate didn’t fit today’s req, but there are always more roles to fill down the line. If you want this candidate to apply for future jobs, be sure to tell them as much. A rejection (no matter how nice) can ding a job seeker’s confidence, so they may not apply to future openings without encouragement. Let them know they were one of the top choices and even though they weren’t selected you would like to hear from them in the future. They will appreciate not being left in limbo.

Don't Give False Hope

Transparency should be the guiding principle when communicating with rejected candidates. Isn’t that how you would want to be treated? Don’t tell a candidate that you will be in touch or that a role will open up soon if you don’t know that to be the case. You may think this is a polite way to let down a candidate easily but will eventually build to a larger letdown and a worse candidate experience if you don’t plan to make good on these promises. So before you make a commitment, make sure you have the means to stick to your word. If you actually do want to get in touch, you could set calendar reminders to reach out or set up an email nurture campaign.

Try to Give a Reason

It’s hard to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s important to be clear with a candidate about where they stand. If they are no longer under consideration, let them know as soon as possible. If there is a particular hole in their resume that precludes them from the job, perhaps the position required a deep knowledge of excel and they failed to demonstrate that. Candidates appreciate actionable feedback, so they can improve their future applications. For example, they could take an excel certification. The specific assessment will speak volumes about your values as a company and, with a template like the one below, tailoring can still be efficient.

Identify Strengths

This point is especially relevant to candidates who have gone through several rounds of interviews. After such a large time commitment, the candidate deserves some personalized feedback. So why not boost their spirits and highlight some of the awesome qualities that made them such a strong contender. Chances are, if you asked the candidate in for an interview,  you’ll want to keep them in your talent pool and positive feedback helps nurture the relationship. The candidate can use this feedback to focus on their strengths in their next application. Now that you know what makes a good rejection letter. Here’s a template for you to build on:

Rejection Letter Sample

Full Name  1001 1st Street Anywhere, CA 00000   Dear [FIRST NAME]: We have reviewed your application for the position of [JOB TITLE]. Thank you for applying. Unfortunately, we cannot move forward with your application. Please understand that we received a high volume of applicants and that while we valued your [STRENGTH] and [STRENGTH], we needed a candidate with more experience in [SKILL]. We encourage you to keep an eye on our career website and apply to positions at our company in the future. We appreciate you considering us as a potential employer and we wish you the best of luck with your job search. Warm Regards,   Name Position email@company.com Pho: 000-000-0000
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