Candidate Rejection Email: How to Say ‘You Didn’t Get the Job’

Rejecting a candidate is never easy, but the process can be painless if you take a structured approach (and have a killer template).

No matter how many candidates you had during your interview, only one can be hired. That means that 99% of your candidates will have to look for other opportunities.

While it might not be your job to tell the chosen candidate he or she is hired, it will definitely be your job to let the others know they didn’t get the job.

While sending a candidate a rejection email is not mandatory and will require a little of your time, your company (and even you as an HR manager) can only benefit from it.

First of all, a job candidate rejection email shows that you appreciate the time and effort your candidate put into both applying and interviewing and it helps build a positive relationship with the company.

This is very important for all future hirings where you are trying to fill a role that today’s candidate could be perfect for. If you ignore them or treat them rudely, that relationship will have been damaged.

Secondly, it is a very common practice for candidates to send a follow-up email (sometimes they will even send several). You can manage that situation easily when you have one candidate, but imagine 100 of them sending you one or more follow-up emails. Your inbox can explode in just a few days. A simple candidate rejection email could help you deal with such a crisis before it begins.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important, you will be building a positive employee brand and that is what will bring you the best results in future hiring because nobody likes to work for companies who don’t care for their employees.

Don’t forget what we already said – today’s rejected candidate could be your perfect match next time! Encourage them to keep an eye on your future job opportunities by doing small things like sending a polite, but professional candidate rejection email.

How to write a perfect subject line for a rejection email

While your email should say “Sorry you didn’t get the job” your email subject line should not. This is because it could trigger the opposite feelings than the ones you want to achieve with such an email.

Your subject line for a rejection email should be very simple. For example:

Subject Line: Job Application – [Insert candidate name here]

Or

Subject Line: Your application to [Insert company name here]

As said above, just keep it short and simple. Don’t let them know that they didn’t make it yet. You will be able to let them down easy in the body of the email in a way that will make them feel appreciated.

Candidate Rejection Email Sample

Before you start writing your candidate rejection email, take a closer look at the pile of candidates you have to inform about their application status. The more you have, the more time it will take to make every email personalized.

After the initial personalization, the general remarks about them not getting the job will more or less be the same for everyone.

Feedback is an important part of a good rejection email and this part will again be personalized, since every candidate will have different strengths and weaknesses. This may seem too time consuming and laborious, but you shouldn’t skip this step.

Be honest.

Don’t discriminate.

Don’t give any false hopes.

And last but not least, if there are other job positions open where they can be more suitable, invite them to apply (or encourage them to keep an eye on your job posts in the future). But, if the candidate wouldn’t be suitable for other reasons–cultural fit, availability, general professionalism–feel free to leave this part out of your email.

Dear Mr./Ms. [insert candidate’s last name here],

Thank you for your application for the [insert your job position title here] at [insert your company’s name here]. We really appreciate your time and your interest in joining our company.

Though your [insert what is applicable: education/qualifications/working experience/skills] are impressive, we have decided to move forward with a candidate whose [insert what is applicable: education/qualifications/working experience/skills] better meet our needs for this particular role.

We wish you every personal and professional success in your future endeavors.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email [insert your email address here] or phone [insert your phone number here].

Kind regards,
[insert your signature here]

If a candidate is a good fit for the company and you want to keep them interested, don’t forget to encourage them to apply to other/future job positions:

We expect to have other positions open soon, and we hope that you will not mind us reaching out about any openings that we feel you would be a good fit for. Additionally, we encourage you to apply to any positions you are interested in.

Quick Tip: Stuck with the feedback? Pull their application and find the strongest link to your job post or, during the interview make a note about one or two things that really impressed you and stick to it in your email.

Conclusion

Sending a candidate a rejection email will never be an easy task, but it is one of those small things that can make a big impact on your company’s brand perception.

Just keep it simple, short and without any false promises and you will never have any issues.

 

Pamela Skillings

Chief Interview Coach

Pamela Skillings is a co-founder of Big Interview and a career and hiring expert. She has been featured by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC News, Forbes, and others. With more than 15 years of experience training and advising hiring managers, she specializing in improving the effectiveness of the job interview process for both employers and candidates.

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